- Exercise during the day, preferably in the late afternoon before dinner. Aerobic exercise (20 minutes or more) is better, but 45 to an hour of brisk walking will suffice.
- Go to bed and get up at regular times, even if you are tired in the morning. Do not vary your time of going to bed or getting up. Getting up half an hour earlier in the morning may help you get to sleep that night.
- Don’t try to force yourself to sleep. If you are unable to fall asleep after 20 or 30 minutes in bed, leave your bed and engage in some type of relaxing activity (such as watching TV, sitting in a comfortable chair and listening to music you enjoy, or having a cup of herbal tea). Do not return to your bed until you are sleepy.
- Avoid heavy meals before bedtime, or going to bed hungry (a small snack before bedtime may be helpful).
- Avoid heavy alcohol consumption before bedtime.
- Turn your internal volume down during the last hour or two of the day in terms of avoiding vigorous physical or mental activity and emotional upsets.
- Reduce caffeine and nicotine consumption as much as possible. If you must have coffee, have it only in the morning.
- Develop a sleep ritual before bedtime. This is some activity that you do every night before you get into bed that will help you relax. Many people find it relaxing to take a hot bath. Many people also find it helpful to use a lavender-scented body lotion, soap, or bubble bath every night before bedtime.
- For relaxing tense muscles or a racing mind, use relaxation techniques such as progressive muscle relaxation or guided visualization on tape (your therapist can tell you more about these techniques).
- Eliminate non-sleeping activities that you do in your bed (such as doing work or reading) to strengthen the association between bed and sleeping.
- Avoid taking naps during the day.
- Try to keep your room temperature between 60 and 70 degrees. Too warm or cold a room tends to interfere with sleep.
- Don’t let yourself be afraid of insomnia. Work on accepting those nights when you don’t sleep as well. You can still function the next day, even if you had only a couple of hours of sleep. The less you fight, resist, or fear sleeplessness, the more it will tend to go away.
- Sex (when physically and emotionally satisfying) will improve your sleep quality.
- Depression and anxiety disorders commonly produce insomnia. Getting more emotional support and expressing your feelings in therapy will likely result in improved sleep.
- Be cautious and seek advice from your physician about prescription sleep medications. Most prescription sleep medications are appropriate to use for no more than ten days. Longer use may lead to dependence.
- It can sometimes be helpful to keep a sleep log in order for you and your therapist to determine the patterns in your sleep. Excellent examples can be downloaded (and lots of other helpful information about sleep hygiene obtained) via the website for the National Sleep Foundation: www.sleepfoundation.org (type in “Sleep Diary” under “Search”).
- It has been found that the light put off by a blue or green alarm clock can actually interfere with the ability to fall asleep. If you think this may be an issue for you, try turning your alarm clock on its face so that the light will be dimmed.
Alyssa Averill, Ph.D.