Set regular times for going to bed and for getting up
This helps set your body’s internal clock and optimizes the quality of your sleep.  Choose a bed time when you normally feel tired, so that you don’t toss and turn too much.  If you are getting enough sleep, you should wake up naturally without an alarm.  If you need an alarm clock, you may need an earlier bedtime.

Fight after dinner drowsiness!  If you get sleepy before it is time to go to bed, get up and do something mildly stimulating such as washing the dishes, calling a friend or getting your clothes ready for the next day.  If you give in to the drowsiness, you may wake up later in the night and have trouble getting back to sleep.

If you nap during the day, don’t allow yourself more than 20 minutes of sleeping time
Be smart about napping, because while napping is a good way to make up for lost sleep, if you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep at night, napping can make things worse.  Limit naps to 15 – 20 minutes in the early afternoon.

Stop consuming alcoholic beverages before bedtime
While a nightcap may seem to relax you, it actually interferes with your sleep cycle once you are out.

No caffeine before bedtime
This includes coffee, tea, many soft drinks and chocolate as well.  You might be surprised to know that caffeine can cause sleep problems up to ten to twelve hours after drinking it.

No heavy, spicy or sugary foods four hours before bedtime
A snack before retiring might be okay.   Avoid big meals at night, try to make dinnertime earlier in the evening, and avoid heavy, rich foods within two hours of bedtime.  Spicy or acidic foods can cause stomach trouble and heartburn.  Avoid drinking too many liquids in the evening, which may result in frequent bathroom trips throughout the night.

For some people, a light snack before bed can help promote sleep.  For others, eating anything before bed can lead to indigestion and make sleeping more difficult.  If a late night snack doesn’t interfere, try a half a turkey sandwich, a small bowl of whole-grain, low-sugar cereal, granola with milk or yogurt, a banana.

Exercise regularly, but not right before bed
Exercise speeds up your metabolism, elevates body temperature and stimulates hormones such as cortisol.  This isn’t a problem if you are exercising in the morning or early afternoon, however, too close to bedtime and it can interfere with sleep.  Try to finish moderate to vigorous workouts at least three hours before bedtime.    Relaxing, low-impact exercises such as yoga or gentle stretching in the evening can help promote sleep.

Use comfortable bedding
Your bed covers should leave you enough room to stretch and turn comfortably without becoming tangled. If you often wake up with a sore back or an aching neck, you may need to experiment with different levels of mattress firmness, foam toppers and pillows that provide more or less support.

Find a comfortable temperature setting for your bedroom and keep the room well ventilated

Block out all distracting noise and eliminate as much light as possible
If you can’t avoid or eliminate noise from neighbors, traffic or other people in your household, try masking it with a fan or sound machine.  Earplugs may also help.

Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone controlled by light exposure that helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle.  Your brain secretes more melatonin when it is dark, making you sleepy and less when it is light, making you more alert.

Expose yourself to bright sunlight in the morning, have your morning coffee outside, or eat breakfast by a sunny window.  The light on your face will help you wake up.

Spend time during the day outside, take a work break and go outside, walk your dog during the day, not at night.

Let as much natural light into your home or workspace as possible.  Keep curtains and blinds open during the day.

At night avoid bright screens 1-2 hours before bedtime, say no to late night television, be smart about e-readers, the devices which are backlit are more disruptive than the old fashioned book. When it is time to sleep, make sure the room is dark

Remember, your bed is not an office, workroom, movie theater or TV viewing venue
If you find yourself unable to sleep or waking up in the night due to residual stress, worry, anger from your day, try to clear your head.  Deep breathing – close your eyes and take deep, slow breaths, making each breath even deeper than the last.  Progressive muscle relaxation, start with your toes, tense all the muscles as tightly as you can, then completely relax.  Work your way up to the top of your head.  Visualize a peaceful, restful place.  Close your eyes and imagine a place that is calming and peaceful.  Concentrate on how relaxed this place makes you feel.

Other bedtime rituals that may help you relax

  • Read a book or magazine by a soft light
  • Take a warm bath
  • Listen to soft music
  • Do some easy stretches or yoga
  • Wind down with a favorite hobby
  • Listen to books on tape
  • Make simple preparations for the next day
  • Dim the lights in the hours leading up to bedtime