Children fight it. Adults can't seem to get enough. What is it? Sleep. If you're struggling to get a good night's sleep, it may be time to tune up your bedtime — and daytime — routines. Try these self-help tips.
- Find ways to relax. A warm bath before bedtime can help prepare you for sleep. Having your partner give you a massage also may help relax you. Create a relaxing bedtime ritual, such as reading, soft music, breathing exercises, yoga or prayer.
- Make the bed comfortable. Having a comfortable pillow and mattress can help promote a good night's sleep. In general, latex, contour foam and polyester pillows perform better than feather or regular foam pillows, but the choice comes down to your personal preference. Similarly, the choice of a firm or soft mattress is largely a matter of individual preference. You may need to experiment to find what works for you.
- Create a sleep-friendly space. Close your bedroom door or create a subtle background noise, such as a running fan, to help drown out other noises. Keep your bedroom temperature comfortable, usually cooler than during the day and dark. Don't keep a computer or TV in your bedroom.
- Hide the clocks. Set your alarm so that you know when to get up, but then hide all clocks in your bedroom, including your wristwatch and cellphone. You'll sleep better if the clocks are out of view.
- Get out of bed if you're not sleeping. Sleep as much as needed to feel rested, and then get out of bed. The bedroom should be used for sleep and intimacy. So, if you can't sleep, get out of bed after 20 minutes and do something relaxing, such as reading, rather than lying in bed and getting frustrated about your wakefulness.
- Stick to a regular schedule. Keep your bedtime and wake time consistent from day to day, including on weekends.
- Spend a little time in the sun. Daylight is key to regulating daily sleep patterns. Try to get outside in natural sunlight for at least 30 minutes each day. If possible, wake up with the sun or use very bright lights in the morning.
- Exercise and stay active. Get at least 20 to 30 minutes of vigorous exercise daily, but make sure it's at least five to six hours before bedtime.
- Avoid or limit caffeine, alcohol and nicotine. Caffeine after lunchtime and nicotine at any time of the day can keep you from falling asleep at night. Alcohol, while it may initially make you feel sleepy, can cause frequent awakenings.
- Avoid large meals and beverages before bed. A light snack is fine, but eating too much food late in the evening can interfere with sleep. Drink less before bedtime so that you won't have to urinate as often.
- Avoid or limit naps. Naps can make it harder to fall asleep at night. If you can't get by without one, try to limit a nap to no more than 30 minutes and don't nap after 3 p.m.
Nearly everyone has an occasional sleepless night — but if you often have trouble sleeping, contact your doctor. Identifying and treating any underlying causes can help you get the sleep you need.
Sept. 28, 2013
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