As a performance benefits from adequate rehearsal and a meal benefits from skilled preparation, a good night's sleep does not just "happen." Sleep experts recommend the following tips to help ensure a good night's sleep. These habits, known to experts as "sleep hygiene," often are sufficient to combat occasional sleep problems. More serious, chronic disorders may require additional techniques. If you have difficulty sleeping night after night or your daytime sleepiness is interfering with your performance at school or work, consult your medical professional or a sleep disorders center. Sleep disorders can be treated successfully.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends the following tips for improving your sleep:
- Limit your bedroom use to sleep and sex. Remove the television, desk, computer workstation and other objects that stimulate you, making sleep more difficult. Make your bedroom as pleasant and quiet as possible.
- Sleep in a comfortable bed with a comfortable pillow. Find a comfortable sleeping temperature. Temperature extremes can make falling asleep difficult or can awaken you from sleep.
- Establish a regular bedtime and bedtime routine and follow them even on weekends. More than an hour's variation from the weekday schedule on the weekend can throw off your biological clock, making Monday morning a particularly difficult time. Avoid bright lights in the evening (which stimulate the body to stay awake). Try a warm bath before bedtime. This may help by relaxing the body and by lowering your body temperature once you leave the tub—a signal to the body that it is time to sleep.
- Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol in the late afternoon and evening. Nicotine and caffeine can delay your sleep and alcohol interferes with your ability to sleep deeply, a key to feeling rested in the morning.
- Do not nap during the day if you are having trouble falling asleep at night. The nap may interfere with your ability to fall asleep.
- Exercise regularly, 20 to 30 minutes each day if possible, but do it early in the day—at least three hours before going to sleep. Exercise before bed can raise your body temperature—an internal signal to your body to stay awake.
- If you cannot fall asleep after 30 minutes, get up and go to another room. Read something entertaining (do not work) or listen to soothing music until you feel sleepy, then return to bed. Use this time to clear your mind, not to try to solve problems that are worrying you.
- Let the sunlight help awaken you. Leave curtains open, if possible, or use bright lights when you wake up. The bright light helps the body to reset its biological clock.