Ten Free Ways To Improve Sleep
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
Exercise 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
Relax your mind. Don’t go to sleep right after watching Jack Bauer blow up lots of stuff or crash planes. Read a book, take a warm bath or have a glass of warm milk.
4. Maintain a Consistent Sleep Schedule. Go to Bed and Wake up at the Same Time Every Day
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.
This is the second and last part of a short series on suggestions for improving sleep without spending a ton of cash. I published part 1 yesterday. We’re continuing with the second half of suggestions provided by Melinda Fulmer from MSN Money. Here are the remaining tips.
6. Set Your Thermostat Between 60 to 68 Degrees
A cool, but not cold, temperature helps most people to sleep better.
I always liked to sleep with the thermostat at 72 degrees. In college, my girlfriend liked it much cooler to snuggle under multiple layers of blankets. I preferred not much covering of any kind. I’ve grown to enjoy the layers but I still prefer “freedom.”
7. Use Your Bed Only for Sleep and Sex
Don’t Watch Television, Read or Fill out Paperwork in Bed. I moved the computer out of my bedroom a few years ago and I haven’t had a television in my bedroom since the time my only room was a dorm. I do read in bed occasionally, but that hasn’t caused much of a problem. I often just pick up the latest personal finance book I’m reviewing and in many cases a chapter or two gets me in the mood to doze off.
8. Eliminate as Much as Noise and Light as You Can From the Room
Close the blinds, turn off the TV and tell that snoring spouse to roll over on his or her side. If you have a fan, turn it on to drown out street noise. I don’t let my girlfriend snore, and hopefully I don’t snore too much, either. When my downstairs neighbors decide to party until 5:00 am, I get them to quiet down eventually.
9. When Your Head Hits the Pillow, Imagine a Relaxing Setting or Favorite Memory
I have no idea what I’m thinking about when I fall asleep. My mind wanders, and it’s usually not relaxing.
10. Try a Relaxation Exercise
The counting backward doesn’t work for me, but I have perfected a relaxation exercise. It’s similar to the suggested one above, but they have the technique reversed. You must start from your toes and go all the way to your head (including down your arms when you get to your shoulders). You must tense and relax each muscle twice and picture a relaxing scene. The scene I use for myself is a beach at night. By the time I get to the top of my head, I’ve lost my sensation of gravity. It can be a very relaxing and effective technique and usually results in floating and sinking feelings. I’ve administered it to others with much success.
I really believe sleep is important to a full-functioning mind and body. In the past, I’ve had a boss who disagreed with me completely. He was happy sleeping 2 to 3 hours each day and believed that sleep was a waste of time when that time could be better spent working on great projects that help kids and save the world.
Since then, he’s discovered that balance is needed once in a while and humans are designed to require sleep.
What techniques do you use when you’re having problems sleeping, and how much would you spend to fix your sleeping habits?
I totally sympathize. Not only am I the world’s lightest sleeper, when I do wake up in the middle of the night (which is inevitable) it is really difficult for me to get back to sleep! Immediately, the mind starts racing… Anyway, thanks for the tips!
#4 is what kills me. I still like going out all night on the weekends, but what everyone says is true. Once you turn 30, you just can’t go out every weekend. *wah!*
I gotta disagree with number 2 there. I know logistically it makes sense, but I find doing some pushups, situps and a few curls right before bed allows me to doze off easily. Then I wake up, rested, at the same time every morning — 5 min before my alarm goes off
Thanks so much for the article. My husband really has trouble sleeping and I appreciated the tips. I know these are things he could definately try and hopefully it will help. I look forward to your future work!