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Erin Olivo, Ph.D.
Erin Olivo Ph.D.

5 Tips To Get the Best Night’s Sleep

How to make sleepless nights a thing of the past.

Do you have trouble sleeping? Do thoughts race through your mind at lightening speed with no sign of slowing down? Maybe you’re reviewing a never ending to do list or thinking about an upcoming presentation. Whatever it is, lying in bed and watching the clock go from 1am to 2am is not fun. Or healthy.

You’re not alone. According to the National Institutes of Health, 50 to 70 million Americans are affected by chronic sleep disorders and intermittent sleep problems that can significantly diminish your health, alertness and safety.

Wise Mind Living offers many strategies to calm the mind that will help improve your sleep, such as incorporating a regular mindfulness meditation practice into your routine. Here are some quick sleeping tips you can incorporate now so sleepless nights are a thing of the past.

Cut back on caffeine.

Cut out all caffeine after noon or at least eight hours before bedtime. That means no coffee, espresso, black tea, or chocolate (an ounce of dark chocolate has about 25 mg of caffeine, equivalent to a quarter cup of brewed coffee). Try decaf or herbal tea instead.

Get your smartphone out of the bedroom.

Leave your smartphone in the kitchen or living room. Light from the phone stimulates your brain and reading emails or other content stimulates your mind. No texting either. Remember, the goal is to slow down and quiet your mind.

Create a bedtime ritual.

Turn off the TV (or whatever device you watch) an hour before bedtime and create a bedtime ritual. Start with self care basics like brushing your teeth and washing your face, then dim the lights, make sure your room is cool (between 60-67 degrees is optimal), and once you’re in bed do a relaxation exercise. Rituals like this are a form of operant conditioning and over time just doing them will train you to get sleepy.

If you can’t sleep go into another room.

If you can't fall asleep after 20 to 30 minutes, don't stay in bed. Go to another room, sit in a chair and repeat the relaxation exercise. Then return to your bed. Use your bed only for sleep and sex to strengthen the association between bed and sleep.

Do some math if you still can’t fall asleep.

If you’re thoughts are still racing, try to list the 50 states in alphabetical order. Or try multiplying large numbers or count backwards from 200. Any of these will keep your mind focused, which makes it easier to fall asleep.

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© 2014, Erin Olivo, PhD

About the Author
Erin Olivo, Ph.D.

Erin Olivo, Ph.D., is an assistant clinical professor of medical psychology at Columbia University.