As I mentioned in part one of this article, developing healthy sleep hygiene is important for our physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Here are a few more ideas for helping you sleep more soundly.
Limit Alcohol – Consuming alcohol near bedtime may make you feel sleepy, but as it wears off research has shown that it disrupts sleep and people wake up feeling less rested. I recommend avoiding alcohol a few hours before bed. Also, consume in moderation and stay hydrated.
Develop a Nightly Ritual-Engage in relaxing activities 15-30 minutes before bed. This helps you switch gears and cues your body that it is time for bed. Reading a book, taking a bath, or listening to music often help people relax. As I mentioned in part one of this article, it is best to avoid computer and television monitors during this time.
Be Prepared for the Next Day-It is hard to fall asleep when you have a long morning to do list. Try to prepare as much as possible the night before (ex. iron clothes and make lunch) Being prepared will help you relax as you get ready for bed.
Pen and Paper-People often remember something they need to do the next day as they are falling asleep. I recommend keeping a pen and notepad or a recorder on your night stand and writing down whatever you are concerned about forgetting as it comes to mind. Once it is written down, you are less likely to worry about forgetting it.
Take a Warm Shower or Bath-Taking a hot shower or bath before bed raises your body temperature. As your body cools off it acts as a natural sedative and causes you to feel sleepy.
Breathing Exercise– If you are still having trouble relaxing and quieting your mind, I recommend trying this breathing exercise. Gently inhale while counting to three and also count to three as you exhale. Continue this for as long as it is comfortable or needed. This exercise helps slow down your breathing while also helping to quiet your mind. You may get distracted from counting or breathing and find yourself worrying again. No one practices this exercise perfectly. Simply remind yourself to focus on your breathing again and recognize that distractions are natural.
If you implement the habits described in this article and still struggle with sleep, I encourage you to talk with your doctor about possible medical causes. Therapists can help you discover emotional or behavioral issues that may be interfering with sleep as well.