Most experts agree that adults need seven to nine hours of sleep a night. I rarely, if ever hit that target. Poor sleep can lead to fatigue. With fatigue, you exercise less and that leads to a decline in your fitness level. It is a vicious cycle that causes both physical and mood-related symptoms.
No doubt, I am not alone. You go to bed in the hopes of getting some rest but you begin ruminating about situations over which you have no control. Before long your mind is in overdrive and overwhelming you with feelings of sadness, hopelessness, worthlessness, or guilt. You glance at the clock it's 3 a.m. You tell yourself you've got to get back to sleep. You toss and turn and worry about not getting enough sleep. Maybe you doze off for an hour or so, but when the alarm clock gets you up for the day, you're far from rested.
My doctor says reestablish that sleeping pattern by staying in bed, do not get up and go to the fridge, turn on the TV or check my email. Sounds easy enough but after a few hours of tossing and turning staying in bed, staring at the ceiling just gets maddening.
An article from Harvard University's Medical School offers some cognitive and behavioral techniques that they say have proven effective. They call t sleep hygiene and suggest you try incorporating them before resorting to medications. I am trying to work some of them into my daily/nightly routine.
Stay away from stimulants. Avoid caffeinated beverages (coffee, many teas, chocolate, and some soft drinks) after 1 or 2 p.m. — or altogether, if you're especially caffeine-sensitive. Caffeine blocks the effects of adenosine, a brain chemical thought to promote sleep. Limit alcohol to no more than one drink a day, preferably taken at least two hours before bedtime. Alcohol interferes with deep sleep and can interfere with breathing. Stop smoking, and avoid secondhand smoke. Nicotine makes it harder to fall asleep and harder to stay asleep.
Don't nap if you can avoid it. If you can't stay awake in the afternoon, take a 15- to 20-minute nap — that's usually long enough to improve alertness but not so long that you feel groggy afterward. Don't nap at all in the evening before you go to bed. (And no falling asleep in front of the television!)
Exercise. Getting regular aerobic exercise such as walking, jogging, or swimming can help you fall asleep faster, get more deep sleep, and awaken less often during the night. But avoid exercise within a few hours of bedtime.
Set a sleep schedule. A regular sleep schedule helps synchronize your sleep/wake cycle. Once you determine how much time in bed you need, go to bed each night and get up each morning at the same time.
Make your bedroom a sleep sanctuary. Reserve it for sleep, intimacy, and restful activities such as meditation and reading for pleasure. Keep it cool, dark, and quiet. To block out noises, use a fan or other appliance that produces a steady "white noise." Make sure your mattress is comfortable.
Eat sensibly. Finish dinner several hours before bedtime. If you need a snack in the evening, eat a small serving of something you know won't disturb your digestion, such as applesauce, yogurt, cereal and milk, or toast and jam.
Don't watch the clock. Watching the sleepless minutes pass makes it harder to fall back to sleep in the wee hours. Turn the clock face so you can't see it.
Establish a relaxing routine before bedtime. Consider meditation, a warm shower, listening to quiet music, or some simple stretches to loosen muscles. Avoid activities that might cause stress, such as work or emotional discussions.
Limit fluids before bedtime. To minimize nighttime trips to the bathroom, don't drink anything during the two or three hours before bedtime.