Sleep Hygiene

If you are having problems getting to sleep, staying asleep, or waking up refreshed, this article features several tips and tricks to help you get a proper night’s rest.

In the Evening Before Bed


Any vigorous activity should be done at least 4 hours before bed time if possible. Gentle exercise can be done after that time and will improve the quality of your sleep.

Stop stressful activities or exciting activities (i.e. home work, video games, TV) one hour before going to sleep.

Find an activity which calms you and enjoy a quiet time alone or with a family member.

Food & Drink

If you eat a high carbohydrate/fiber snack such as bread, rice, banana, or low sugar cereal before bed this tends to lower the core body temperature which in turn can help improve your sleep.

A glass of milk or other dairy products contain tryptophan, an amino acid that can help make you feel sleepy.

Avoid caffeine as it causes broken sleep. It takes the body 10 hours to process 80 mg of caffeine. Avoid alcohol as it causes disruptions in the sleep cycle.

Sleep Preparation Habits

If you have pain, take your medication with the snack and put on any night splints to rest sore joints.

Keep a consistent bed time

Try to go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning. If you have a major sleep problem you will need to do this even on weekends for 27 nights (1 month). Do not nap for more than 20 minutes in the daytime.

Establish a bed time ritual

It is helpful to establish a ritual before going to bed. Always doing things in the same order trains your brain to start shutting down. For example: Have a warm bath, clean your teeth, lay out your clothes for the morning, Get into bed the same side, etc.

A warm bath or shower before bed will send messages to your brain to try to lower you temperature and this will help you get into deeper sleep. The warmth will relax muscles in preparation for sleep.

If you feel any daytime stress, reading something that is fun can help take your mind off of it.

Finally, some research shows that the smell of lavender helps people sleep deeper.

Your Bedroom and Your Bed

If possible, do not do any stressful activities in your bedroom (i.e. work). Keep your room as a sanctuary for sleep and relaxation only. This trains your brain to start shutting down and get ready for sleep as you enter the room.

Keep noise down

Try to negotiate with your family around activities which might keep you awake. Stereos and TV’s in other areas of the home may need to be turned down before bedtime.

Consider the impact of partners

Bed partners (husbands, wives, pets etc) can be a significant distraction while trying to get to sleep. If your partner snores, go to bed first so you are asleep when they come in. Some partners need to separate and sleep in other beds. Many partners are afraid that this will reduce their intimacy or indicate a sign of a problem with the relationship. However, when you sleep better your interactions with those around you will improve. You might find a new spice in your relationship.

Choose slightly cooler temperatures

Keep the room slightly cooler that the rest of the house, no more than 65 degrees.

Keep sources of light down

Any lights (including night lights) should not be visible directly from the bed.

Use a good mattress and pillow

The mattress should be comfortable and firm enough for support. Use only one small pillow of down or a hollow fibre which molds around the neck and shoulders. Vacuum the mattress to remove dust mites that can cause allergies and restrict easy breathing.

The Sleeper’s Head

It is completely normal to take up to 1/2 hour to fall asleep. If you are lying awake for longer, get out of bed and leave the room. Go and get a healthy snack, read a book, or listen to calming music. Return to the bedroom when you feel sleepy again.

Don’t take your worries with you to bed

Do not take the worries of your day to bed with you. Spend some time reviewing your worries and make a plan for dealing with them before you go to bed. Write down the plan and if you wake in the night with another idea, write it down too.

If you are worried about your disease, make a plan to see or call a therapist or nurse on your healthcare team. There are no dumb questions.

Still Can’t Sleep?

If you have tried all ways you know to improve your sleep and it is still a problem, try contacting an occupational therapist. They will teach you more advanced ways to deal with falling asleep.