Tips to Promote Sleep and a Healthy Lifestyle

Establish a regular sleep schedule: going to bed and waking at the same time every day

Creating a lifestyle that includes establishing a regular sleep schedule is a key step toward getting a good night's sleep. This will allow you to get in sync with your natural circadian clock and sleep will come easier.

A regular schedule keeps our brain and body in balance. This is just as important for the weekend. Keeping to this schedule at all times will improve your ability to fall asleep, maintain sleep and achieve restorative sleep - so essential to your quality of life.

Here are some tips for developing a healthy sleep style during the day :

• Avoid caffeine, alcohol and nicotine, especially close to bedtime. Caffeine is a stimulant that has alerting properties, so consuming products like coffee, tea, cola and chocolate within 6 hours before bed can cause disruptions to your sleep

• Nicotine is also a stimulant and may keep you from falling asleep. After it loses its effect and when you are sleeping, you may experience withdraw, which can again disrupt sleep or cause problems waking in the morning. Nicotine has been known to cause nightmares.

• Alcohol helps to relax people and promotes sleep, but just like nicotine, can cause disrupted sleep during withdrawal.

• Exercise , but not too close to bedtime. Overall, exercise helps to promote good sleep, but not too close to bedtime. During exercise our body temperature rises and we become more alert. After about 6 hours, the body cools down and helps to signal the body that it is time for sleep. Try exercising in the afternoon for best results.

• Avoid naps , particularly in the late afternoon or evening.

Establish a regular bedtime routine

Here are some tips to help promote sleep about an hour before going to bed:

• To enhance this process, engage in a relaxing, non-alerting activity such as reading or listening to music. Soaking in warm water can be helpful. Avoid job-related work and household chores that are mentally or physically stimulating.

• Do not drink or eat too much, especially a heavy meal. You do not want to feel hunger or discomfort because you are too full. Try a light snack, but avoid spicy foods that may cause heartburn. Also, restrict fluids to avoid nighttime awakenings to the bathroom

• Create and maintain a maintain a sleep-promoting environment that is quiet, dark and preferably cool, but comfortable sleep room. Check your room for noise or other distractions, including a bed partner's sleep disruptions or an environment that is too bright, too dry or humid or too hot or cold.

• Make sure your mattress is comfortable for you and your bed partner. This is so important for preventing disruptions that keep you from gaining the benefits of a consolidated good night of sleep.

Keep a sleep diary

A sleep diary is a useful tool for recording your sleep habits and patterns. It is best to maintain a diary for at least 7 days to identify any problems or practices that may contribute to difficulties sleeping. After recording your hours of sleep, practices, patterns and disruptions, take your completed sleep diary to your doctor or health practitioners for a discussion about your sleep.

-National Sleep Foundation