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Sometimes, especially when we feel stressed, it is hard to get to sleep. Why would we be stressed anyway? Could be anything - too much work? too many commitments? a big test coming up? a play to put on? a presentation to do - maybe in a foreign language? a fight with a friend?

Whatever the reason, there are things you can do to make it easier to get to sleep. Most solutions involve developing habits - but these may just be a shift in what you already do, not a huge change.

1) Use your bed for sleeping - what a novel idea!

  • what this means is, don't use it for ‘work type’ activities, like studying, preparing papers etc.
  • this way, when you go to bed, you have an association between bed and rest that starts working subconsciously helping you to relax.

2) Go to bed when you are tired - rather than lying in bed tossing and turning. If you can't sleep, get up and study, preferably your most boring subject and when you feel sleepy get back to bed.

3) Don't exercise just before bedtime - exercise gets your body going and it takes a while to slow down again. The ideal time to exercise would be after school or early in the evening, giving yourself a chance to wind down naturally.

4) Do soothing things before sleep, such as listening to music, reading non-scary books, watching non-scary TV or videos.

5) Drinking warm milk and honey is not just an 'old wive's tale' - it makes you feel soothed - calmer and sleepier. Our bodies need enough calcium and magnesium for proper sleep. If you want to know what is the daily amount needed, you can always consult the Nurse at the Health Centre.

6) Other foods that you can eat before bedtime, to help you sleep, are bananas, 1/2 a grapefruit, figs, dates, yogurt, tuna, or whole grain crackers. The trick is not to eat too much of anything before bedtime or you'll be lying awake with indigestion!

7) If you want to relax your body to sleep, try taking some deep breaths and relaxing each part of your body from head to toe. For some helpful relaxation exercises, a good website to explore is www.relaxationstation.com .

8) If you have any physical complaints, go to see the doctor, these may be keeping you awake - either because you are worried about them, or because you have some simple deficiency, such as low iron, that needs adjusting.

9) If you are worried about something, try to find a solution - BUT NOT AT NIGHT! Try to find a time during the day when you can review your day, and even worry or problem-solve the details of your life! It is a matter of shifting the time that you think about these things to another time, such as after school - take the time to think, write down possible solutions to try etc. A good suggestion was made to think and exercise at the same time earlier in the day – sometimes the regularity of running or weightlifting etc. allow the brain to drift off and think. When going to sleep, think about positive events, things that make you happy or content.

10) Think of soothing things you can say to yourself, when you begin to worry...remember Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind - "I'm not going to worry about that today, after all, tomorrow is another day!" (think it with a Southern accent!)

11) Make sure your room is dark enough for sleep. If you have a digital clock, consider turning it around. The darkness allows your body to create melatonin, a hormone that helps you enter deep sleep.

12) And about those clocks… if your sleep is disturbed and you wake up during the night DON’T WATCH THE CLOCK! It only reminds you of the sleep you’re not getting.

13) Have the room at the right temperature for you (and your room mate if that’s possible). Too cold or too hot makes for poor sleeping.

14) Try a herb tea, such as Camomile Tea which has soothing effects.

15) However, don’t drink a lot of liquid before bedtime, for obvious reasons.

16) Create a pleasant atmosphere for sleeping – ie. have a comfortable space, maybe use a particular pillowcase that is cozy, or spray a ‘sleep scent’ that you can buy at the pharmacy, especially one with lavender in it. Or you can stuff dried lavender into a small bag and put it under your pillow.