- EXERCISE Physical activity leaves you tired, but if
you do your workout within two or three hours of bedtime, you may be too
revved up to fall asleep easily.
MEDICATION Many drugs, both prescription and over-the-counter, contain stimulating chemicals like pseudoephedrine and caffeine, commonly found in decongestants and painkillers. Beta-blockers, used to treat certain heart conditions and high blood pressure, may be disruptive as well. Ask your doctor if you can use an alternative drug.
FOOD AND DRINK Eating a big meal close to bedtime can be a problem, especially if you are prone to indigestion. Drinking a caffeinated beverage late in the day can disturb the sleep of anyone who has not developed a tolerance to caffeine by drinking too much of it. Caffeine’s stimulating effects can last for six to eight hours and make it hard to fall asleep or cause middle-of-the-night wakefulness.
Alcohol may help you fall asleep, but when its effects wear off hours later, you may wake up and be unable to get back to sleep. (I and others I know find wine especially problematic and avoid drinking it with dinner.)
STRESS Anxiety, excessive stress and difficulty shutting out worries trigger the release of body chemicals that act as stimulants. Try a relaxing bedtime ritual like a hot bath, meditation or progressive muscle relaxation, starting at the toes and working up to your head. Or, odd though it may seem, try reading something dull.
If things you must remember or do the next day keep popping into your head, put a pad and pen next to the bed, write them down and then do your best to forget about them until morning.
Remember, sleep is not 'the daily event where you black out', it is time for your mind and body to service itself - time to repair and rebuild. It is right up there with nutrition and exercise, and you wouldn't scrimp on those now would you?
Don't stress about sleeping solidly for 8 hours either (it is natural to awaken a couple of times during the night). Just ensure you avoid electric light for the sleep window (which for me is 2130hrs to 0700hrs), and focus on relaxing and resting during that time. With practice comes habituation and the process of initiating sleep - QUALITY SLEEP - may become easier for you as it has done for me.