I’ve never been a good sleeper. Even as far back as high school, I remember lying in bed for hours before finally drifting off and having trouble getting out of bed in the morning. This continued for a long time. College wasn’t much better, and after college it was more of the same.
I’ve used a sound machine that generates relaxing noises, such as waves or running water, and I’ve tried a sweet-smelling pillow spray. Neither of those helped.
Friends recommended melatonin. I never tried that, but I did move everything out of my bedroom except the bed. The bedroom became a room for nothing but sleep. That helped for a little while but it still wasn’t perfect.
I purchased a bed last year, and that did wonders for my sleep habits, although they are still not perfect.
Although that required spending a good (but not outrageous) amount of money, I haven’t forgotten about trying to improve my sleep further without spending much money. This article from MSN Money, has suggestions for inexpensively achieving better sleep. Their suggestions beat buying various pillows, comforters, “supplements,” and therapy, but all of the above can be helpful.
Here are the first five tips.
1. Eliminate all caffeine, chocolate and other stimulating substances in the afternoon and evening. Check with a pharmacist to make sure none of your prescription drugs are keeping you awake. Don’t drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes before going to bed.
I have heard that drinking a glass of red wine before bed will help you sleep, but this piece of advice is contrary. I would imagine drinking anything will likely activate your bladder and lead to uncomfortable sleep or waking up in the middle of the night.
2. Exercise regularly, but not within two hours of bedtime.
Excerise gets the heart racing and the blood pumping. This is better suited as a morning activity. If I could get better sleep, I could wake up earlier and get exercise. That’s one of my personal goals for the year.
3. Don’t watch loud, suspenseful television shows or troubling news reports before bed. Read a book, take a warm bath or have a glass of warm milk.
Relax your mind. Don’t go to sleep right after watching Jack Bauer blow up lots of stuff or crash planes.
4. Maintain a consistent sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Eliminate naps.
The Sunday nap leads to sleep problems on Monday morning and Tuesday night for me. There’s not enough time during the week to even consider napping. Sometimes, after an exhausting week, I try to name a nap when I arrive home from work on Friday, but that has always turned into more of a mess.
5. Go to bed only when sleepy. Get up if you can’t fall asleep within 15 to 20 minutes.
This is a tip I picked up many years ago. The idea is to get used to getting in bed only when you’re absolutely ready to fall asleep. This works. I try to make it into my bed only when I’m sure I’m going to fall asleep within 15 minutes.
Those were the first five suggestions. For the remainder, read part 2 of this two-part series.
Updated February 10, 2011 and originally published May 3, 2006.