1. Caffeine and you: You have a certain sensitivity to this drug. You may also be misusing it. Generally speaking, it's a late morning, early afternoon only drug. Late morning is the only place it starts working as its an adenosine antagonist, and you don't start getting adenosine in any really effective amount in your brain until then. (Adenosine is the neurotransmitter which makes you sleepy because you've been up for a certain period of time).
If you drink coffee (or soda) when you wake up stop. Cup #1 of coffee is the Earliest you should use it, and shouldn't happen before about 13 hours before you want your "bed time" to be or about 3 hours after you get your butt out of bed (so let's say "11 am". All it does before then is a brief heart rate spike from the adrenaline surge, or possibly help with caffeine withdrawal from yesterday (which you will not have issues with if you use your caffeine only between say 11a-4p)
The bloodstream half-life of caffeine is 4.9 hours That means it takes about ~10 hours to 1/4 the amount of caffeine in your system as when you stopped drinking it. Additionally, as its an adenosine antagonist, its effectiveness skyrockets the later in the day you have it in you. So if you're shooting for a 12pm bedtime, stop drinking by 2pm-5pm to significantly reduce your blood stream level by bed time.
2. Your bed and you: What are you allowed to do in your bedroom from now on? Have sex, sleep, get dressed. That's it. If there is a tv in your bedroom, say bye bye. If you read in there, say bye bye. If you touch your bed during the day, stop it. If you're sitting there with thoughts for tomorrow, stop that. If you can't stop that, you have to schedule a time of day considerably earlier than bedtime where you lay out tomorrows tasks.
If you're laying in bed for more than 30 minutes without sleep, up and at em, go read in a different room.
3. Routine: You need to get into a set pattern. Set yourself a bedtime. Start winding down before that, not playing video games or watching TV, (especially sports or TV with lots of faces) in that hour before bed. Setup a ritual for sleep, including oral hygene, preparing for tomorrow, etc.
4. Reduce alcohol consumption: Alcohol lightens the depth of sleep. Especially while getting used to a schedule, restrict your intake.
5. Cool down your house at night. I don't care if you like the thermostat in the high 70's most of the time, at night you want high 60's and hide under warm blankets. It really really really will knock you out.
6. Lights are something people are sensitive to in varying degrees. I suggest erroring on the side of expecting yourself to be light sensitive. Use tools like f.lux to drop monitor brightness after sundown. Use timers to turn on/off lamps to make your house have a sundown. Eschew bright, overhead lights before bedtime. If your TV has multiple video settings, even make a TV setting that's overly dark to use past a certain hour.
On the flipside, try to get a North eastern room with lots of windows. Try to live as far south geographically as you can. Make lights turn on like crazy (again, timers) before you want to be waking up. Create lots of noise in your living space (not alarms, but things like tvs, etc) around the time to get up.
7. Eat breakfast, and to really reset yourself, eat nothing 16 hours before you want to wake up. (This works VERY well to fix jetlag).
Inapplicable for me - I often lie in bed for a long period of time with my mind buzzing about work/responsibilities/projects/news/... But if I read a few pages of a novel in bed, it shifts my brain right out of "active" mode into "sleep" mode, and I can fall asleep easily. Reading in another room involves climbing the stairs and puts me right back into active mode.
The important part is that in-bed activities prepare you for sleep, rather than encouraging wakefulness. (e.g., my wife will read to the end of the novel rather than going to sleep...)
I don't agree with the "don't read in bed" advice. It's good to read in bed. Read something interesting enough to wipe your mind away from work or project-related thoughts, but avoid a book that will keep you awake for too long, prefer non-fiction or short stories.
I know it's nice to read in bed, but it's bad for sleep. It's not like you have to do everything in the list up there to get sleep, but the sacrosanct "Bed is for sleeping, only" is the #1 thing for many people.
I often read Before bed, but on the couch, not IN bed.
I leave in China right now and these tips look very weird, exotic from here. For example, what do they (ASA) have against a short nap? Here the countryside girls selling vegetables in local markets do nap on their lines of carrots. I bet you they do not have any sleeping problems.
They (ASA) say "When you watch TV or read in bed, you associate the bed with wakefulness". That's true for most recent TV programs, because they punch you in the face constantly (it has not always been the case), but most books I read do not push me in a "state during which [I am] conscious and aware of the world." On the contrary, good reading brings a soft transition between full awareness of the real world and the dreams I'll get during the night. Maybe it is a drug, but I tell you: I always read in bed before sleeping, even if I'm too tired. I just can't climb the couch and sleep right away. Sorry for not being able to agree with this American Sleep Association advice.
I stick to the rules for caffeine consumption, except I can always go for decaf in the evening.
I've been using Flux on my computers, I think that also helps.
Finally I just set a timer now when I go to bed. Usually 7.5 hours sleep plus 12 minutes to fall asleep is perfect for me, so when that timer goes I actually feel like getting up. And also if I wake up earlier I never stress about what the time is because I know I'm still on the countdown.
I've read about this, but also noticed a pretty strong effect personally... when I eat any significant amount of sugar late in the day, it's noticeably less pleasant to get up the next morning (like a kind of mini-hangover).
Going to sleep isn't ever a problem (unfortunately, this is at least partly because I'm normally relatively sleep-deprived...) but of course sending your blood sugar spiking up (and plummeting down) all day is likely to make it harder to settle down at bedtime for most people.
Edit: forgot to add -- I'm interested to notice disagreements with the "no reading" rule. In my personal experience, this is an iron-clad rule. If I read "before" bed, even if the material is fairly dry, my brain kicks into gear, and all sleepiness disappears unless I'm seriously deprived at the time. And I don't generally have much sense of time passing when I'm absorbed, so I've had many experiences of slowly realizing that the room's appearance has changed (and there are new noises) because the sun is up, and the birds are going nuts outside my window. And the 2-hour drive I have to make that day (or whatever it may be) is going to be painful.
I'd also recommend drinking lots of water and a large glass before bed.
Melatonin (fails after a few months for myself, 1-3MG)
Holy Basil Extract
Really helps with ASSISTANCE to sleep, these are not medications such as Ambien, Lunesta, etc.
I post these as Assistance to sleep. The goal of supplementation is to get on a good natural sleep cycle.
Another point, do not sleep in so heavily on the weekends if your work / life schedule demands an early wakeup on the weekdays.
Eventually, your body becomes a "natural" alarm clock where you cannot sleep in past 7am, 9am.
Don't fight it, be productive :)
Edit: Snoozing has been the devil for me waking fully in the morning (meaning, get UP when you actually wake from sleep).
I actually generally agree with the advice -- my wife and I only use the alarm clock when we have some kind of morning appointment or travel -- but in that case the one we have works well -- it gradually increases the lights and fades in the "alarm" (mostly white noise), and it's gentle enough that when only one of us needs to get up, it's pretty rare that it wakes both of us, just the one who's "primed" to wake up unusually early. And it never wakes the baby (who sleeps in the bed with us).
So yeah, any kind of "jolt" alarm clock is a really bad way to start the day, but they're still useful devices (and waking to an alarm doesn't need to be so painful).
Another thing that has always helped is going to bed 8 or so hours before wake up time, consistently. Even, yes, weekends.
It's a bit boring and 'old people' in my mind, but the ideal schedule IMO is 10:30-6:30, every single night of the week. Really killed late-night hackfests though. :-/
And fwiw, Redshift is another alternative, in case you have trouble with f.lux. I couldn't get f.lux to actually flux on my Ubuntu 10.04 workstation or UNR netbook, but Redshift works fine on both.