tips for better sleep
December 18, 2015 | by Meghana Doreswamy MD

Sometimes the best medicine is a good night’s sleep. Getting more energy and recharging your body helps with overall health from memory to immunity. Use these 10 tips for a good night’s snooze.

  1. Maintain a regular bed and wake time schedule.
    Our sleep-wake cycle is regulated by the brain's "circadian clock." Our circadian clock balances both sleep and wake time. Waking up at the same time each day, including weekends, strengthens this function and helps falling sleep.

  2. Establish a regular bedtime routine.
    Find ways to unwind before bed. Try soaking in a hot bath, reading a book or listening to music. Avoid activities that disrupt transitioning to rest such as paying bills, viewing electronics, playing games or family problem-solving.

  3. Create a sleep-friendly environment.
    Think dark, quiet, comfortable and cool. Avoid bright light because it signals neurons that it is time to awaken, not to sleep. Try using blackout curtains, eye shades, ear plugs, "white noise," humidifiers, fans and other devices.

  4. Invest in a good mattress and pillows.
    The mattress you have been using for years may have exceeded its life expectancy, which is about 9 or 10 years for most good quality mattresses. Choose pillows that are comfortable and allergen-free. Clean the covers (the case and the zippered cover) every three weeks and the actual pillow every three months.

  5. Keep the bedroom for sleep and sex only.
    Remove work materials, computers and televisions. Use your bed only for sleep and sex to strengthen the connection between bed and rest.

  6. Finish eating at least 2-3 hours before your regular bedtime.
    Eating or drinking too much may make you less comfortable. Limit fluids close to bedtime to prevent waking up to go to the bathroom. Some people find milk or herbal, non-caffeinated teas to be soothing and a helpful part of a bedtime routine.

  7. Exercise regularly.
    Exercising regularly makes it easier to fall asleep and contributes to sounder sleep. However, exercising right before going to bed can make falling asleep more difficult. Exercising in the morning or early afternoon will not interfere with sleep. Try scheduling an earlier workout to benefit from activity and good sleep.

  8. Avoid caffeine close to bedtime.
    Caffeine products, such as coffee, tea, colas and chocolate, remain in the body on average from 3-5 hours, but they can affect some people up to 12 hours later. Avoiding caffeine within 6-8 hours of going to bed can help improve sleep quality.

  9. Avoid caffeine, alcohol and nicotine close to bedtime.
    • Caffeine products, such as coffee, tea, colas and chocolate, can remain in the body for 3 to 5 hours, affecting some people up to 12 hours later. Skip caffeine products 6-8 hours before bed.
    • Nicotine is also a stimulant. It can cause difficulty falling asleep, waking in the morning, and nightmares, all of which can impact sleep quality. During sleep, smokers can experience withdrawal symptoms, causing additional disturbances.
    • Alcohol may make you sleepy at first, but it actually disrupts sleep and can cause you to wake often.
  10. Don't watch the clock. If you can't sleep, watching the clock can add more stress. Instead, focus on your breath and try a relaxation breath exercise.

These tips are intended for "typical" adults, but not necessarily for children or persons experiencing medical problems.

Resources

  • The Polyclinic Sleep Medicine Department
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