I Can't Sleep Because I'm Worried About Not Sleeping

Tips for a Better Night's Sleep

Sounds familiar. But how can I change my ways? Clerk responded with the following list of tips, intended to unravel all my negative bedtime associations:

  • Get up the same time every day, and go to bed only when sleepy.
  • Exercise regularly, (but never close to bedtime) and cut down on caffeine.
  • Establish a relaxing pre-sleep ritual — a warm bath, a light snack, 10 minutes of light reading. But skip the nightcap, since even a small dose of alcohol can make your sleep more fragile.
  • Use the bedroom only for sleep and sex — that way, you'll be conditioned to relax whenever you enter.
  • If you can't fall asleep in 20 minutes, don't toss and turn. That will only exacerbate the negative associations between bedtime and sleep. Instead, you should get up, do something boring and go back to bed only when you feel drowsy.

Well, see, I've had all that just about exactly backward: I tend to swill coffee, work late, fall into bed while my mind's still chugging and, when I can't nod off, I fixate on the work I didn't finish, or the puzzling silence of God, or why my beloved Steelers continue to blow games in the AFC finals.

But now I know better, and one more piece of the puzzle has been snapped into place. But I'm still a work in progress, and tomorrow I'll show you how Dr. Clerk untangled yet another of my baffling slumber woes.

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