My most recent Chronic Illness/Chronic Pain Support Group meeting was on sleep. It is an area that many people struggle with, especially those of us with illness and/or pain. I am sharing with you my list of tips to help you sleep better.
Tips for sleeping better
- Reduce caffeine, especially late in the day.
- Limit alcohol- it may help you fall asleep, but the quality of the sleep will be poor.
- Eliminate smoking- nicotine is a stimulant.
- Don't eat a large meal right before bedtime. Eat a small nutritious bedtime snack of protein and complex carbs, such as fruit and yogurt.
- Exercise early in the day.
- Take rest breaks during the day if you need to, but don't nap. Naps can reduce the quantity and quality of sleep at night.
- Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, whether you are working or not.
- Treat any medical condition that may be affecting your sleep.
- Make sure your bed and pillow are comfortable. Use extra pillows as needed to support knees or arms.
- Eliminate noise or mask it with a white noise sound machine.
- Keep your bedroom dark or wear a mask over your eyes.
- Keep your bedroom at a comfortable temperature- some people sleep better if the room is cool.
- Reserve the bedroom for sleep and sex only, so you associate the bed with relaxation, not with work.
- Reduce stress during the day. Don't take problems to bed. If your mind is thinking about a problem, tell yourself that you will have time enough to work on it the next day, and turn your mind to relaxation.
- Do what you need to do to make your body comfortable- moisten eyes and mouth, etc.
- Give yourself time to wind down.
- Establish a bedtime ritual that will signal to your body that it is time to relax. Some ideas include a warm bath and relaxing music.
- Don't force yourself to sleep, or get anxious if you aren't falling asleep.
- If you can't sleep, get up and do something relaxing such as reading until you are tired and can sleep.
- Use relaxation techniques, such as progressive muscle relaxation, and deep breathing.
- Imagine yourself floating on a cloud, or on a raft on the sea. Visualize yourself going down an escalator, or floating down on a leaf. The lower you go, the more relaxed you become.
- If sleeping difficulties persist, consult your doctor.
- If you have nightmares, try this: Write down your nightmare. Write a new, more pleasant ending. Repeat the new ending over and over in your mind for 3 minutes before going to bed.