Have you ever been so exhausted you felt like you could barely function (because that’s what happens when you’re deprived of sleep), only to get home, get ready for bed, and then lie awake all night? If you’ve experienced this more than once and you’re determined to wake up feeling refreshed — sans eye bags and grogginess — Lynelle Schneeberg, PsyD, AB of sleep medicine and clinical sleep disorders, and an assistant professor in the department of psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine, has a simple solution.
Instead of lying awake at 3 a.m. trying to force yourself to sleep, Dr. Schneeberg said a reading light and reading material can help improve your sleep habits. Whenever you find yourself awake in bed unable to turn off your brain thinking about an important meeting or whether you’re doing enough to achieve your dream career, Dr. Schneeburg said to read because reading distracts you.
Although lying in bed may seem harmless, she said, “Really avoid, like the plague, lying in bed.” It may seem like the normal thing to do, but according to Dr. Schneeberg, “You don’t want to associate your bed with negative states. You’re not meant to use your bed for ruminating or problem solving or trouble shooting or thinking about what’s going to be hard tomorrow or thinking about the fact that you’re not sleeping.”
The type of reading material doesn’t matter — now is the perfect time to buy all those books on your reading list or revist your favorites. And regardless of what you decide to read, the rule is simple: “We either read or sleep during our allotted eight hours,” Dr. Schneeberg said. Your goal is to avoid being awake in the dark thinking. “Always use a really relaxing, distracting activity that’s sedentary — read, draw, do a puzzle — until you’re drowsy,” she added.
Over time, Dr. Schneeberg said your sleep should begin to improve by following this simple tip. Of course, if you’re still having difficulty staying asleep, we recommend consulting a sleep expert to get to the root of the problem.