Just because I'm a sleep doc doesn't mean I only encounter insomniacs and narcoleptics. Much to the contrary, I meet sound sleepers all the time and love engaging them in conversation. Have they always been good sleepers? What's their "secret"?
Well, sorry, but there isn't just one secret. But a pattern emerges when you begin to collect such words of wisdom:
- I set clear boundaries, like never working past 7 pm and I don't bring work to bed with me.
- I read to my kids and it helps me wind down.
- I don't have a television or computer in my room.
- I drink a warm cup of tea about an hour before bedtime.
- I practice some deep breathing once I tuck myself in.
- I have the coziest bed in the world!]
- I don't see midnight anymore. I'm pretty good about bedtimes.
- I avoid coffee in the afternoons and switch to tea if I need a boost.
- If we eat late, I make my husband do the dishes and clean the kitchen so I can relax.
- Sex. We do it just before bed and I drift off quite easily.
- As long as I exercise, I sleep great.
And my personal favorites:
- I love sleep! I don't fear it like some people. It's my micro-vacation every day.
- What do you mean? I work so hard all day long that there's nothing left in me BUT sleep by the time I crawl into bed!
Do you see the pattern?
They all practice good sleep hygiene (maybe not the person in the last comment, thought there's something to be said for physically tiring yourself out during the day and having no problem transitioning at bedtime).
Every one of these secrets is based on preparing for bed throughout the day, and having a positive mindset toward sleep. The person with the coziest bed probably invested in a great mattress and doesn't take her bedroom's setting for granted.
Okay, so you want just one thing to do differently this week and see if it has an impact on your sleep?
How about this:
Avoid the Internet within 30 minutes of bedtime.
It should come as no surprise that staring at a computer screen and enthusiastically typing or surfing not only can steal precious time you should be banking in deep sleep, but the actual light emanating from the screen can also disrupt your body's ability to prepare for sleep and literally wind down.
Your taxes should already be done. Finito. So you don't need to be scrambling for last-minute tips. Quit hopping online just to check one more thing, news brief, e-mail, or blog (ahem, okay, except maybe this one).
See how many of the above statements you can make in the coming weeks. It's more about choosing restful sleep than expecting it.
Got some secrets of your own? Send them to me.
Michael J. Breus, PhD, FAASM
The Sleep Doctor