These simple tips will help you sleep better and feel more productive and energetic during the day.
1. Don't try to force it. Telling someone to "go to sleep" is counterproductive. We can't force ourselves to sleep, and the harder we try to do that, the more difficult finding sleep becomes. I find that telling my children to "get some rest" (and telling myself that as well) is a good way to feel less stressed if we tend to watch the hour get later and later. If we aren't so attached to the idea of getting enough sleep, we can try feeling content to simply rest our body. In changing our perspective to see it as ok if we don't fall asleep as fast as we think we should, we'll find sleep actually comes much easier.
2. Keep your daytime activity level high. We can get ourselves in a vicious cycle when we cut back on activities because we are tired, go to bed early or sleep-in. This will reduce the drive for deep sleep, which is the most important aspect of our sleep cycle. It is better to get a few hours of deep, restorative sleep than many hours of poor quality sleep.
3. Use your bed for sleep and sex only. You don't want your brain to associate bed with sleeplessness. If you surf the web in your bed, not only will you mind not associate going to bed with going to sleep, your limiting the amount of melatonin produced due to the light shining in your eyes.
4. Have a nighttime routine. Find what works best for you to relax you during the wind down time prior to getting into bed. For some it may be taking a bath in epsom salt, reading (somewhere other than bed, of course!), meditating, or watching the news. Then once you get in bed, some find it helpful to focus on a particular memory, like a favorite vacation. If you consistently think about that memory prior to going to sleep, your brain will start to associate that memory with sleep. It also keeps your mind from racing around!
5. Go to bed and get up at approximately the same time every day. Of course on the weekends most people like to stay up late and sleep in, but that makes it much harder to get back into a normal routine once Monday morning comes. Not deviating more than an hour either way will keep our circadian rhythms more in sync.
6. Learn how to quiet your mind. It's difficult to fall asleep when our minds are racing. When our heads hit the pillow, we tend to go over our day, mentally list what we need to do tomorrow - the list is endless. Learning to meditate will allow you to learn what it feels like to quiet your mind. Meditation that involves practicing focusing your attention can be a useful strategy to use when trying to rest. As you focus on your breath, your mind quiets down, allowing you to drift off into never-never-land.
It can also be a good idea to keep a sleep diary for a while to see any patterns (like caffeine intake) that may be affecting your sleep. For a free sleep diary click here.
I write about human behavior, meditation, body awareness, and a variety of other things that pique my interest.