Most people don’t start thinking about going to sleep until they put on their pajamas or brush their teeth. People dealing with insomnia may have to think about sleep throughout the day until they get their sleep habits back on track. Here are eight suggestions that may improve your ability to fall asleep and enhance the length and quality of the sleep you get.
- Limit your caffeine intake Don’t just count coffee and tea, check the caffeine content of any soda and energy beverage you drink. Some foods, such as chocolate, and medications, including some pain relievers, contain caffeine. Be sure to read labels if you want to cut down on caffeine. Consider eliminating ANY caffeine past noon.
- Take an afternoon nap Many people are afraid to nap during the day, thinking they won’t be able to sleep at night. Naps can actually help restore “sleep debts” accumulated during sleepless nights and often make it easier to sleep again later.
- Increase your daylight exposure Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone controlled by light exposure that helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle. Working in dark spaces during the day can confuse your body. Try to take your breaks and get exercise outside in sunlight. If that’s not possible, consider using a light therapy box to increase your exposure.
- Decrease your light exposure at night Instead of sitting in front of a bright TV or computer screen, try listening to music or audio books, or reading by lamplight for 2-3 hours before bedtime. When it’s time to sleep, make sure your room is as dark as possible or use a sleep mask to cover your eyes.
- Exercise vigorously, just not before bedtime A sedentary lifestyle is a known risk factor for insomnia but so is vigorous exercise in the hours just before you want to sleep. The best times to exercise are before work, at lunch or during a break and immediately after work.
- Breathe and meditate Meditate or practice breathing exercises during the day and then again at bedtime. There are tapes and MP3s that can guide you through the steps, five or ten minutes is a good place to start. As you fall asleep, focus on your breathing, count inhales and exhales instead of sheep. If disturbing thoughts enter your mind, bring your mind back to your breathing.
- Keep a sleep journal A sleep journal will be invaluable to your doctor if your sleep problem persists. Track everything from how long it took you to fall asleep, to how long you sleep, to the things that disturbed your sleep. Sometimes just the act of writing down an issue will help you dismiss it as a cause for staying awake at night.
- Try a white noise machine If the sound of a garbage truck, a dog’s bark or a spouse’s snoring awakens you or keeps you from getting to sleep, a white noise machine can help. They block distracting noises and also provide soothing sounds to help many people relax and fall asleep.
Questions About Sleep Habits?
We Can Help
If you or a family member is having trouble sleeping, call VITAL WorkLife. We can help you evaluate your symptoms, develop good sleep habits and suggest ways to help you get the rest you need.
EAP members: call 800.383.1908
Physician/Provider Well Being Resources members: call 877.731.3949
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