Over the years I've accumulated quite a few problems with sleep. I never get enough when I want it, and I never seem to be able to sleep in the one place that is specified to do just that, a bed. Recently I looked up some tips on the internet and combined them with trial and error to see if I can fix up my sleep schedule, and it's working. I'm not going to sleep as soon as I hit the hay, but it's certainly easier. Here are some tips.
#1 Your Bed Is A Bed, Not A Living Room.
This is pretty simple actually. In your brain, when you do an activity, it associates it with a place or a time, it's part of what makes us have routines. The problem being that if you use your bed for things other than sleeping your brain starts to accept that this is a place for you to do other things. For example, if you happen to watch tv while in bed on a regular basis, your brain starts to associate going to bed with watching tv. So if there's a night when you aren't watching tv in bed, your brain is wondering why you aren't, and will keep you up with the notion that you should be watching tv. Same thing happens with reading in bed, which I'm a victim of. You sit there lying awake at night, thinking to yourself, since I can't sleep, I should read. But you're probably too tired and just want to sleep. You should try to remove as much non-sleeping activity out of the bed and bedroom as possible. If you can train your brain to think of going to bed as going to sleep, it will make shutting your brain down a lot easier.
#2 Your Eyes Need Rest
This falls into the same kind of territory as #1 but its a little different. Looking at a computer screen can tire your eyes out, but it also keeps you awake because of the brightness of it. If you're wanting to head to dreamland, it's best to ditch a computer an hour or so before you plan on heading out, because looking at a screen when you want to sleep will just make your eyes alert and harder to shut down. To help with this particular problem, since I have a computer in my room, I've started using the program F.lux. F.lux is a little tool that changes your screen's hue to adjust for the time of day in your part of the world, and for natural light. So at my house, where it gets dark around 7 PM, my screen goes from it's natural brightness down to an orange-ish hue, getting darker into the night, until it reaches a certain point and waits for sun-up, when the brightness goes back up. It helps your eyes get adjusted to the real light and not a screen's backlight, and if you have to use a computer, it helps your eyes out a little.
#3 Your Stomach Needs To Rest
When dieting, the general rule is to not eat after 7 PM, because food takes about 2-3 hours to digest, and assuming someone goes to bed at around 9-10 PM, you want your stomach to be problem free. When you sleep, your stomach does little digestion of whatever you put into it, which is why people who prefer to have a midnight snack have a little bit of fat around the middle. It makes sense in the same way then, that if your stomach has food partially digested in it, you won't be able to fully take advantage of sleep. It can't always be helped, eating after 7, sometimes past then is just when you have to eat on a certain day. But a general rule is to just not eat two hours before you head to bed. If your stomach is at ease, you will be too.
#4 Routines Make Your Mind Rest
Humans are creatures of habit. It stands to reason then, that if you don't have any fixed time you go to bed or wake up, you have no habit of sleeping. Your mind however loves having routines. It gets used to patterns and makes it easier on itself to work if you do the same thing every day. Sleeping is no different. If you have problems getting to sleep or waking up at a decent time, abide by a routine. Make sure you are in bed with the lights off at a certain time every night, and have an alarm clock ready to wake you up at the same exact time every morning. After a few weeks, your mind does all the work for you. By the time a month has passed of doing this routine, your body will be just the right about of tired at the time you set to go to bed, and you should have no problems sleeping, and you'll wake up around the exact time, maybe earlier, that you set your alarm clock for. Our minds are smart, and we can train them to do whatever we like, we just have to give it enough time to get itself into a routine and it will make sure you get just the right about of z's.