Good Sleep Habits are Key to a Good Night's Rest

Try to sleep only when you’re drowsy. If you can’t fall asleep or stay asleep, leave your bedroom and engage in a quiet activity somewhere else. Don’t fall asleep outside your bedroom; return to bed only when you’re sleepy. Repeat these steps as often as you need to throughout the night.

Use your bedroom only for sleep and sex. 

Wake up at the same time every day, even on your days off. 

Avoid napping during the daytime. If you simply must, keep your nap shorter than an hour, and do not nap after 3 p.m. 

If you eat or drink foods with caffeine, enjoy them no later than four to six hours before you go to bed. 

If you smoke or use chewing tobacco, don’t use them close to bedtime or during the night. 

Don’t drink alcoholic beverages within four to six hours of your bedtime. 

Avoid large meals. 

Regular exercise can help you rest, but avoid strenuous exercise within 6 hours of bedtime. 

In your bedroom, keep light, noise and extremes in temperature to a minimum. 

Do you have trouble getting a good night’s rest? Changing some habits and making different lifestyle choices, known as sleep hygiene, may help.

Sleep Hygiene

Caffeine

Caffeine stimulates your brain and interferes with sleep. Coffee, tea, colas, cocoa, chocolate and certain prescription and non-prescription drugs may contain caffeine. Avoid taking these medications or consuming these products within three to four hours of your bedtime. 


Keep in mind that while moderate daytime use of caffeine doesn’t usually interfere with sleep at night, heavy or regular use during the day can lead to sleep problems.

Nicotine

Nicotine is also a stimulant that interferes with sleep, and nicotine withdrawal can disrupt your sleep throughout the night. Cigarettes and some drugs contain a substantial amount of nicotine. If you use tobacco and break the habit, you can expect to fall asleep faster and wake up less during the night.


Are you ready to stop smoking? CoxHealth can help. 

Alcohol

Alcohol slows brain activity, so it can make it easier to fall asleep at first. But it often disrupts your sleep later in the night. Nightmares–and early morning headaches–are common. For your best night’s sleep, avoid drinking alcohol four to six hours before bed.

Mealtime

Eating a full meal shortly before bed can make it harder to fall asleep – and stay asleep. In fact, eating a heavy meal or foods that cause indigestion at any time during the day can make sleep difficult.

To help, try eating a light snack at bedtime. Milk and other dairy products, which contain the natural sleep-promoting substance tryptophan, are an especially good choice.

Exercise

Regular exercise helps people sleep better. But the benefits depend on the time of day you exercise and your overall fitness level.


Exercising in the morning probably won’t affect your sleep at night, but the same amount of exercise too close to bedtime can disrupt sleep. On the other hand, too little exercise and limited activity during the day can also lead to sleeplessness at night.


If you’re interested in beginning an exercise program, be sure to talk to your doctor before you begin.

Environment

It may seem like some people are able to fall asleep almost anywhere. But a comfortable bed in a dark, quiet room is the best setting for a good night's rest. If your sleeping environment isn’t quite up to snuff, consider adding blackout curtains. If the room is too loud, background sound (“white noise”) or earplugs may help. You’ll also want to keep pets and children from sharing your bed and disrupting your sleep.

Clock Watching

When you’re having trouble sleeping, it’s tempting to watch the clock as the minutes tick past. But this won’t help you fall asleep. Try setting your alarm for the time you need to wake in the morning, and place the clock (and your mobile phone) across the room. It’s easier to fall asleep when you don’t feel pressured by time.

Decreasing Time Awake in Bed

Stress can make it very hard to sleep well. Unfortunately, once the source of your stress has been eliminated, your sleep problems can remain. A fear of sleeplessness develops, and a cycle of ongoing sleep problems occurs. 


Sometimes, your bedroom itself becomes associated with difficulty sleeping, tension and anxiety. You might try sleeping on the couch or in a chair. This “conditioning” can be treated in two ways: stimulus control and sleep restriction. 


Stimulus control is an attempt to rebuild a connection between sleep and your bedroom by limiting the time you spend lying awake in bed. Following good sleep hygiene [bookmark] and limiting the stimulus that keeps you awake, such as stress, can help relieve your sleeplessness. 


For most, life sometimes brings stressful situations that make it difficult to sleep. To help, try reading or another relaxing activity you enjoy before bed, or talking to a trusted friend about your concerns. If this doesn’t help, work with a psychologist, physician, or other healthcare professional to learn relaxation exercises, meditation, biofeedback and even hypnosis to relieve your stress and help you sleep. 


Sometimes, setting aside “worry time” can help free your mind for sleep. Designate 30 minutes an evening to sit alone and undisturbed, working out your problems and coming up with possible solutions. 


Write down each of your worries, from the small to the serious, as they come to mind. After you’ve written them down, develop a solution for each. While you’re unlikely to solve all your problems, making even some progress can ease your mind and help you rest. In the morning, put your plans into action. 


Sleep restriction, learned from a sleep specialist, can help you limit the time you spend in bed to time spent actually sleeping. You begin by recording the time you spend in bed and the time you spend asleep each day for one to two weeks. Then, the time you spend in bed is restricted to the time you actually sleep. As your sleeping improves, your sleeping schedule is adjusted. 


Sleep restriction prescribes a specific amount of sleep but not a mandatory time period in bed. Sleep restriction, stimulus control and sleep hygiene can be used together to help you get a good night’s sleep. 


If you’ve tried these techniques for four to six weeks and you still aren’t sleeping well, it’s time to seek professional help.