Tips for Getting a Good Night Sleep
Have you been tossing and turning and wondering if you will ever fall asleep? You are not alone–more than half of adults have trouble falling asleep. Learn why sleep is so important and what you can do to get some.
During sleep, the body repairs itself and revitalizes organs and muscles. In addition, sleep is important for proper functioning of the immune system and the nervous system. Lack of sleep can result in:
- Increased feelings of stress
- Impaired memory
- Shortened temper
- Lower motivation
- Slower reflexes
- More mistakes
But a good night sleep can be elusive. A survey conducted by the National Sleep Foundation found that 60% of adults have problems falling asleep at least a few nights a week.
- Keep regular hours—Try to go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning, even on weekends.
- Develop a sleep ritual—Whether it is taking a hot bath, drinking a cup of herbal tea, or reading a book, doing the same things each night just before bed cues your body to settle down for the night.
- Exercise regularly—Exercise can help relieve tension. But be careful not to exercise too close to bedtime or you may have a hard time falling asleep.
- Cut down on stimulants—Consuming stimulants, such as caffeine, in the evening interferes with falling asleep and prevents deep sleep. Instead, have a cup of herbal tea, which is noncaffeinated, before bed.
- Don't smoke—Smokers tend to take longer to fall asleep, awaken more often, and experience disrupted, fragmented sleep.
- Drink alcohol in moderation—You may fall asleep faster, but drinking alcohol shortly before bedtime interrupts and fragments sleep, leading to poor quality sleep.
- Unwind early in the evening—Deal with worries and distractions several hours before going to bed. Make a list of things you need to do tomorrow, so you won't think about them all night. Try relaxation exercises, like slow rhythmic breathing.
- Sleep on a comfortable, supportive mattress and foundation—It's difficult to get deep, restful sleep on a bed that's too small, too soft, or too hard.
- Create a restful sleep environment—A dark, quiet room is more conducive to sleep. Sudden, loud noises or bright lights can disrupt sleep. A room that is too hot or too cold can disturb sleep as well. The ideal bedroom temperature is between 60-65°F.
- Use the bedroom only for sleep and sex—Don't use the bedroom for things like paying bills, watching television, or discussing the problems of the day.
- Make sleep a priority—Say "yes" to sleep even when you're tempted to stay up late. You'll feel healthier, refreshed, and ready to take on the day!
- Light and cognitive behavioral therapy—For those who want better sleep without the use of drugs, “light therapy” and cognitive behavioral therapy have both been shown to have some benefit.
- Take prescribed sleep medications as directed—Sleep medications should only be used temporarily and as a last resort. If you do use them, follow your doctor’s recommendations.
- Generally, it is best to take sleeping pills one hour before bedtime, or 10 hours before you plan on getting up to avoid daytime drowsiness. Always talk with your doctor before taking sleeping pills, including over-the-counter brands. Some contain diphenhydramine, an anti-allergy substance, which may help you fall asleep quicker, but may not provide a more restful sleep. There also may be side effects.
- Melatonin, a natural hormone, is thought to help insomnia, but study results are inconsistent. Ramelteon (Rozerem), which works like melatonin, may be more effective. Tolerance to some sleep medications can happen quickly, and some may be addictive.
National Institute on Aging
National Sleep Foundation
Better Sleep Council Canada
The Canadian Sleep Society (CSS)
Healthy sleep tips. National Sleep Foundation website. Available at: http://www.sleepfoundation.org. Accessed February 27, 2006.
Melatonin. EBSCO Natural and Alternative Treatments website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/thisTopic.php?marketID=15topicID=114 Updated March 2008. Accessed June 16, 2008.
What is insomnia? National Institutes of Health website. Available at: http://www.nih.gov. Updated Accessed November 2006. Accessed June 16, 2008.
Last reviewed May 2008 by Ryan Estévez, MD, PhD, MPH
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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