National Center on Sleep Disoders (NIH)
The National Sleep Foundation:
Learn to Sleep Well: A Practical Guide to Getting a Good Nights Rest
by Chris Idzikowski
Guidelines for Better Sleep
Sleeping well is a habit that you can learn! Small changes can have big
effects. Start today by following these rules:
Take care of your body
• Do not drink caffeine: no tea, coffee, or coca-cola after 4 o’clock
• Do not eat a big or spicy meal late in the evening
• Do not go to bed hungry
• Avoid alcohol as it interferes with sleep
Physical exercise, such as a brisk walk, in the late afternoon can help to make your body
tired and help you to sleep. Try to do some exercise every day.
Sleep only at night-time and do not have day-time naps, no matter how tired you feel. Naps
keep the problem going by making it harder for you to get to sleep the next night.
Having a regular bedtime routine teaches your body when it’s time to go to sleep.
• Have a soothing drink like camomile tea or a milky drink
• Have a bath, or a routine of washing your face and brushing your teeth
• Go to bed at same time each night
• When in bed think of nice things (e.g. think of 5 nice things that happened that day
– they might be big or small, such as a nice conversation, seeing the sunshine, or
hearing nice music on the radio)
• Do a relaxed breathing exercise (one hand on stomach the other on your chest,
deliberately slow your breathing, breathe deeply in your stomach instead of high in
• Try and wake up the same time every day, even if this is tiring to begin with
Coping with bad dreams can be difficult. Some people don’t like relaxation before going to
sleep, or are scared of letting go. If that is you, try these preparation techniques instead:
• Prepare yourself in case you have bad dreams by thinking of a bad dream then
think of a different ending for it. Practice this new ending many times before going
• Before going to sleep prepare to re-orient yourself when you wake from a bad
• Remind yourself that you are at home, that you are safe. Imagine your street,
buses, local shops.
• Put a damp towel or a bowl of water by the bed to splash your face, place a special
object by the bed, such as a photograph, or a small soft toy.
• Practice imagining yourself waking up from a bad dream and reorienting yourself to
the present, to safety by splashing your face, touching special object, having a
bottle of rose or lavender essential oil to sniff, going to window to see surroundings.
• When you wake up from a bad dream- move your body if you can and reorient
yourself immediately (touching object, wetting face, going to the window, talk to
yourself in a reassuring way)
Make your bedroom a pleasant place to be
Get a nightlight
Keep it clean and tidy
Introduce pleasant smells such as a drop of lavender oil onto the pillow
Get extra pillows
Make sure that your home is safe e.g. doors locked, windows closed.
REMEMBER: Bed is for sleeping, so if you cannot sleep after 30 minutes, get up and do
another activity elsewhere such as reading or listening to music (try and avoid TV as it can
wake you up). After 15 minutes return to bed and try to sleep again. If you still can’t sleep
after 30 minutes get up again. Repeat this routine as many times as necessary and only use
your bed for sleeping in.