To help to ensure peaceful sleep, consciously begin slowing down a couple of hours before going to bed. Avoid working or engaging in any mentally or physically stressful activities in the evening, and spend the evening instead reading a relaxing book or watching a film, listening to peaceful music, or taking a soothing bath. Let go of the accumulated concerns of the day through journaling or relaxation exercises. Establish a regular bedtime, and try to stick to it even on the weekends. Your body responds best to a regular schedule, and you can train yourself to become sleepy at a specific time each evening. Go to bed early, before 10:00 P.M., to take advantage of your body’s natural circadian rhythm of getting drowsy at dark and awakening at dawn.
Make sure your bedroom is a quiet, peaceful haven for sleep. Even a dim light can disturb sleep, so make your bedroom as dark as possible. Invest in room-darkening shades if necessary to block out external light. If noise is a problem, you can try soft earplugs, but they can be uncomfortable to wear. A better solution is an environmental sound machine that creates soothing background white noise such as gentle ocean waves, that blocks out all disturbing noise. You’ll sleep better with plenty of fresh air, so keep your windows open at least a few inches, even in the winter.
Disrupted sleep is often caused by an unhealthful bedroom environment. Most mattresses, pillows, and bed linens are saturated with chemicals that release toxins such as formaldehyde into the air for years, causing symptoms such as headaches, nausea, fatigue, throat and eye irritation, and insomnia. When you consider that you spend approximately one-third of your life in bed, it makes sense to make your bedroom as healthful and comfortable as possible. Buy natural cotton sheets that have not been treated with chemicals (avoid any that are no-iron or easy care). Cotton-flannel sheets are also a good option, especially for cooler months, and are naturally wrinkle-free. Layer your bed with cotton or wool blankets and down comforters, and instead of synthetic foam mattresses and pillows, choose cotton- or wool-filled mattresses and cotton-, down-, or wool-filled pillows. For the most refreshing sleep, avoid mattresses that are too soft or too hard. A firm mattress that provides comfortable support for your back is best.
Avoid any activity in bed except sleep and sex. Don’t read in bed, watch television, talk on the phone, or work. If you are unable to sleep, don’t lie there and try to make yourself go to sleep or worry about it. Get up and do something relaxing, but not something that is too interesting-reading a boring book can be especially good for inducing sleep. As soon as you feel sleepy, go back to bed. If you again find that you can’t sleep, repeat the process, and do it as many times as you need to until you finally fall asleep. It may take a couple of weeks, but this is a good way to train yourself to go to sleep, because you aren’t fueling your anxiety about not being able to sleep. Avoid napping during the day, especially in the late afternoon, because it can interfere with nighttime sleep patterns.
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