Better Sleep Habits

Winter 2001 CSANews Issue 41  |  Posted date : Apr 03, 2007.Back to list

No matter the cause of insomnia, sleepless nights often lead to poor "sleep hygiene". In some cases, simple changes in your daily and nightly habits may result in better sleep. Try these sleep tips:
  1. Unwind ­ If you lead a busy life, slow the pace of your activities in the evening. An alert mind may make relaxing for sleep difficult.
  2. Keep It Quiet ­ Close your bedroom door or create a subtle background noise, such as a running fan, to help mask other noises.
  3. Get Comfy ­ Make sure you have a bed that's comfortable and keep your bedroom temperature at a comfortably cool level.
  4. Limit time in bed ­ Too much time in bed can promote shallow, unrestful sleep. Contrary to expectations, spending too much time in bed usually disrupts sleep in the middle of the night. Nine out of 10 people with insomnia stay in bed longer than necessary.
  5. Don't "try" to sleep ­ The harder you try, the more awake you'll become. Read or watch TV until you become drowsy, and then go to your bedroom to fall asleep naturally. But don't shift your rising time in the morning just because you had a bad night. Try to maintain a firm time for going to bed and for rising.
  6. Hide the clock ­ A visible readout of how long you've been unable to sleep may make you needlessy anxious. Place clocks where they aren't visible or reachable so that you won't keep checking the time.
  7. Avoid or limit caffeine, nicotine and alcohol ­ Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants and can keep you from falling asleep. Although alcohol is a depressant and may help you doze off, it can cause unrestful sleep and frequent awakenings once you do fall asleep.
  8. Exercise and stay active -- Aim for at least 20 to 30 minutes of vigorous exercise most days. But avoid exercising within 5 to 6 hours before bedtime. Physical activity enhances the deep, refreshing sleep.
  9. Watch what you eat before you sleep ­ A light snack may help you relax before sleeping. However, avoid heavy meals and fluids or foods that stimulate stomach acid production, which could cause heartburn or irritate your esophagus (esophageal reflux). Drink less liquid before bedtime so that you won't have to go to the bathroom as often. You also may want to check beverage labels for high caffeine levels, which could interfere with your sleep.
  10. Avoid or limit naps ­ Naps can make it harder to fall asleep at night. If you can't get by without one, limit it to less than 30 minutes.
  11. Find ways to relax ­ A warm bath, a glass of milk or some light reading may help prepare you for sleep. Various relaxation techniques also can help teach you to relax tense muscles and reduce mental stress.
  12. Check your medications ­ If you take medications regularly, ask your doctor if they may be contributing to your insomnia. Check the labels of over-the-counter products to see if they contain caffeine or other stimulants, such as ephedrine or pseudoephedrine.
  13. Don't put up with pain ­ If you're bothered by a painful condition, make sure the pain reliever you take is effective enough to control your pain while sleeping.
Reprinted from Medical Essay, a supplement to the Mayo Clinic Health Letter