Sleep Well


Getting a good night’s sleep can be an important part of managing your stress.  Having a little trouble sleeping from time to time is not unusual for most people, but prolonged insomnia can be very stressful and take away your resources and energy for coping with stress.  If you feel you have a significant problem with insomnia, you may want to consult with your physician to consider any physical causes.  While medication may provide some help and relief, I generally recommend that people seek treatment from a qualified behavioral health provider with experience treating insomnia.  For “top-of-the-line” treatment, seek treatment from a behavioral sleep medicine specialist.

Some tips on getting a better night’s sleep:

  1. Set a fixed time for getting up and going to bed.  Too much variation throws off your body’s natural rhythms.
  2. Avoid napping during the day.  If you must nap, keep to less than 30 minutes.
  3. Avoid caffeine and alcohol for up to 4-6 hours before going to bed.  Caffeine is a stimulant, which interferes with sleep.  Alcohol may help you get to sleep faster, but it disrupts the sleep cycle.
  4. Make sure you have a comfortable bed.  Uncomfortable bedding may cause various pains during the night, which can awaken you.
  5. Noises in your environment can be a problem.  Do what you can to make things as quiet as possible so that you are not awakened by sounds.  If there is noise in your environment that cannot be eliminated, consider using a white noise generator to cover up background noises.
  6. It is better to NOT have a television in your room.  The light and sound disrupt the sleep pattern.  Reserve the bedroom for sleep and physical intimacy.
  7. A light snack may sometimes help (such as warm milk or a banana).
  8. Spend some time worrying or thinking about what you will do the next day.  Do this earlier in the day, so that you can leave your worries out of the bedroom.  You may even want to make a list of things that you need to do the next day, so you don’t wake up thinking about what you need to do tomorrow.
  9. Develop a routine for winding down before bed.  Do some light reading, or something that allows the mind to wind down.  Of course, doing a relaxation technique would likely help.
  10. If you don’t fall asleep within 15-30 minutes, get up and sit somewhere comfortable until you feel sleepy again.  Then lie down when you are sleepy.  Continue repeating this process until you are able to sleep.  This will allow you to train your mind and body to know that being in bed is for sleeping (rather than being in bed is a place for worrying about sleeping).
  11. Don’t “try” to go to sleep.  Sleep is something that has to happen on it’s own, and you can’t make it happen.  An accepting attitude tends to be the most helpful (“I’ll either sleep or I won’t.  If I don’t, there’s always tomorrow night.”)