Better sleep without medication

October 9, 2015

Taking a sleeping pill seems like a simple fix: pour a glass of water and swallow. If you don't address the causes behind your wide-eyed nights, though, they're likely to resume as soon as your meds are used up. So, even if you do take sleeping pills temporarily, start practicing good sleep habits.

Better sleep without medication

Sleep tips

  1. Review your habits. Quit smoking, and cut back on caffeine, or at least don't drink or eat anything with caffeine for 12 hours or more before bedtime. Check out your medications: Could any of those be keeping you awake? (Most decongestants do.) Is your late-night spicy snack disrupting your slumber? Perhaps you need more time to wind down before bed. A relaxing bath may help.
  2. Exercise. Want to fall asleep 15 minutes sooner and stay asleep 45 minutes longer? Get some exercise during the day. A Stanford University study of middle-aged and older adults found that four 30 to 40 minute sessions per week of aerobics, brisk walking, or stationary biking did the trick for most people if they kept at it. As an added perk, exercise can also help with pain. Try to exercise at least six hours before bedtime. Exercise raises your core body temperature, and your body needs a lower internal temperature to fall asleep.
  3. Skip the naps. Oftentimes, taking the edge off with a catnap only makes it harder to fall asleep at night. If you do nap, don't snooze for more than 30 minutes.
  4. Be boringly predictable. Go to sleep and get up at the same time every day, even on weekends. That helps set your body clock so your body will fall asleep when it's supposed to.
  5. Dedicate your bedroom to sleep and sex. Don't learn to associate your bedroom with working, paying bills, or watching TV. Do those things elsewhere.
  6. Get out of bed. If you can't fall asleep after 20 minutes or wake up in the middle of the night and find that you can't get back to sleep, leave the room and read or do something you find boring until you're drowsy enough to get back in bed and nod off.
  7. Establish a soothing prebed ritual. Get in the habit of reading for a few minutes or listening to relaxing music before you turn in. Try a warm bath; people fall asleep more easily when their skin temperature (not their internal temperature) rises.

Practise these sleep hygiene tips to help you improve the quality of your sleep.

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