Getting a good night’s sleep is often a matter of timing. Something as simple as an after-dinner drink can pop your eyes open an hour after you’ve drifted off to dreamland. Even good sleepers can stare at the ceiling in the early morning hours if their timing is off in any of these 10 ways:
Drinking within 4 to 6 hours of bedtime. Yes, a second glass of wine at dinner may make you drowsy at first, but as the alcohol wears off, it eventually leads to restlessness — the kind that awakens you.
Eating nothing since lunch. An empty stomach keeps you from falling asleep. A high-carb snack (toast, cereal, pasta) and a glass of milk will quiet the growling and bring on sleep.
Having caffeine after noon. If sleep’s an issue, make your midmorning cuppa joe your last cup of the day. Caffeine can linger in your body for 12 hours. Skip black and green tea, chocolate, and colas, too.
Eating a big meal after 7 p.m. An overtaxed gastrointestinal tract takes hours to settle down. If you have to be bright-eyed for an early morning meeting, eat a light early dinner the night before, meaning about 500 calories of food (and avoid anything that’s super spicy or gassy).
Working up a sweat within 4 hours of bedtime. Vigorous exercise is stimulating. Try relaxation exercises instead; they’ll help you turn off the stresses of the day and fall asleep. Are you a shift worker? Learn how to lower your health risks.
Smoking just before turning out the light. Among other nasty things, nicotine is a stimulant that fragments your sleep cycle.
Keeping your iPhone, iPad, or PDA by the bed. Limit bedtime activities to sleeping and sex . . . nothing else. No playing Words With Friends, checking e-mail, or tweeting one last time. Ban anything with an electronic screen from the bedroom (radios are fine). And turn off the TV and computer an hour before you begin your bedtime rituals.
Napping after 3 p.m. A brief snooze midday enhances productivity, but limit your siesta to 30-45 minutes. If bedtime comes and you’re not sleepy, don’t take naps at all.
Taking a hot bath just before bed. You’ll get warm all over, which sounds like a good thing, but cooling down is actually part of falling asleep (which is why you need covers). The best time for that bath is 1.5 hours before turning in. Here’s a DIY sleep fix that will ease you off to dreamland.
Working till bedtime. Create a mental space between working — especially important if you work at home or bring work home from the office. That includes no reading work papers in bed. Tomorrow’s task list running around your brain? Write a to-do list before going to bed.