As a doctor, I see many patient’s who can’t sleep, and it’s almost always for the same reasons, and they all became blatantly obvious really quickly. So in the spirit of educating the public, and solving everyone’s insomnia so that I can get back to dealing with people who are actually sick, here are some guidelines for what you should do to improve your sleep.
1. Regulate Your Sleep Hours
You need to train your body to go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time each day. BOOM. It’s easy. Every night, go to bed 10pm, alarm at 6am.
2. Avoid caffeine, nicotine, methamphetamines, cocaine and other stimulants
No caffeine (in coffee, tea, cola drinks, chocolate, and some medications) for ideally AT LEAST 4-6 hours before bed. No nicotine (cigarettes) for at least 4-6 hours before going to bed. Seriously people, it’s not that hard, if you consumed two cans of Redbull with dinner, you’re not going to sleep.
3. Avoid alcohol
It is also best to avoid alcohol for at least 4-6 hours before going to bed. Alcohol can help relax you and you may get off to sleep better but it disrupts your sleep and you will either wakes in the early hours of the hours or awake unrefreshed or even worse, wakes with a hangover. And then there’s the annoying persisting elbowing of the person you picked up when drunk and don’t remember how they got in your bed.
4. Bed is for Sleeping and Sex
Sleeping and sex, and maybe pillow fights, and also building a fort, but nothing else. If you use bed as a place to watch TV, eat, read, work then you will have difficulty sleeping.
5. Get up and try again
If you haven’t been able to get to sleep after about 20 minutes or more, get up and do something calming or boring for 15 minutes until you feel sleepy, then return to bed and try again. Repeat this as often as needed. No lying in bed, tossing, catastrophising about how much you aren’t sleeping.
6. No Naps
If you napped from 1-3pm, then you won’t be sleeping. It’s not rocket surgery people.
7. Sleep rituals
You can develop your own rituals of things to remind your body that it is time to sleep – such as meditation, breathing exercises, gentle stretches, non-caffeinated tea, reading a book.
8. Bath time
Having a hot bath 1-2 hours before bedtime can be useful, as it will raise your body temperature, causing you to feel sleepy as your body temperature drops again.
9. No clock-watching
Many people who struggle with sleep tend to watch the clock too much. Frequently checking the clock during the night can wake you up, make you more anxious and decrease your quality of sleep.
10. Use a sleep diary
Try writing down your hours of sleep, what you did throughout the day and how well you sleep. You might think you have insomnia but are actually get 6 to 8 hours sleep per night and not feeling refreshed for other reasons.
Regular exercise is an excellent idea to help with good sleep, but nothing too stimulating and strenuous in the hours before bedtime. Morning exercise is also an excellent way to wake up.
12. Eat right
A healthy, balanced diet will help you to sleep well, but timing is important. Having an empty stomach or a bloated full stomach can both make you less sleepy. Warm milk before bed is allowed, it contains natural tryptophans, which help make you sleepy.
13. The right sleep space
It is very important that your bed and bedroom are quiet and comfortable for sleeping. Make sure the temperature of room and appropriateness of correct bed linen, not too hot and not too cool. Ear plugs can be useful if you live in a noisy environment or one of your polyamourous bed spouses is expelling chainsaw sounds from their upper airways.
14. Keep your daytime routine the same
Even if you have a bad night sleep and are tired it is important that you try to keep your daytime activities the same as you had planned. Stopping what you have originally planned can make things worse and reinforce insomnia.
15. Decrease Stimulation
The body suppresses melatonin production with bright light, this includes sunlight and computer / phone screens. Once it gets darker, melatonin in our blood stream increases and we feel sleepy. Watching Netflix for 2 hours and checking your phone then immediately trying to get to sleep does not work.
16. Anxiety + Depression = Bad
If you’re anxious for 12 hours in the day, your sympathetic nervous system is on overdrive and your thoughts will be racing when you try to go to sleep. If you’re depressed spending 16 hours on the couch, you seldom elevate your body sufficient to be exhausted and you will not sleep. Manage your mood disorder and your sleep will come.
There are many, they all work a little bit, they all have side effects. If you’ve tried everything else, see your doctor.
Now that you know how to sleep, here’s so cute animals being sleepy. Zzzzz.
Read more about Good Sleep Habits here: