• Avoid stimulants, meaning caffeine for one, too close to bedtime. Everybody reacts a little differently to the after-dinner cup of coffee, but most people will find it too stimulating to either fall asleep or stay that way. Oh, and chocolate has caffeine. (Sorry.) Vigorous exercise too close to bed time can be like a stimulant as well.
• But exercise regularly for sure. Remember the good-health trifecta? Diet-exercise-stress reduction? Yep, helps with sleep, too. Do your vigorous exercising earlier in the day and save some stretching or relaxing exercise for closer to bed.
Let’s move into the bedroom:
• One, have your bedroom be where you SLEEP more than you do anything else. I already know I just lost a bunch of you. And I can’t lie — my own “study corner” is in my bedroom. It’s the small-house-big-family challenge. But I’ve made efforts at not working in my bedroom or watching movies there. When I do study there, I sit in my study chair many times rather than on my bed. We might even copycat some of my Amish friends’ way of life and store underclothes in the bathroom so we dress there rather than in our bedrooms (looking for a bureau to replace the diaper-changing table). The idea, of course, is that when you enter your bedroom, you’re thinking about sleep and not much else.
• Two, make your bedroom comfortable, cozy, relaxing and restful. That means, of course, have a great bed — whatever great is to you. For me, it’s piled with blankets, lots of pillows and sports a decent mattress. Others of you like waterbeds (still?), air mattresses, firm or soft beds or one crisp sheet and a light blanket. Have the room itself be relaxing — soft colors, low lighting, pretty on the eyes — so that when you’re there you’re calm. And here’s the biggee, the one where I lose a bunch more people: Nix the electronics. Again, I work for midwives, and they call and text-message me at very unreasonable hours, so I must leave my phone on. But before I go to sleep, I turn off anything I might have had running including that movie I wasn’t supposed to be watching in bed anyway. Really. I know a lot of people fall asleep with a TV on. I used to. I don’t have TV now, so that’s not an issue, but the electronics are insidious. Sometimes I can hear my phone vibrating, telling me I have a new e-mail message or whatever. I ignore it. I’m in BED, after all.