Last week  I mentioned poor Hamlet as an example of a insomnia sufferer. Now, let’s talk about how to get that sleep. Below are a few suggestions.

1.Sleep is a time of relaxation.  High stress activities after dinner should be avoided so that the transistion from the daytime helter skelter to sleep is smoother.  Going to the gym at 9 pm for that aerobic workout; reviewing at 10 pm your scheduled am work presentation and trying to solve your 10th grader’s extra credit geometry problem are activities which probably won’t help you fall asleep.

2.Stimulants such as caffeine should be avoided for at least three hours before bedtime. I know that coffee is a survival tool, but so too is sleep.  By the way, that hunking piece of chocolate cake which you just inhaled after dinner, not only contains chocolate (a known stimulant), but also sugar (also a known stimulant). Stick with a banana, which has serotonin to help you sleep.

3. A shower before bedtime is fine as long as the water is not too hot.  Hot water can cause your body to remain in the alert rather than sleep mode.

4. Other than the occassional hank panky, the bed should be only used for sleeping. Watching TV-even those fascinating reruns of General Hospital-can cause your brain to stay in the awake, albeit bored mode.  Reading, believe it or not, can sometimes do the same. Some sleep experts recommend reading only outside the bedroom.

5. White sound-such as prerecorded sounds of waves crashing or of a flowing stream helps prepare your mind for sleep. Led Zeppelin “Whole Lotta Love” may great to dance to, but will not help you sleep.

6.Exposure to bright light just before sleeping is not good. Having drawn curtains helps keep out outdoor lights.  Strangely enough, light travels through your nose and into your brain where it affects melatonin production.  A dark environment therefore is better for sleeping.

7. If you wake up and can’t fall back to sleep, get out of bed(remember the bed is for sleeping) and try reading or listening to some classical music. A glass of warm milk or a banana will help.

8. Alcohol inhibits REM sleep and is therefore not recommended.

9.Waking up at the same time each and every day helps maintain the internal clock.  If you haven’t slept in several days, consider waking up early-say at 7 am.  This seems counterintuitive, but eventually the lack of sleep combined with regular hours will cause you to regain your sleep pattern again.

10. As a last resort a short- and I mean short or about one week worth of certain medications such as Ambien or Lunesta can help reset the clock. Chronic use of these medication inhibits REM sleep and is aboslutely not recommended. Young adults can try the occassional Benadryl (contained in Tylenol PM), but older individuals should avoid this due to hiogher risk of falls, confusion and heart rate problems.