There’s a lot you can do to get a better night’s sleep. Having healthy sleep habits is often referred to as having good “sleep hygiene.”
Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and heavy meals in the evening
Alcohol can disrupt sleep. Alcohol may initially sedate you, making it easier to fall asleep; however, as it is metabolized and cleared from your system during sleep, it causes arousals that can last as long as two to three hours after it has been eliminated. These arousals disturb sleep, often causing intense dreaming, sweating, and headache.
Eating big or spicy meals can cause discomfort from indigestion that can make it hard to sleep. Avoid eating large meals for two to three hours before bedtime. Try a light snack 45 minutes before bed if you’re still hungry.
The caffeine from a cup of coffee can stay in your system for as long as eight hours, so the effects are long lasting. Time your afternoon and early evening beverages accordingly. Nicotine is also a stimulant, and nicotine side effects can cause insomnia similar to caffeine. Research has shown that smokers spend more time sleeping lightly and less time in deep sleep than non-smokers.
Stick to a routine
Stick to a sleep schedule of the same bedtime and wake up time, even on the weekends. This helps to regulate your body’s clock and could help you fall asleep and stay asleep for the night.
If you have trouble sleeping, avoid naps, especially in the afternoon. Brief “power naps” of 15 to 20 minutes may help you get through the day, but if you find that you can’t fall asleep at bedtime, eliminating even short catnaps may help.
Vigorous exercise is best, but even light exercise is better than no activity. Exercise at any time of day, but not at the expense of your sleep or near to sleep time.
Control your sleep environment
Your bedroom should be cool. Your bedroom should also be free from any noise that can disturb your sleep. Your bedroom should be free from any light. Consider using blackout curtains, eye shades, ear plugs, “white noise” machines, humidifiers, fans and other devices.
Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows
Make sure your mattress is comfortable and supportive. The one you have been using for years may have exceeded its life expectancy – about 9 or 10 years for most good quality mattresses.
Manage your circadian rhythms
Avoid bright light in the evening and expose yourself to sunlight in the morning. This will keep your circadian rhythms in check.
Your body needs time to shift into sleep mode, so spend the last hour before bed doing a calming activity such as reading. If you can’t sleep, go into another room and do something relaxing until you feel tired. It is best to take work materials, computers and televisions out of the sleeping environment. If you associate a particular activity or item with anxiety about sleeping, omit it from your bedtime routine.