The secret of good nighttime rest lies in good daytime habits
You woke up tired this morning. At work, you feel drowsy and have difficulty concentrating. Coffee is what has kept you going, but it has also put you in a downright rotten mood. You feel highly irritable. So you go for a beer at lunchtime to calm yourself down. But this only forces you to repeat the whole coffee/alcohol cycle over again. Of course, you know what it is that is causing all this: lack of a good night’s sleep.
The good news is that most people can solve their insomnia problems without resorting to coffee, alcohol, or sleeping pills if they carefully examine their daytime habits.
Here are some tips to help you sleep soundly:
Watch your caffeine intake
The very thing you are relying on to keep you going during the day may be causing your problems during the night. A cup of coffee at 3 p.m. can wake you up at 3 a.m. The effect of caffeine can last as long as 20 hours.
Nicotine in tobacco raises blood pressure and heart rate and stimulates the brain—just the right conditions to prevent you from falling asleep.
Do not use alcohol as a nightcap
Alcohol is a depressant, so it may help you fall asleep. But once it is metabolized by the body, it can cause awakenings. If you must drink, do so moderately with your dinner.
Do your aerobic exercise early in the day
Regular exercise helps you fall asleep faster and wake up feeling more refreshed, but do it at least three hours before bedtime. Exercise causes your core body temperature to rise. Restful sleep will follow as your body temperature is allowed to come down naturally.
Create a nest
Eliminate clutter from the bedroom, maintain a comfortable sleeping temperature, use blinds and drapes to keep the room dark, and block out disruptive noises with earplugs, a white noise machine, or a humming fan. Leave work and worries behind when you enter the nest.
Restrict your water intake before bed
Midnight trips to the bathroom can cut into your sleep, particularly if you have a hard time dozing off again. Do not turn bright lights on if you need to get up at night; use a small night-light instead.
Avoid large meals before bedtime
A large meal may initially make you feel drowsy, but it can disrupt your sleep later. If you are hungry, a good choice is a milk with some fruit. Milk contains the amino acid tryptophan, fruit contains carbohydrates. Together they raise the level of brain serotonin, which has been shown to reduce anxiety and induce relaxation.
Maintain a consistent sleep schedule
Wake up and go to bed every day including holidays at about the same time. If you go to sleep on Saturday night at 3 a.m. and wake up Sunday at noon you are unlikely to be able to sleep by 11 p.m. Sunday night and wake up Monday morning refreshed at 7 a.m.
Stop all work at least an hour before bedtime. Do not watch disturbing TV programs or argue with your spouse or children.
If after trying these suggestions you still cannot obtain restful sleep, contact your doctor. There may be an underlying medical condition that needs special attention.