- Force your worries
If worrying kicks in just after you close your eyes or awakes you in the middle of the night, consider scheduling a daily "worry time" during the day. Choose a 15 minute period at the same time every day when you try to think of every possible worry, and then tell them to a trusted confidant or write them out in a journal. Getting your worries out during the day can help keep your mind from perseverating on them during the night.
You can also try keeping a pen and notebook by your bed—that way if you wake up with worries or anxiety you can write about it. Sometimes simply knowing that your concerns are recorded will allow you to rest easier.
- Nap lightly every day
Many sleep sources say to avoid napping, but as long as the nap is not overly long it can help you get through the day and keep to a better bedtime routine. Here are some guidelines:
Keep to a schedule. Napping at the same time every day will allow your body to regulate itself to fall asleep more quickly at that time.
Make it in the early afternoon. The optimal time for napping is about an hour after lunch, which is when your body is naturally inclined to feel sleepy, and it's early enough in the day to not interfere with falling asleep at night.
Keep it short. A 10- to 20-minute power nap provides enough sleep to help you feel refreshed and more alert, yet it won't make you feel groggy or interfere with falling asleep at night.
Avoid taking a hot bath A lot of people advise taking a hot bath to relax yourself, but since the body needs to lower its temperature in order to fall asleep, a hot bath right before bed will actually keep you up. If you enjoy a soak in a hot bath, take it earlier in the evening—2 or more hours before bedtime—so your body has enough time to cool down.
- Make your room colder
Your body needs to cool down in order to fall asleep and stay asleep, so do what you can to make your room cool—add a fan, open a window, or turn up the AC. Many people like the combination of a cold bedroom and heavy blankets or comforters, as nestling in under the covers can have a soothing, cocooning feeling that nurtures sleep.
- White noise is restful, and even more importantly, it means that you won't be woken up with every little thump that the house makes. A fan is ideal because it does double duty of providing consistent soft background noise as well as keeping your room cool. Similarly, an air cleaner will serve to both provide white noise and help keep your room free of dust.
You can also buy a white noise machine or download an app that will provide several white noise options like the sound of rain, wind, and more. Many people prefer pink noise, which includes more varied sounds such as a waterfall or babbling brook.
- Nothing beats intense exercise as a path to achieving deep, restorative sleep. When I say "intensely," I mean intense relative to your capability. For some this may mean running 5 miles, for others it may mean a brisk 20 minute walk that elevates the heart rate. Physical tiredness is essential to getting a good night's sleep.
- Get out in the sunlight soon after waking up in the morning
When you wake up, don't lounge around in bed. Get out in the morning sun—or at least sit near a sunny window—soon after getting up. The bright sunlight tells your body's natural biological clock that it's time to wake up, and that same internal clock will then be set to tell your body it's time to go to sleep about 14 to 16 hours later.
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