As the last of the sand trickles from the hourglass and the old year gives way to the new, it's a time to look to the future. What can we do to make life better in the months to come?
For the sleep deprived, whether that lack of sleep comes from a sleep disorder, work schedule or poor sleep hygiene, a plan to get more sleep will definitely improve the quality of life.
Sleep deprivation causes many problems, from excessive daytime sleepiness to decreased mental and physical ability. If you drive, sleep deprivation can lead to accidents, just like alcohol does.
So, with the tired and disgruntled in mind, I've prepared a list of New Year's resolutions to help you improve your sleep. Make a note of the ones that apply to you, write them down, pin them up in a prominent place and make them a part of your life over the coming months. You'll be glad you did.
- Establish a routine. Go to bed at the same time every night. Make up a ritual that will mean "time to sleep" to you.
- Get some exercise early in the day. Go for a walk, or to a gym. Don't exercise too near to bedtime.
- Limit daytime naps. If you must nap, make the naps very short - less than an hour.
- Avoid drinking coffee or consuming any food or beverage loaded with caffeine within four hours of bedtime.
- If you are a drinker, try to limit your consumption. Avoid alcohol in the evening, and never use a nightcap as a "sleeping pill."
- If you are a smoker, please try to cut down, or quit. Never smoke in the evening. Nicotine is a stimulant and can interfere with your sleep.
- Avoid heavy meals within three or four hours of bed time, although a light snack is a good idea. A glass of warm milk is an excellent choice.
- As bedtime approaches, try to relax. An hour or two before retiring, have a hot bath. Spend some time practicing relaxation techniques, maybe meditation.
- If you get up to go to the bathroom, avoid bright light. Keep the lighting only bright enough to see. A small night-light is ideal.
- If you find you cannot go to sleep, don't spend hours tossing and turning, willing yourself to sleep. Instead, get up, read, watch TV, even do some boring chores.
- Turn your clock to the wall. Watching the clock is one of the worst things you can do.
- If nighttime noise keeps you awake, try a white noise tape, or buy some earplugs.