You may be able to improve your sleep by simply changing your habits and activities. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers the following tips for getting a better night's sleep:
- Stick to a sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day - even on weekends.
- Don't exercise too late in the day. Do it at least five hours before bedtime.
- Avoid caffeine and nicotine. Their stimulating effects can last as long as eight hours.
- Don't drink alcoholic beverages before bed. Alcohol interferes with deep sleep, plus you're likely to wake up in the middle of the night when the sedating effects wear off.
- Avoid large late-night meals and beverages. A large meal can cause indigestion, while excessive drinking will cause frequent trips to the bathroom in the middle of the night.
- Skip long, late afternoon naps. Napping after 3 p.m. - or more than one hour - can make it harder to fall asleep at night.
- Relax before bed. Unwind as part of your bedtime ritual by reading, listening to music, or even taking a hot bath.
- Create a good sleeping environment. Keep distractions out of the bedroom, such as bright lights, a television and computer. Make sure your bed is comfortable and the temperature is on the cool side.
- Get enough sunlight. Try to get at least 30 minutes of natural sunlight each day. It helps to regulate daily sleep patterns.
- Don't lie in bed awake. If you're still awake after 20 minutes in bed, get up and try a relaxing activity until you feel sleepy. Watching the clock can make it even harder to fall sleep.
- See a doctor if you continue to have trouble sleeping. If you consistently find yourself feeling tired during the day despite spending enough time in bed, you may have a sleep disorder. A sleep specialist can help.
Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
You can find additional information about sleep and sleep disorders by calling the Chilton Sleep Health Institute at (973) 831-5351, or by visiting the web sites of these organizations:
The National Sleep Foundation: http://www.sleepfoundation.org/
American Academy of Sleep Medicine: http://www.aasmnet.org/