Changing Habits

The onset of sleepproblems often has a clear cause. As a result of this, however, people can develop habits that hinder the restoration of a healthy sleeppattern. Three aspects that play a part in this are: the night-time habits, nutritional factors and physical exercise.

Night-time habits

During the night bad sleepers can develop all kinds of behavior that does not promote a good nights sleep. Examples are: reading in bed, eating, watching TV, thinking and worrying about the past day or planning the next day, etc.. Such habits may turn your bedroom into a place that is no longer compatible with sleeping. You cannot sleep and read a book at the same time, can you?
If we want to sleep we should give ourselves time to wind down physically and psychologically. And not let the moment most suited to fall asleep go by because there are all sorts of things to be done. To restore the bed and the bedroom to their basic functions, use the following directives:

  • Only go to bed when sleepy.
  • Don’t do anything in bed but sleep (no reading or watching TV, etc.), sex is the only exeption.
  • If not asleep in about a quarter of an hour, go to another room. You don’t need to use a clock to determine this, a rough estimate is enough: the meaning of the procedure is not to spend too much time awake in your bed, so your bed can get associated with sleep once more. Go back to bed when sleepy and repeat as often as needed.
  • When getting out of your bedroom during the night, don’t use your time in a fashion too ‘rewarding’. You don’t want to reward yourself for being awake.
  • Take your time to ‘wind down’ during the evening.
  • Get up at the same time every day (also in weekends and hollidays), independent from the hours slept.
  • Don’t sleep during the day. If this cannot be avoided, do so at a fixed time, with a absolute maximum of 45 minutes.

Research shows these directives to be very efficient. It is important however, to follow them strictly for at least two weeks, including the weekends.

Nutritional facts

The factor that is most well known for affecting sleep is caffeine. Drinking coffee, or other beverages that contain this substance, can very well keep you awake. It is therefore important not to drink anything containing caffeine during the evening. Besides coffe there are a lot of other foodstuffs that contain caffeine. Some of them are listed below.


Nicotine like caffeine can also have an arousing effect. Research shows that the time needed to fall asleep is longer for smokers and that sleep depth is less, compared to non-smokers.

Alcohol supposedly promotes sleep. Although a limited amount may make it easier to fall asleep, larger amounts seriously disrupt sleep (in some people this happens with very small amounts). At best, falling asleep is aided, but more that likely the effect wears of after two or three hours, after which sleep is superficial, with many arousals.

Physical exercise

People that exercise regularly on the whole have a lower blood pressure, are less tense and are beter able to cope with stress than people that do not. Exercise also promotes a healthy sleeppattern. No heavy exercise is needed, just walking, cycling during half an hours three times a week is sufficient. Before starting this please consult your GP.

Because exercise also activates, it is important not to exercise too close to your regular bed-time.

The next step is relaxation.