What to Do (and NOT do) to Help You Sleep Like a Baby

Some of us sleep like babies, but unfortunately, many of us don’t. Approximately 20 to 40 percent of Americans suffer from insomnia, a sleep disorder resulting in wakefulness or restlessness and an overall inability to sleep. Some people can fall asleep fine, but suffer from an inability to stay asleep, which is referred to as sleep-maintenance insomnia.

Dealing with insomnia of any kind is frustrating and the reality is that there is no cure besides medication. What you can do is improve your “sleep hygiene” to get your body and mind in shape for a good night’s sleep. Here are some tips to make that happen.

  • Keep a consistent sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, even on the weekends. The routine will reinforce the natural sleep-wake cycle of your body.
  • Get at least 30 minutes of exercise during the day (but not in the few hours before bedtime). The physical activity will help tire your body out so you can sleep better.
  • Develop a bedtime routine that involves winding down as you get in bed. For example, take a warm shower, brush your teeth, do some easy stretching or practice yoga before turning off the light.
  • Make sure your sleep environment is comfortable. This involves being in a cool, dark, and quiet room with a comfortable mattress.
  • When you find yourself tossing and turning in the middle of the night, try to meditate. Practice progressive muscle relaxation or deep breathing to force yourself into a more relaxed state. If that doesn’t work, try listening to soft music or reading for 20-30 minutes before you try to go back to sleep.
  • Avoid eating large meals before bed.
  • Avoid stimulants (caffeine, nicotine) in the afternoon.
  • Avoid alcohol in the few hours before you go to bed. Alcohol may initially seem as though it makes you sleepy, but it may cause you to wake up later as your body metabolizes the alcohol.
  • Avoid using technology right before you go to bed (i.e., watching television, working on your computer or other electronic devices).
  • Avoid naps or limit them to no more than 30 min.

The Center for Disease Control recommends that adults get at least seven hours of quality sleep each night. To wake up well rested and refreshed, set yourself up for success by using our tips above to improve the quality of your sleep.

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