February 27, 2016 in Stress and Coping

Tips for Getting a Good Night’sRest

By Dr. Richardson

Are you someone who frequently tosses and turns for hours at a timetrying to get to sleep? Or, are you someone who falls asleep quickly and thenwakes up in the middle of the night and cannot get back to sleep again?Individuals who have struggled to get a good night’s rest over a lengthy periodof time can attest that lack of sleep really affects how you function and feelthe following day. Oftentimes, those who do not get enough rest, experience decreasedenergy, fatigue throughout the day, increased irritability, decreased focus andconcentration, and sometimes increased feelings of depression and/or anxiety. Thegood news is that there are several strategies you can learn to help you restand get the sleep you know is so important to your well-being and optimal dailyfunctioning.

The first and most important step to improving your sleep is settingand sticking to a regular sleep/wake schedule. Oftentimes, on weekends or daysoff from work those who struggle with sleep will try and “catch up” and sleepin a few hours later on Saturday or Sunday. Unfortunately, this change inschedule often makes it harder to get back to sleep at a necessary time forwork or school on Monday morning. Sleeping in after a night of tossing andturning can also disrupt your sleep the following night. Try to stick to a scheduleeven when you have a night of poor sleep. Your chances of sleeping better thefollowing night will be much greater since you will likely feel more tired andthis may help you get back on a schedule rather than spiraling into a patternthat keeps you regularly sleep deprived. Also, if you are struggling with sleep,limit your naps to no longer than 15–20 minutes, once per day. Refraining fromnapping is important so that you can retrain your body to be tired at theappropriate time—bedtime. Napping for lengthy periods will inevitably disruptyour body’s ability to get on a schedule.

Next, make your bed and bedroom as comfortable and calm as possible.Temperature is important—you don’t want it to be too cold or too hot. Also, besure that the noise level is not too loud or disruptive. Many people findsleeping to white noise from a noise machine or quiet music helpful in order todrown out any disruptive background noise that may keep them awake. You alsowant to use your bed only for sleep so that you can train your body to feelsleepy the moment it rests on the bed. Refrain from activities such as watchingtelevision, talking on the phone, studying or working on your computer or phonewhile you are in bed. Move these activities into another room instead, or ifyou absolutely must, sit in a chair or at a desk in your room while watchingtelevision, talking on the phone, etc. so that your body will still associateyour bed with sleeping and being tired.

A third tip to getting a good night’s rest is not to remain in bed fortoo long while trying to fall asleep. If you are still tossing and turning 30minutes after going to bed, then calmly get out of bed, go to a different room,and sit quietly for 20–30 minutes until you start to feel sleepy again. Youcould read a book or listen to quiet music before trying again to return toyour bed to fall asleep. It is important to refrain from staying in your bed restlesslyfighting to fall asleep because you will start to feel frustrated and your bodywill respond by physically activating and feeling more awake and restless. Thegoal is to train your body to feel calm, relaxed, and sleepy when it is in bed,so if you cannot get there after about 30 minutes of trying, then staying inbed longer can work against you and make it harder to reach your goal offalling asleep.