Keep a Regular Sleep Schedule. Try to maintain a regular bedtime and wake up time on both weekdays and weekends. Staying up late can reset your internal biological clock to a later bedtime, leading to a circadian rhythm disorder called “delayed sleep phase syndrome.” Also, it’s especially important to avoid “sleeping in” in the morning after a night of poor sleep. Instead, you should arise at the same time every morning, on both weekdays and weekends, regardless of how poor the prior night’s sleep has been. Although this can be difficult at first, it can help normalize your sleep-wake rhythm, and increase your sleep efficiency.
Get Enough Daylight. Lack of adequate natural daylight is partially responsible for people’s difficulty in sleeping at night. You should try to spend at least 30 minutes each day in natural sunlight, preferably during the first hour or two in the morning. Since we live in the great Northwest that is often not possible. Alternately, try to get a minimum of 30 minutes per day by facing a strong artificial light box made for this purpose.
Avoid Caffeine After Lunch. Most people know that that the intake of coffee, colas or energy drinks later in the day can interfere with falling asleep and remaining asleep at night. Especially sensitive individuals should also avoid the caffeine-like substances found in chocolate, cocoa, and in some diet pills, pain relievers, and cold and allergy remedies. Read the labels. Some people are highly sensitive to caffeine and should stop use entirely, and some are unaffected no matter when they use these products.
Avoid Daytime Napping. With a few exceptions, daytime napping solves only a short-term problem of fatigue, and can contribute to the long-term development of insomnia at night, by disrupting normal sleep-wake rhythms.
Make Your Bedroom Quiet and Comfortable. People often overlook the fact that their bedroom may not be as quiet or comfortable as they could be to promote restful sleep. It’s wise to evaluate your bed, eliminate any disruptive lights or sounds and keep your bedroom temperature at 65 degrees or lower.
Avoid Alcohol Within Two Hours of Bedtime. Although the movies often portray a person who’s had too much to drink snoring away, it’s not wise to use alcohol as a sleeping aid. Research has shown that although one to two drinks within two hours of bedtime may assist with falling asleep, it tends to disrupt sleep by increasing sleep fragmentation in the second half of the night. Also, alcohol intake prior to bedtime tends to relax the muscles of the throat, making snoring and sleep apnea episodes more likely.
Avoid Smoking Within Two Hours of Bedtime. Like caffeine, nicotine is a central nervous system stimulant, and evening smoking tends to increase heart rate and blood pressure as well as stimulate brain activity when you should be trying to wind down.
Avoid Heavy Meals Within Two Hours of Bedtime. Although a light snack before bed may be OK, eating a large meal later in the evening is not recommended. Trying to digest a large meal at night, while you are lying down, increases the risk of heartburn and GERD.
Avoid Exercise Within Two Hours of Bedtime. Your core body temperature naturally begins to decrease in the late evening, which helps you to fall asleep and remain asleep later. Vigorous exercise within two hours of bedtime can work against you because it tends to raise your core body temperature and activate your nervous system. The best time to exercise to best support a natural sleep cycle is in the late afternoon.
Wind Down Before Bedtime. It’s smart to start winding down one to two hours before bed by engaging in an enjoyable, relaxing activity. Avoid working, studying, talking on the telephone, arguing, watching exciting television shows, reading exciting books right before bed if you’ve been having trouble falling or staying asleep.