Eight Tips for a Good Night's Sleep

This information sheet suggests how you can form good sleeping habits and help prevent insomnia. If you are having ongoing sleeping difficulties, you should consult with your family physician for support and an appropriate referral.

Eating before Bedtime
Avoid eating or drinking excessively before going to bed. Digesting food increases the work of the heart and makes it hard to fall asleep. Also, after drinking a lot in the evening, you might be awakened by an urge to urinate. If you must have something before bed, unless by a physician's orders, limit it to a single cup of fluid and a light sugarless snack.

Daytime Naps
Try to avoid daytime napping. Naps count toward total sleep time and can make it difficult to sleep through the night. Although some people and cultures regularly nap, the idea is not to nap "too long." This usually results in decreasing the time spent sleeping at night. If you tend to be a poor sleeper, do not nap during the day. Try to go for a walk or work in the garden to help break the nap habit.

Avoid Caffeine, Alcohol,
and Tobacco in the Evening

These are stimulants (except for alcohol) that promote wakefulness. All of them increase the amount of urine production and are addictive drugs that delay sleep onset, disturb the stages of sleep, and cause arousal and awakenings. A drink of alcohol can make you drowsy, but the resulting sleep is disrupted and unrefeshing. Caffeine also is found in many foods and non-prescription medications. Check the label to make sure you eliminate your caffeine use after the noon-hour. If you need a cup of tea or coffee in the later afternoon, change to decaf coffee or decaf-herbal types.

Regular exercise such as walking, swimming, running, or cycling can help reduce daily stress that can lead to insomnia. Make sure you check with your family physician if you have any restrictions prior to doing these activities. It's best not to have rigorous exercise within two hours of bedtime, however, because it stimulates the body and increases your body temperature, making it difficult to fall asleep.

Bedtime Routine
Follow the same routine each night before bed. This can help you get 'programmed' for sleep. Taking a relaxing shower, or bath, brushing your hair, or having a glass of warm milk before bed can help prepare you for sleep. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Avoid staring at the clock in bed. Reserve time before bed for relaxation. Listen to a relaxation tape. Take 20 or 30 minutes to read, knit, watch a favourite television show, or listen to relaxing music before performing your bedtime routine.

Is Your Bedroom Soothing?
Have a soothing sleep environment. Loose-fitting night clothes, a comfortable mattress and pillows, and clean sheets can all help you feel more relaxed in bed. The bedroom should not be too noisy, light, cold, or hot. Carpeting and heavy drapes help soundproof and darken your bedroom. Pets in bed can sometimes be distracting.

Save the Bedroom for Sex and Sleep
Reserve the bed for sex and sleep only. If you are more stimulated than relaxed after sex, consider having sexual activity at an earlier part of the day or evening. Do not use the bed or bedroom as a place to eat, write letters, turn on the computer or sewing machine, balance the checkbook, or watch great television shows till all hours of the night. However, some people have timers on their TV, which can help lull them to sleep.

Waking-up at Night
If you wake up several times during the night and find it hard to get back to sleep (10 or 20 mintues), try these simple steps:

1. When you awaken, give your yourself about 10 to 15 mintues to fall asleep again. Don't watch the clock.

2. If you are still awake, go into another room and pursue a quiet or boring activity for about 20 mintues. Read the paper, write in a journal, crossword puzzle, but do not watch an exciting movie…. It will keep you up! Listen to a relaxation tape (if you have one).

3. Then return to bed. Keep the lights low (but bright enough to see your way safely to bed). If you don't fall asleep in 20 mintues, get up and repeat these steps until you fall asleep.


Courtesy of Dr. Theo De Gagné - theo@drtheo.ca - www.drtheo.ca