Falling asleep can sometimes be quite challenging. Here are 10 ways that can help!
- Try and go to bed at the same time each night, preferably about half an hour before you plan to fall asleep. Obviously, try to use the same bed; if you are unable to, as when on the road, consider taking along a small neck-pillow, pillowcase, or other reminder of your own bed. As a last resort, small stuffed toys are not out of the question. If you drive to a holiday destination, take advantage of being able to carry more luggage; many of my patients have conquered “hotel insomnia” by packing their own feather-bed.
- Compartmentalize: Your work environment, including the clothes you wear, should be designed for alertness and focus. Your sleep environment should be engineered for rest. Try not to mix these respective associations, or both will suffer. Never use your bed as a desk. If you have laptop work to be done, sit up at a proper table. Forcing yourself to stay alert while lying on your bed reinforces bad sleeping habits, not to mention poor work habits. Dress for the occasion. Don’t wear work clothes while lying on the bed, and, if your office is at home, don’t work all day in your pajamas. When you are trying to sleep, your whole environment, including clothing should be specifically suited to the purpose.
- Don’t eat a full meal late at night. A high protein meal at bed-time is especially bad; it switches on the adrenaline pathway, tending to increase restlessness all night. That’s why a late night snack of pepperoni pizza tends to promote nightmares and poor sleep.
- Eat your bigger meals earlier in the day, such as breakfast and lunch. For dinner, eat a light meal, and include a few carbs (whole grain, not refined sugars and starches). Complex carbohydrates, such as whole wheat pasta, tend to trigger the body’s indolamine pathway, to encourage sleep.
- If you must put something in your stomach just before bedtime, have a small warm drink such as milk, or a few spoonfuls of cold (organic) applesauce or yogurt. Don’t have alcohol or caffeine before you go to sleep, as both can wake you up a couple of hours later. Also, out of consideration for the bladder, don’t drink much during the last couple of hours of your evening.
- A relaxing warm bath an hour before bedtime can also help, by raising the body temperature, then letting it start to cool prior to turning out the lights. This will start your body’s “temperature momentum” in a downward direction, where it tends to stay during sleep.
- Invest in a good quality comfortable mattress. (Try all kinds, including waterbeds, before deciding.) A mattress covering of real sheepskins, space-age foam, or feather-beds can also upgrade the comfort of most beds. Pillows should support the neck as well as the head, and could be made of down, or memory-foam. Presentation is everything in sleep, as in meals, so dress the bed up with a duvet and fresh linens.
- Your bedroom should be quiet in both noise levels, lighting, and decoration. It's hard to fall asleep in a 1970’s disco-den!
- Use your “power nap” relaxation techniques to slow your breathing and pulse rates, and help get you off to sleep. If you like technology, try a sound-effect machine that offers ocean noises or forest breezes, or can play soothing music or talk.
- Spend a couple of minutes reviewing your day-timer, so you can be sure you have finished all your tasks for that day, and have a good idea of what you need to accomplish the next day. It is difficult to keep a disorganized brain from jolting you awake. Often my insomniac patients tell me they wake up in panic, remembering some important detail they forgot to write down.
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