Psychological Self-Help

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(a) Long range: deal with your health problems and have your
doctor review your prescribed and alternative (herbal) medicines to
see if they could be disturbing your sleep. 
(b) Be sure you have a good quality mattress and pillow.
Sometimes pillows for supporting your neck, raising your knees, or
between your knees are helpful by reducing muscle aches and pains. 
(c) During the day: Get up at your regular time. Eat moderate-
to-small portions of healthy, easily digested foods, especially at the
last meal of the day. Indigestion causes sleep problems. 
(d) It is important to exercise every day, but not within 3 or 4
hours of bedtime. 
(e) Avoid naps during the day and early evening. 
(f) Avoid caffeine in any form (coffee, tea, soda), alcohol, and
stimulants in the afternoon or evening. 
(g) Closer to bedtime: An hour or so before bedtime, start
"closing down" the day. Stop problem-solving, planning for tomorrow,
worrying, and self-criticism. Many people find that organizing a list of
or diary allows them to retire disturbing thoughts for the day.
(h) Develop a "bedtime ritual." Do things to relax the body and
the mind, such as taking a warm bath, reading a feel-good book,
listening to soft comforting music, using relaxation methods or tapes,
watching TV, reading a slow-moving book, etc. For some people, a
light snack is part of the process. 
(i) Go to bed at about the same time every night. Time your
bedtime so you get plenty of sleep but not too much. With this
regularity, the body can anticipate when it will sleep and develop a
healthy rhythm. 
(j) Make the physical conditions optimal for you: make it the right
temperature, make it quiet--turn off or turn down TV and the sound
system and mask outside noises with a fan or wear earplugs, make it
fairly dark--turn out the major lights, pull the curtains... 
(k) Condition yourself to sleep while in bed. This is a simple,
powerful method, recommended as a starting point for learning to
sleep (Lacks & Morin, 1992). Follow these rules: go to bed only when
sleepy or sleep seems possible, only sleep (or make love) in bed and
sleep only there, do not do other things in your bed, like study, watch
TV, socialize, talk on the phone, daydream, read magazines, etc., and,
finally, "try to sleep" for only 15 minutes then get up if still awake. The
idea is to pair being in bed with good sleep. During the 15 minutes of
trying to sleep, you can use thought-stopping or deep breathing
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