EIGHTS, N.Y. — Sarah Bernhardt slept in a coffin. King Louis XIV liked sleeping in a freshly made bed and had 413 to choose from. Charles Dickens carried a pocket compass to ensure his bed was precisely aligned due north and south.
"Most of us have some sleep inducing habits--though probably not as bizarre," says Dr. Jerrold Maxmen, an associate professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons and author of the book "A Good Night's Sleep."
"People who fall asleep easily do not require sleep rituals," Maxmen says. "But for insomniacs, developing sound sleep procedures is vital."
For those who have trouble following the sandman, Maxmen offers these tips for getting a good night's sleep.
--If you live near a busy street or in a noisy neighborhood, reduce excessive noise by soundproofing or using earplugs. Masking noises with a fan or air conditioner can also help.
--Maintain a moderate room temperature. Excessive heat or cold can interfere with sleep.
--Exercise. Studies show people who exercise regularly experience a deeper, more restful sleep. However, exercising just before bedtime will make it harder to fall asleep.
--Avoid any foods containing caffeine six hours before bedtime.
--Stop smoking. Heavy smoking causes insomnia. Because nicotine withdrawal occurs two or three hours after the last puff, heavy smokers usually awaken in the middle of the night craving a cigarette.
--Avoid nightcaps. While it may help you to fall asleep faster, alcohol fragments sleep and prevents having a restful night.
--A light snack before bed can induce sleep, but keep it small. A large meal stimulates the body, lightens sleep and arouses the sleeper.
--Have a glass of milk. It contains the sleep-inducing amino acid called L-Trytophane.
--Establish a regular sleep schedule and give yourself 15 minutes before bed to wind down.
--Don't use your bed for anything other than sleeping, such as watching TV or reading. Learn to associate your bed with sleep.