Adequate sleep is a crucial component of good health. Sleep deprivation contributes to accidents on the road and in the workplace. It makes you more susceptible to disease. When you do not get enough sleep, you may have trouble getting along with others and performing well at work or school.
If you often have trouble sleeping, you should take steps to correct the situation. But before you ask your doctor for sleeping pills, try improving your “sleep hygiene.”
- Consider your health — There may be an underlying cause of your sleep problems, such as allergies, enlarged prostate or indigestion.
- Medications — Numerous medications can keep you awake. These include some commonly used cold remedies.
- Develop regular sleep habits — Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. Create a bedtime routine and follow it religiously. Part of this routine should include stopping all mental heavy lifting (working, worrying, etc.) at least an hour before bedtime. Make your bedroom a cozy quiet place for sleeping.
- Caffeine — Restriction of caffeine, in coffee, tea, some soft drinks and chocolate, depends on how much you consume and how it affects you. Reduce or eliminate caffeine accordingly, and at the very least, do not have any in the evening.
- Exercise — Exercise is a superb sleep aid, with one condition: Vigorous evening exercise may keep you awake. Thirty or 40 minutes of moderate exercise four times a week will help you sleep better. Try a brisk walk each morning or before dinner.
- A nice warm soak — A warm or hot bath raises your body temperature. Your brain associates the after-bath cooling process with falling asleep and that is why you feel sleepy after a bath.
- Noise — Try to soundproof your bedroom. If necessary, consider using ear plugs, audio tapes or white noise machine to block out the noise.
- Alcohol — Contrary to popular opinion, alcohol is not conducive to a good night’s sleep.
- Food and drink — Avoid eating large meals late in the evening. A glass of warm milk before bed may help, or try a small carbohydrate-rich snack, such as bread or pasta. Certain herbal teas, such as chamomile or valerian, may relax you.
- Relaxation techniques — These include progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing techniques, yoga, guided imagery, relaxation tapes and more. Some people include meditation in this group, but I think it can have a stimulating effect and is preferably done earlier in the day.