Short-term sleep problems are common. Most of us can relate to having nights where sleep just won't come. Here's some basic advice to cut down on those sleepless nights drastically.
1. Get out of bed at the same time each morning.
Your body needs sleep like it needs food and water. The longer you go without food and water, the more your body will crave it. Sleep works precisely the same way—the longer you are awake, the stronger your drive for sleep will get.
You can harness the power of your sleep drive by waking up at the same time each morning. Allowing yourself to be awake for long enough is the most crucial step to improving sleep.
2. Don't go to bed until you are sleepy, and get out if you can't sleep. Use the bed and bedroom for sleeping only.
When you toss and turn in bed and can't fall asleep, you get stressed and frustrated. Experience this enough, and there is a chance you start to associate the bed and bedroom with these emotions.
You can avoid this by making sure you are sleepy when you get to bed. If you have been trying to sleep for a while and find yourself getting frustrated, get out of bed and do something else before trying again.
3. Avoid daytime naps
Every minute you are awake, you build your sleep drive. If you nap, your drive becomes weaker, and it will be harder for you to fall asleep in the evening. Short naps under 20 minutes can be OK for some. Experiment with this and see what works for you.
4. Avoid caffeine
Caffeine is excellent for waking you up in the morning, but if you drink coffee in the afternoon, your ability to fall asleep will be significantly reduced. This is caused by the way caffeine blocks a sleep-promoting hormone in your brain called Adenosine. People's sensitivity to caffeine varies, and some get rid of the caffeine faster than others.
Alcohol might help you fall asleep faster, but research has shown that alcohol affects your sleep quality by suppressing REM sleep. Alcohol also has the negative effect that it will make you sleep lighter and frequently wake you up.
When sleep hygiene isn't enough
When people really struggle with sleep and have done so for a while, sleep hygiene advice is often not enough. If you have already employed many of the steps described here with little success, the American Academy for Sleep Medicine, The American College of Physicians, and the European Sleep Research Society recommend cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I). Read more about CBT-I.