During the day

  • Get a little sunlight on the face, first thing in the morning, to set your circadian rhythm
  • Exercise—equivalent to at least a brisk walk 20 minutes each day
  • Avoid caffeine after noon (chocolate, coffee, tea, soda, energy drinks…)
  • Avoid alcohol within 5 hours of bedtime—alcohol disrupts brain activity critical for healthy sleep
  • Quit cigarettes/nicotine because nicotine at any time of day disrupts sleep; get support from a local smoking cessation program
  • If you are not quitting smoking, avoid cigarettes/nicotine within 5 hours of bedtime
  • Take a 10-20 minute nap around 2 p.m.—our bodies are meant to sleep 2 times a day
  • If at night you are awakening to urinate, then during the day: elevate legs often and also do heel/toe raises to absorb fluid (accumulated in legs) that would be processed by kidneys at night
  • Ask your doctor about all of your medications’ effects on sleep—healthy sleep can be disrupted by some prescription and over-the-counter medications (even some “sleep” medications)
  • Keep a sleep diary—many people are surprised what they find out at the end of a week. Try National Sleep Foundation Sleep Diary (Google it)

Before bed

  • Practice a ritual (bath, relaxing book, meditate, sing…). See marc.ucla.edu for guided meditations
  • Eat a light snack with minimal sugar (milk & cereal; fruit & yogurt; nuts & crackers…)
  • Avoid light from bright lamps, computers, televisions, and cell phones within 1 hour of bedtime—this disrupts melatonin production and thus the circadian rhythm (or use filter app such as f.lux)
  • If nighttime urination is a problem, minimize water intake—consider no fluids within 90 minutes of bedtime. Try no herbal tea at least 5 hours before bed to determine if that is a factor.
  • Urinate immediately before going to bed
  • Start a relaxation practice before bed—begin with 3 minutes of quieting your mind, sitting still
  • Practice slow breathing while gently pushing out the belly when inhaling, then a slow exhale

While in bed

  • Keep room completely dark—no street lights through window or night lights unless very dim
  • If you do not fall asleep within what feels like 20 minutes, get out of bed and do something relaxing such as read a calming book or listen to an audiobook
  • Keep room cool, around 65-72 degrees
  • Use the bed only for sex and sleep and gentle reading (no emailing, television, working…)
  • Sleep approximately 8 hours
  • Make room quiet or use white noise (recordings of ocean, fan, rain…) to mask sounds
  • Position clock so it is not visible during the night, and do not check the time if you wake up
  • If you need to get up to urinate, use dimmest lighting possible while still being safe
  • Go to bed and get up at the same times every day, even weekends

Sheryl Shook, PhD, LSP, TFT  10/05/16  Before making any changes to your routine, please consult your physician. Click here for further resources and personalized sleep wellness advice sessions with Dr. Shook.
For additional information about sleep and neurologic disorders, see the 2016 Edition of Herbs and Nutrients for Neurologic Disorders by Sidney Kurn, MD, and Sheryl Shook, PhD, LSP