There are many things that you can use to help you fall asleep. When trying these tips, you should keep a sleep diary, filled out daily, describing the effect of any changes in your "sleep habits" or "sleep hygiene". If these tips fail, then you can share the diary with your doctor to help diagnose or develop a treatment for you.
Try to go to sleep at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning, including on the weekends
- The body has an internal clock which regulates the sleep cycle to balance both sleep and waking. A regular wake up time strengthens your sleep routine.
Follow a routine to help relax and wind down before sleep, such as soaking in a hot bath, reading a book, listening to soothing music
- Doing relaxing activities just before bedtime, particularly ones away from bright lights, helps separate the sleep time from the rest of the day’s activity.
- Take a hot bath long enough before bed to ensure you are no longer overheated.
- Relaxation therapy (learned from a trained professional) may be helpful to those who have greater tension or stress or who are unable to avoid it near bedtime.
- Avoid bright lighting as this signals the brain that it is day and time to awaken, not sleep.
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Make your surroundings conducive to sleep - dark, quiet, comfortable, not too warm and not too cool
- Make sure your room reflects the conditions that you will need to sleep. Pay attention to more than just the room, check anything, including bed partners (snoring) that may cause disruptions in your sleep.
- Consider using techniques to improve the sleep environment, including black out curtains, eye shades, ear plugs, “white noise” from fans, humidifiers.
- If the room is too humid, it may be difficult to sleep, and you should consider a dehumidifier.
- During the day, ensure that you are exposed to bright light (sunlight, or a light box, if necessary) to help enforce the circadian clock.
Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows
- Most mattresses have a life expectancy of about 9 or 10 years. Check to make sure yours is comfortable and supportive. Keep the room free of allergens that might affect you and objects that present tripping or slipping hazards if you have to get up in the night.
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Use the bedroom for sleep (and sex) - Remove computers, televisions, work materials from the bedroom
- Strengthen the association of the bed and bedroom for sleep. If you associate an activity or item with anxiety about sleeping, remove it. For example, if a clock makes you anxious about how much time you have before you must get up, move the clock out of sight. Don’t use the bedroom for activities that cause you anxiety and prevent you from sleeping.
Finish eating 2 to 3 hours before your bedtime
- A stomach that is too full may make you less comfortable at bed time.
- Avoid foods that may cause heartburn or indigestion, which leads to difficult falling asleep or discomfort during the night.
- Drinking too much fluid near bed time may result in nighttime washroom trips, but some fluids such as milk or herbal teas may be soothing and helpful at bedtime.
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Exercise regularly, but finish your workout a few hours before bedtime
- Regular exercise will help to tire your body and prepare it for a sounder, better sleep.
- However, sporadic exercise or exercise immediately before bed, raising the body temperature and making us more alert, will make sleep more difficult.
- As it takes up to 6 hours for the body temperature to begin to drop, finishing exercise 3 hours before bed time; late afternoon exercise is a perfect way to help you fall asleep at night.
Avoid caffeine (coffee, tea, soft drinks, chocolate) close to bedtime as it can keep you awake
- Caffeine is a common stimulant, meaning it increases alertness. Caffeine products stay in the body for 3 to 5 hours, but they can affect some people for up to 12 hours. Even if caffeine does not appear to prevent you from falling asleep, it can disrupt the sleep patterns, resulting in poor sleep quality.
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Avoid nicotine (cigarettes, tobacco products) as it can lead to poor sleep
- Like caffeine, nicotine is a stimulant. Smoking near bedtime makes it more difficult to go to sleep. Furthermore, the withdrawal symptoms from nicotine occurring during the night may disrupt the sleep patterns and make it more difficult to wake in the morning. Further, it may cause nightmares. Just more reason to quit smoking.
Avoid alcohol close to bedtime, it disrupts the sleep patterns
- Although alcohol is a sedative or depressant, it disrupts the regular sleep patterns, leading to nighttime awakenings or incorrect proportions of deep sleep.
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- The question of daytime napping depends on your sleep problems. Insomnia sufferers should not take a nap. However, naps can help to improve short-term alertness, for example for preparing for driving. Keep naps short (25 minutes) and don’t use the nap to substitute for a good night’s sleep.
If you can’t fall asleep:
- If you are lying there and don’t feel drowsy, get up and read or do something that is not overly stimulating until you feel sleepy.
- If you are worrying about things, try making a to-do list, this may help you “let go” of those worries and help you get to sleep.
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