1. Keep regular hours. Try to go to bed and get up at about the same time each day. This will gradually start to program your body into sleeping at certain times.
2. Practice bedroom and sleep hygiene. Keep the bedroom quiet, dark and at a comfortable temperature. Use the bed only for sleeping – not for daytime naps or watching the television.
3. Have a comfortable bed and bedding. Make sure your bed is comfortable – neither too hard, too soft, too old or too small. Your mattress should you support you well so that you don’t wake in the morning full of aches and pains. Use bed linen that fresh and comfortable – avoid synthetic material that could make you too hot and sweaty.
4. Take enough exercise. Regular moderate exercise such as walking or swimming can help relieve the stresses of the day. Healthy outdoor pursuits like a spot of gardening can also induce a healthy tiredness. Don’t exercise too close to bedtime though or it may prove too stimulating.
5. Avoid stimulants. Don’t indulge in stimulant food and drinks too close to bedtime, i.e. coffee, tea, cola drinks or chocolate. They will interfere with sleep and prevent deep restful sleep.
6. Don’t over indulge in food or drink in the hours leading to bedtime. Avoid rich, spicy, greasy or heavy meals less than three hours before bedtime, (so no late night curries!). Too much food or alcohol can disrupt sleep patterns or even make you feel unwell which may also prevent you from sleeping. Although tradition has it that an alcoholic nightcap is sedating, it seems that it disrupts the second half of the night, either making you sleep fitfully or waking you up completely. And if you over indulge you are likely to wake up with a hangover.
7. Make a list of all your worries. Write down all of the things that are currently bothering you and are likely to keep you awake. Then tell yourself you will worry about them tomorrow. If you regularly lie in bed thinking about your problems or all the things you need to do the next day then make sure you always have a notebook and pen beside your bed. By writing things down you can convince your mind to let go temporarily, allowing you to get some sleep.
8. Try to relax before going to bed. Make the hours before bed as relaxing as possible. Avoid stimulating television, try listening to some soothing music, reading a book or having a warm bath instead. If you go to bed uptight then it will be more difficult to sleep. Engaging your mind in something unimportant such as spelling or counting backwards can help you relax. The secret is to numb your brain by making it perform a dull, boring task. For persistent, unwanted thoughts or mental arguments try the Bach flower remedy ‘White Chestnut’. This is a very gentle remedy with no side effects.
9. Avoid clock watching. Don’t keep watching your bedside clock. If it proves to be a constant distraction then put it somewhere you can’t see it.
10. If you can’t sleep do something else. Finally, if you really cannot sleep, don’t lie there worrying about it. Get up and find something relaxing to do until you feel sleepy and then return to bed.