Here are some basic tips to improve your sleep:
- Get up at the same time every day, until your body clock is reset. (groan – that includes weekends)
- Reduce your caffeine – gradually. I know a fellow who went from several energy drinks a day to nothing – he got a walloping headache. Reduce caffeine gradually!
- Stop caffeine at noon. Omit any caffeine — coffee, tea with caffeine, soft drinks and even chocolate if you want to be really careful. Check headache or cold medications for caffeine. Watch out for the kind of Sudafed that contains epinephrine (it’s not caffeine but its effects will be similar.) Even though you don’t feel caffeine’s effects after a couple of hours, it can take 8 or more hours to leave the body!
- Avoid naps in the daytime.
- Make your bed and bedroom your palace. Comfort is your priority – your bed should be comfortable, with exactly the pillows and blankets you love. The temperature and lighting be right. Keep your bedroom only for sleep and sex – avoid working there.
- Get exercise every day, but avoid it right before bed.
- Have a bedtime ritual that you follow, so a conditioned response can start to build. (example: do the dinner dishes, watch an hour of TV, take a shower, have an apple, brush your teeth, listen to music and go to bed)
- Be aware of any childhood traumatic associations you might have – did your stepfather wake you up in the middle of the night and beat you? Those memories – combined with combat stress, can build and make it difficult to let go and sleep soundly. An important principle is to realize that combat stress builds on whatever traumatic times you had as a child. You might want to talk to a therapist about this to try to get a better handle on what this might be doing to your sleep.
- Avoid catastrophizing – think of your favorite place in the world, about holding a baby, puppy, or being held by someone you love. Worrying about not getting enough sleep can keep you awake!
- Alcohol often makes sleep worse! Alcohol may put you to sleep but you will need more and more to do so. Worst of all, you can wind up awake in the middle of the night. It also changes your sleep brain wave patterns.
- Are you having nightmares?