1. Know your sleep cycle; sleepiness comes in waves every 60 to 90 minutes in a natural sleep cycle known as the ultradian rhythm. You might be reading a book and start to feel sleepy and think, “I’ll just finish this chapter”. By that time you are not sleepy anymore because you have missed that sleep. Catch the wave of sleepiness when it breaks. It may only last five to seven minutes and, if you miss it, you have to wait for the next wave to come 60 to 90 minutes later.
2. Only go to bed when you are sleepy; there is no need to go to bed at the same time each night. Only go to bed when you are sleepy. If not, you will lie there, fret about not sleeping and get into the habit of worrying about sleep.
3. Clean up; the average duvet carries up to 20,000 house dust mites. Some people didn’t wash their duvets regularly, if hadn’t been washed for 11 years and contained 45 grams of skin scales, hours-dust mite faces and other debris. This has serious implications for health, because the contaminants can cause symptoms of asthma, rhinitis and conjunctivitis and irritate existing cases of eczema. Check the care label o your duvet and wash it at least every six months.
4. Get out of bed at the same time every morning; while having a set bedtime is not necessary, it’s best to wake up at the same time every morning. Eventually, your body will become sleepier at the same time each night and you will develop a natural sleep rhythm or pattern.
5. Remember, bed is just for sex and sleep; keep your bedroom as a haven for sex and sleep only. Once you start watching television, making phone calls, listening to the radio or using your laptop, the peaceful association of bed and sleep is broken. All these activities interfere with sleep because you associate your bedroom with a busy mind.
6. Relax and enjoy: snoozing keeps you slim; the women who slept only five hours a night were a third more likely to experience major weight gain, defined as an increase of 15kilograms or more, and 15 per cent more likely to become obese, compared with women who slept seven hours.
7. Set aside a separate ‘worry’ time; key causes of sleeplessness include worrying about daily concerns, such as a fight with your partner or children, financial problems, issues at work, what you did or didn’t do today and what you have to do tomorrow. Most of the thinking and worrying needs to be done but not in bed. Set aside time during the day to do that and when those thoughts come in bed; say to yourself; “Stop. I’ll think about this tomorrow. Now is the time for sleep”.
8. Try sleep alone; if you want to ensure your brain is functioning clearly, sleep alone. Sharing a bed reduces brain clarity temporarily, particularly in men. Researchers studied eight unmarried couples who spent 10 nights sleeping apart and 10 nights sleeping together. When the couples performed simple cognitive tests the day after sleeping together, men performed badly, suggesting their brains are more likely to suffer from disturbed sleep.
9. No napping; if you have difficulty sleeping at night, skip the catnaps. A lot of people fall asleep in front of the television, usually just before they should be going to bed. It’s the worst time. A nap, particularly in the evening, takes the edge off your sleepiness and makes it harder to fall asleep.
10. Don’t stress about not sleeping; a lot of sleep is lost in worrying about not sleeping. People lie in bed saying, “I have to sleep. If I don’t sleep I won’t get through tomorrow” instead of stressing, say “what is the worst thing that could happen if I don’t sleep at all tonight? I’ll be very, very tired. That will be awful but I’ll make it through today. I’ll lie here and rest, that’s nearly as good as sleep”.