Getting enough good-quality sleep is essential to staying healthy and ageing well. Certain sleep problems — for example, sleep apnoea — require medical treatment. But these ten simple steps from Harvard Medical School can help you overcome general sleep difficulties, including insomnia.
1. Stick to a consistent sleep schedule and routine
Go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning. A set sleep routine will ‘train’ you to fall asleep and wake up more easily.
2. Use the bed only for sleep and sex
3. Cut down on caffeine
For some people, a single cup of coffee in the morning means a sleepless night. Caffeine can also increase the need to urinate during the night.
4. Be physically active
Regular aerobic exercise like walking, running, or swimming provides three important sleep benefits:
- you fall asleep faster
- attain a higher percentage of restorative deep sleep, and
- awaken less often during the night.
5. Limit daytime naps
Prolonged napping can disrupt your natural sleep cycle and prevent you from feeling tired enough to fall asleep.
6. If you use tobacco in any form, quit
Nicotine makes it harder to fall asleep.
7. Use alcohol cautiously
Alcohol depresses the nervous system, so a nightcap may help some people fall asleep. But this effect disappears after a few hours and may lead to waking up throughout the night. Alcohol can also worsen snoring and other sleep breathing problems.
8. Improve your sleep surroundings
Remove the television, telephone, and office equipment from the bedroom. This reinforces the idea that this room is meant for sleeping. An ideal environment is quiet, dark, and relatively cool, with a comfortable bed and minimal clutter.
9. If you’re still awake after about 20 minutes in bed
Get up and read awhile to relax. Otherwise, you’ll set yourself up for tossing and turning.
10. Try to avoid taking sleeping pills
If you do take a prescription sleep medicine, work with your doctor to use it effectively and for as short a time as possible.