1. Avoid Caffeine, Alcohol, Nicotine, and Other Chemicals that Interfere with Sleep
Any coffee lover knows, caffeine is a stimulant that can keep you awake, so avoid caffeine (found in coffee, tea, chocolate, cola, and some pain relievers) for four to six hours before bedtime. Similarly, smokers should refrain from using tobacco products too close to bedtime.
2. Turn Your Bedroom into a Sleep-Inducing Environment
A quiet, dark and cool environment can help promote sound slumber. To achieve such an environment, lower the volume of outside noise with earplugs or a “white noise” appliance. Use heavy curtains, blackout shades, or an eye mask to block light, a powerful cue that tells the brain that it’s time to wake up. Keep the temperature comfortably cool—between 60 and 75°F—and the room well ventilated. Make sure your bedroom is equipped with a comfortable mattress and pillows, remembering that most mattresses wear out in about ten years.
3. Establish a Soothing Pre-Sleep Routine
Ease the transition from awake time to sleep time with a period of relaxing activities an hour or so before bed. Take a bath (the rise, then fall, in body temperature promotes drowsiness) or read a book. Avoid stressful, stimulating activities such as checking work emails. Physically and psychologically stressful activities can cause the body to secrete the stress hormone cortisol, which is associated with increasing alertness. If you tend to take your problems to bed, try writing them down—and then putting them aside.
4. Go to Sleep When You’re Truly Tired
Struggling to fall asleep just leads to frustration. If you’re not asleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed, go to another room and do something relaxing, like reading or listening to music, until you are tired enough to sleep.
5. Don’t Be a Nighttime Clock-Watcher
Staring at a clock in your bedroom, either when you are trying to fall asleep or when you wake in the middle of the night, can actually increase stress, making it harder to fall asleep. Turn your clock’s face away from you.
6. Use Light to Your Advantage
Natural light keeps your internal clock on a healthy sleep-wake cycle, so let in the light first thing in the morning and get out of the office for a sun break during the day.