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8 Tips for a good nights sleep

Have trouble falling asleep? Follow these tips and have a good nights rest.

Sleep is one of the most basic human behaviors. In fact, sleep is such a basic need that sleep deprivation is regarded by many experts as psychological abuse. Despite sleep being a basic need millions of people have difficulties getting to sleep, staying asleep, and getting enough sleep. There can be a variety of causes of sleep difficulties including depression, anxiety, bad dreams, environmental factors (neighbors are loud, bed is uncomfortable) and more. Regardless of the cause of these difficulties following these simple tips will improve the quality and quantity of your sleep.

1. Routine. Develop a soothing nighttime routine when you are getting ready for bed. We all have activities we do before bed, whether  it is drinking a cup of chamomile tea, brushing your teeth, or meditating. Whatever you do, try and do it every night before bed. This routine will help your body know that it is time to sleep.

2. Wake up and go to sleep at the same time every night. This way you will naturally begin to feel tired every night at your normal sleep time. You will also may begin to naturally wake up without an alarm and feel more rested in the mornings.

3. Do not nap in the daytime. If you had a bad night and could not get to sleep it is natural to want and nap during the day. However, if you nap you will throw off your sleep routine. You also are less likely to feel tired later when you normally get to bed.

4. Use your bed only for sleep and sex. We tend to associate environments with our behaviors. You want your mind to associate the behavior of getting in bed and laying down with sleeping. We you spend time in bed doing other activities like watching TV, reading, or playing games on your phone or iPad, your mind associates bed with all of those things and not sleep.

5. If you are laying in bed and can't sleep, get out of bed, and do something boring. Many people with chronic insomnia have learned to associate their beds with  sadness, anger, and anxiety, after laying awake for hours "trying" to go to sleep. If after 30 minuets of laying in bed you are still awake, get out of bed and do something boring like reading an old textbook or the dictionary. Do this for 10-15 minuets and then go lay down again. Repeat as necessary.

6. Avoid using a device with an LCD screen or back-lit screen for at least one hour before bedtime. Your body naturally releases melatonin when it begins to get dark. Melatonin signals your body that it is time to sleep and can cause drowsiness. The problem with LCD and back lit screens is that they produce a certain kind of light that our brain interprets as daylight. This interferes with melatonin production and other signals that let your body know it's time for bed.

7. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine. Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants and can interfere with sleep. Alcohol can make people fall asleep more easily but studies indicate that the sleep is less restful than normal sleep.

8. Exercise early. Exercise has many benefits for your mental health including sleep quality. Exercise has been shown to improve sleep consistency and quality. However, make sure you exercise at least 2-4 hours before sleep. Exercising too close to bed time can make falling asleep difficult.

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