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16 Tips for Getting Good Sleep

It's more important than you think!

by Gretchen Rubin  |  1680 views  |  4 comments  |        Rate this now! 

There’s a lot of advice out there about getting good sleep -- it's VERY important. We quickly adjust to being sleep-deprived, and don't notice that we aren't functioning at a normal level, but lack of sleep really affects us. If you're feeling blue or listless, try going to sleep 30 minutes earlier for a week. It can really help.

Here are tips that have helped me get good sleep:

Good habits for good sleep

1.) Exercise most days, even if it’s just to take a walk.

2.) No caffeine after 7 p.m.

3.) An hour before bedtime, avoid doing any kind of work that takes alert thinking. Addressing envelopes -- OK. Analyzing an article -- nope.

4.) Adjust your bedroom temperature to be slightly chilly.

5.) Keep your bedroom dark. Studies show that even the tiny light from a digital alarm clock can disrupt a sleep cycle. We have about six devices in our room that glow bright green; it’s like sleeping in a mad scientist’s lab. The Big Man has a new pet, a Roomba (yes, he loves his robot vacuum) that gives out so much light that I have to cover it with a pillow before bed.

6.) Keep the bedroom as tidy as possible. It’s not restful to fight through chaos into bed.

If sleep won’t come:

7.) Breathe deeply and slowly until you can’t stand it anymore.

8.) If your mind is racing (you’re planning a trip, a move; you’re worried about a medical diagnosis), write down what’s on your mind. This technique really works for me.

9.) Slather yourself with body lotion. This feels good and also, if you’re having trouble sleeping because you’re hot, it cools you down.

10.) If your feet are cold, put on socks.

11.) Stretch your whole body.

12.) Have a warm drink. Supposedly warm milk contains melatonin and trytophan and so helps induce sleep, but in fact, a glass of milk doesn’t contain enough to have any effect. But it’s still a soothing drink. My nighttime favorite: 1/3 mug of milk, add boiling water, one packet of Equal, and a dash of vanilla. A real nursery treat.

13.) Yawn.

14.) Stretch your toes up and down several times.

15.) Tell yourself, “I have to get up now.” Imagine that you just hit the snooze alarm and in a minute, you’re going to be marching through the morning routine. Often this is an exhausting enough prospect to make me fall asleep.

16.) If you still can't sleep, re-frame. Re-frame your sleeplessness as a welcome opportunity to snatch some extra time out of your day. I get up and tackle mundane chores, like paying bills, organizing books, or tidying up. Then I start the day with a wonderful feeling of having accomplished something even before 6:45 a.m.

What am I missing? Are there some more great sleep-inducing strategies out there?

About the Author

In her blog, The Happiness Project (, Gretchen Rubin recounts her daily adventures as she test-drives the wisdom of the ages and current scientific research about how to be happier.

Read more by Gretchen Rubin

4 comments so far...

  • I love point number 15 :)

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Rana on 5th July 2008

  • Any advice for those that have to work midnight shift. I know I'm sleep deprived most of the time and it is noticeably affecting my life. I'm cutting a night out of my work sch and losing my health benefits in the process but can't think of another way to lighten the load and spend more quality time with my family.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by nothingbutblue on 20th June 2008

  • I find if I can't sleep I need to get up for a bit and then go back to bed. I might have some milk or even read something, but I find if I stay in bed without sleep it just makes me more anxious.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Nataly on 7th June 2008

  • I usually find a quick nip of whiskey does the trick!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Melinda J Lamb on 7th June 2008

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