The short waves of blue light may interfere with sleep. Insomnia feeds on the minor details of modern life, like the soft blue glow from a cell phone, PDA, or digital clock resting on your bedside table.
Regular exercise has been shown to improve sleep quality, as long as you don’t work out too close to bedtime. A post-workout burst of energy can keep you awake. Aim to finish any vigorous exercise 3 to 4 hours before you hit the hay.
Your sleep will suffer by the alarm clock. You worry about how few hours are left before your busy day begins. Clock watchers should put their alarm in a drawer, under the bed, or turn it away from view.
If you wake tired with a stiff neck, blame your pillow. Pillows that are too fat or too flat cause problems. Your pillow should be just the right size to support your neck in a neutral position. For side sleepers, the nose should align with the center of the body. Stomach sleeping twists the neck and is best avoided.
Coffee in the morning is fine for most people, but as soon as the clock strikes noon, avoid caffeine in foods and drinks. Caffeine interferes with the deeper stages of sleep, so even small amounts found in chocolate and decaffeinated coffee may impact your rest.
Experts say sleep and sex should be the only pastimes pursued in the bedroom. Don’t balance the checkbook, talk on the phone, or watch TV. Everything about the room should be associated with rest and relaxation.
Go to sleep and wake up at about the same time every day — including weekends. This routine will put your brain and body on a healthy sleep-wake cycle. In time, you’ll be able to fall asleep quickly and sleep soundly through the night.
Avoid heavy foods and big meals late in the day; they tax the digestive system and make it hard to get high-quality sleep. Some people do well with a light evening snack of sleep-inducing foods. Complex carbs and dairy foods fill the bill, such as cereal with milk or crackers and cheese.
Although the tranquilizing effects of alcohol may make you sleepy at bedtime, beware — after the initial effects wear off, alcohol actually causes more frequent awakenings at night and less restful sleep.
A cat or dog’s night moves can prevent you from settling into the deep sleep you crave. They can also bring fleas, fur, dander, and pollen to your bed, triggering sleep-wrecking allergies.
Starting two to three hours before bedtime, dim the lights around the house and put aside any work, arguments, or complicated decisions. It takes time to turn off the emotional and intellectual “noise” of the day. Lowering the light signals your brain to produce melatonin, the hormone that brings on sleep.
A dripping faucet, a child’s cough, or a barking dog can add up to the big-time sleep loss. And parents may be hypersensitive to noises in the night long after after children outgrow the baby stage.
Need another reason to quit smoking? Nicotine is a stimulant, just like caffeine. Smoking can keep you from falling asleep and worsen insomnia.
Sleeping pills may be tempting on those nights when sleep just isn’t coming, but exercise caution. Some sleep medicines can be habit forming and may have bothersome side effects. Ideally, they should be used as a very short-term solution, while other lifestyle and behavior changes are put in place.
Sleep tips are nice when your insomnia is fleeting. But if your sleeplessness persists for at least a month, it’s time to delve deeper into what’s going on. Insomnia may be a symptom of an underlying problem. Depression is notorious for causing insomnia, as are other medical conditions, such as acid reflux, asthma, arthritis, and some medications. Chronic insomnia deserves a closer look and evaluation by a doctor.