It is important to establish a habitual routine.
- PRE-BEDTIME ROUTINE. This will help send signals to your brain that it is time to relax and go to sleep. Use about 30 minutes to put away any stress items (including work, finances, and household chores) and prepare for the next day. Once this time has passed, start your bedtime routine.
- BEDTIME ROUTINE. This should include a good wind-down period of time. During this time, focus on just yourself – the time should be used to enjoy yourself and not on “worry” items. That is to say, no arguments, no discussions about major life decisions, no paying the bills, no homework or other work duties. Use this as a quiet time to relax.
Most people do not have time during the day to work on shutting their mind “off.” Because we are so plugged in all the time, we are constantly focusing on work or household duties. Even chatting or texting your friends is focusing on others. Turn your attention inward to help your body and mind shut down naturally.
- Coloring books
The bedroom should be a calm relaxing environment. A cluttered busy bedroom causes the mind to activate and is then less prone to relax and sleep. Make the bedroom a simple stripped down place to rest. Remove any object in the bedroom that is associated with stress including work desks, work related books, financial items, and especially electronics! Here are some suggestions:
- A comfortable (but firm/supportive) bed
- Soothing sheets and blankets/comforters. This should not heat the body up too much and should absorb heat cool, since being too hot (or too cold) can prevent natural sleep from occurring.
- Cooler temperatures
- Low lighting.
- A comfortable chair and overhanging lamp to shine on a reading book may be nice additions.
- Leave the cell phone, TV, iPad, electronic books outside in a charging station.
A nice hot bath can help people relax. The timing of the bath is important. After the bath, it takes about 2 hours for the body to cool down. This cooling down process helps the brain fall asleep more naturally.
- Warm bath about 2-3 hours before bedtime.
Tea and Other Food Options
Certain herbal, non-caffeinated teas are soothing and calming. Be careful not to drink too much, as high amounts of liquid may exacerbate the need to urinate. Do not eat too close to bedtime because the gastrointestinal processes (which have their own rhythms) are not prepared to digest at nighttime and disrupt sleep. This is especially true for liquids such as decaffeinated coffee (which still has some caffeine in it) and alcohol. Many people anecdotally feel that alcohol can induce sleep, but once the body processes the alcohol content, the brain becomes wide awake and the bladder is irritated – two reasons that cause disrupted and unrefreshing sleep.
- No alcohol, coffee of any kind, or food within 2-4 hours of bedtime
- Try a small cup of non-caffeinated, herbal teas
Over-the-counter preparations that are specifically made for sleep usually have an antihistamine (look at the label, most have diphenhydramine). These preparations are not meant for long-term use! Antihistamines do make you sleepy but they also have anticholinergic effects. For example, these can have the unwanted side effect of increasing your heart rate if used chronically. Similarly, people often turn to herbal remedies. Be sure to discuss with your doctor and pharmacist whether your current medications interact with any of these herbal ingredients. Additionally, watch out for side effects of over-sedation as many erroneously feel it is “ok” to take more than a single dose if ineffective.