Make a bedtime routine.
Try to do the same things each night before you go to bed. This could include the usual activities, such as brushing your teeth, plus a few relaxing extras such as watching a TV show or taking a warm bath. The more regular your routine the better: When you start doing these activities, your body will tell itself that it's time to get ready for sleep.
Go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning.
This isn't always possible, but the more consistent you can be about your bedtime and your wake-up time -- weekends included -- the easier it will be to get a good night's sleep.
Why? Your body operates on circadian rhythms, which are related to patterns of waking and sleeping. When these rhythms are disrupted, so is your sleep. In other words, when you sleep in one morning because you didn't sleep well the night before, your cycle will change: You'll get tired later every day and want to wake up later, too.
Naps are useful if you're feeling sick, but avoid using them when you're simply feeling drowsy. They can disrupt your body's clock and make you less tired at your regular bedtime. Instead, wake yourself up by making yourself laugh or by getting some exercise.
Try warm milk and whole wheat bread.
Warm milk contains tryptophan, an amino acid that kicks a brain chemical called serotonin into high gear. Researchers have found that serotonin plays an important role in helping people sleep. Adding a slice of whole wheat bread, a source of carbohydrates, enhances the effect of the tryptophan naturally -- and it's good for you, too.
If warm milk and bread doesn't work, avoid eating and drinking before bedtime.
Sometimes drinking too many liquids before bed can keep you awake at night. An active digestive system -- one that's grinding and grumbling as it breaks down your most recent meal -- can keep you awake, too. Try to stop your eating and drinking for the day three or four hours before you go to bed: It may help you fall asleep faster and sleep better.
Avoid caffeine, cheese and certain meats before bedtime.
Caffeine is great at jolting people awake; it's also great at keeping them awake past their bedtime and making them tired the next morning. Avoid food and drinks containing caffeine -- soda, coffee, tea, chocolate, for instance -- after 2 or 3 p.m.
Also limit your intake of fermented foods such as cheddar cheese, pepperoni and salami. These foods contain a chemical called tyrosine, which some sleep researchers think makes people stay awake.
Exercise in the afternoon.
Exercise at just about any time of the day is good for you, but exercising in the afternoon seems to have the biggest benefits for your sleep patterns. Playing tennis or basketball, swimming, jogging, aerobics or even walking after school can help you sleep much better at night.
Try stretching before bed.
Stretching or an exercise that includes lots of stretching, such as yoga, can help ease your body into sleep mode. Try some gentle arm, leg and neck stretches -- or a full relaxation routine -- before you hit the hay and see if it helps.
Slowing down your breathing can help you relax and get your body into sleep mode. Try it before you crawl into bed and once you're settled in your blankets and pillows.
Relax, relax, relax.
When you're in bed, think of things that are calming and comforting. Some people use a recording of rolling waves or a playlist of their favorite chillout music to ease themselves into Sleep Land as well.
Banish stressful thoughts from your mind -- for now.
Stressed out about a friend, a test or something your mom said? Write it down in a notebook, put the notebook next to your bed, and don't think about it until the next day.
Sleep-ify your room.
Lots of things in and around your room can disrupt your sleep. Is there a lot of intermittent noise? Try a source of white noise, such as a fan, or use earplugs.
Is your room too hot or too cold? Sleep researchers have found that a room that's about 60 degrees is ideal for a good night's sleep. Try opening a window or adjusting the thermostat if your room's too hot.
A room that's too dry can keep you from sleeping well, too, and give you a scratchy throat in the morning. Try placing a humidifier in your room, and you may find that you sleep better.
- If you don't get enough sleep one night, resist the urge to make up for the lost sleep the next day. Instead, focus on keeping a consistent wake-up and to-bed schedule and add some extra exercise to keep yourself awake during the day if you're tired.
- Make your bed as cozy as possible. Add a favorite blanket or get a new, super comfy pillow. A small change like this can make a big difference in the quality of your sleep.
- If you have trouble relaxing, try telling each part of your body to go to sleep, one at a time. Start at the top of your head and end at the tips of your toes. (You'll probably fall asleep before you reach your toes!)