1) Put Sleep on Your To-Do List

These days life comes at us fast. Our daily tasks are listed and leering at us from our computers and date books. Even our phones chirp and chime at us throughout the day to let us know when it's time to do this or that. Many of us are so busy we rarely accomplish everything on the list; we just keep moving from one meeting or project or chore to the next until we can't go on any further and then we collapse. The surprising thing is, that as exhausted as we may be, sleep is not necessarily waiting right there to catch us when we fall! In fact, overfull days can easily become overalert nights.
For sleep to be as consistent and reliable as we would like it to be we need to give it as much respect as all our other appointments and obligations. Sleep needs to be scheduled into the day from the start so that the rest of the day can be built to accommodate it. If we leave sleep as an afterthought, treat it like leftovers or make it a last choice, sleep may become as elusive as a scorned lover. Declare your feelings; let sleep know it is important to you by giving it a priority place on your schedule and keeping your promise to show up on time. Then you will find sleep becomes more available for you.

2) Exercise

While we have that BerryPhone out, let's pencil in some exercise. The ideal time would be mid to late afternoon, but any time is better than no time, as long as you finish at least 2 hours before bedtime. A brisk walk in the sunlight is excellent. A spin class after work, awesome. Let your body move in space as it was designed to do. Get your heart rate up a bit. Sound sleep depends on changes in our core temperature. We sleep better when our inner temperature is falling. If we never do anything to raise our temp in the first place it's like working in a room with no windows. The natural rhythms of the day and night are lost.

3) Eat Regular Balanced Meals

Speaking of natural rhythms, our bodies take their cues about when it is time to sleep and when to be awake from several different things. Light is really important, as is exercise and temperature changes as we just discussed. Another strong cue can come from regular mealtimes. It is important to eat, i.e. fuel the machine, several times during the day. Good, unprocessed, organic food is always preferable. If you go to bed hungry you are likely to find yourself awake, standing in front of the fridge at 3 a.m. Likewise, if you eat a big heavy meal 30 minutes before lying down for the night, your bodily functions will be busy with digestion. Sleep is likely to be delayed or at least restless for a couple hours. Regular nutritious meals at thoughtful intervals through the day can help you sleep more soundly at night. There are certain foods that can assist or hinder your ability to fall asleep easily or stay awake when required, but that is for another post.

4) Make a Worry List

Here we are back at lists again! This one however is one you should do nearer the end of the day, but not too close to bedtime. Right after dinner would be a reasonable time for this exercise. The idea here is to sit down with a blank piece of paper (several if needed) and let all those nagging little thoughts that are likely to start circling in your brain after lights out and spill them out in ink. You don't have to be neat -- just get it out on paper for safekeeping overnight. You may write out tomorrow's to-do list, or a reminder to get the tires rotated. You may jot down an idea for next week's presentation or just a gripe about an inconsiderate neighbor. What ever comes up, put it down. Once this "brain dump" is complete you're free to slip away to slumber without concern you're missing something. If, out of habit, one of those petty thoughts tries to rise up after you're down for the night you can let it go quickly, knowing you've covered that ground already and have it well secured on your "worry list".

5) Invite Sleep In

After our busy day is done, after the workout is over, after the worry list is written and the dinner dishes done, there needs to be one more task to really get the most out of our coming night's sleep. We need to wind down. There needs to be a very clear separation between our waking day and our sleeping night to reinforce the change in states we are seeking.
Remember the bedtime routine your mom set up for you when you were little, or the ones you have for your kids? Well, bedtime routines aren't just for children. In addition to brushing our teeth, changing into our jammies and checking the closet and under the bed to be sure there are no monsters lurking, there are some grown-up things we can do.
First, an hour before "official" bedtime, turn off all your screened devices. That includes computers, video games and phones. Dim the lights and engage in a relaxing stress free activity. This may be a warm bath, a soothing cup of caffeine free tea, a good lighthearted book or soft music. Relaxing yoga poses, a foot massage or lovemaking can also ease the body toward slumber. With this obvious change in lighting, mood, thought and activity you signal your mind and body to prepare for sleep. In essence, you invite sleep in.
When it's time, lay your head on your pillow, give thanks for your blessings, turn out the light and zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Author's Bio: 

Patty Tucker, PA-C is a sleep coach and consultant helping people worldwide find the restful, reliable and refreshing sleep they need to live up to their full potential. Trained at Stanford Medical Center and seasoned through 22 years of medical practice, Patty has the knowledge, experience and compassionate heart required to delve into this personal and vital area of health, lifestyle and success.