Learning New Skills and Behaviors - Healthy Sleep
There are a number of things we do as part of everyday living that can affect sleep. Here are some pointers to keep in mind as you start to change poor sleep habits.
- Develop regular daytime activity and a regular exercise schedule
- Do not perform vigorous exercise close to bedtime. Gentle stretching may be helpful.
- Try moderate regular exercise in the late afternoon or early evening
- Avoid vigorous exercise within 4 hours of bedtime
- Be sure to check with your health care provider before starting a new exercise program/schedule
Reduce light, excessive temperature, and noise during sleep
- A dark room is more conducive to sleep; consider using a night light for safety's sake
- Avoid room temperatures over 75 degrees (24 degrees Celsius) and below 54 degrees (12 degrees Celsius)
- Noise in the environment can keep you from falling asleep or back to sleep and may cause more frequent awakenings
Food and sleep
- Regular meal times can help set our biological clock, which in turn helps balance our sleep-wake rhythm
- Try to eat dinner several hours before bedtime
- Do not eat a snack in the middle of the night
- Avoid drinking too much liquid in the evening
Effect of alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine on sleep
- Alcohol is a nervous system depressant that relaxes you and makes you drowsy. This is why people use it to help them fall asleep which is a poor sleep habit to get into!
- Alcohol causes light sleep and awakenings later in the night
- Alcohol makes you dehydrated and may cause you to awaken due to thirst
- Alcohol can make the effect of medications such as sleeping and pain pills stronger and that can be dangerous
- Social drinkers should avoid alcoholic beverages 4 to 6 hours before bedtime
- Do not use alcohol as a "nightcap" to get to sleep.
- Caffeine is a stimulant that interferes with the natural sleep cycle
- Do not drink or eat products with caffeine after lunch
- Some medications contain caffeine or other stimulants so check labels and talk with your health care provider and pharmacist
- Never discontinue a prescribed medication without talking to your health care provider and pharmacist
- Nicotine is a powerful stimulant
- Nicotine is related to difficulty falling asleep and sleep improves when nicotine use is discontinued
- If you have trouble sleeping, avoid smoking about 2 hours before bedtime and when you wake up during the night
Get some light into your life.
- Light has a strong effect on our biological or internal clock and that affects our body rhythms such as sleep-wake
- Early morning light may be helpful to organize our sleep-wake body rhythm
- Try to spend 30 to 60 minutes outside during the day
Wind down before bedtime.
- Set aside some time in the evening to unwind
- Set aside about an hour or so before bedtime to do something relaxing
- Develop a pre-bedtime routine - something you do every night before going to bed - a routine that's not too stimulating
Develop a regular sleep-wake schedule
- Set a regular wake-up time for each day
- Keep as close as possible to the regular wake-up time on your days off/weekends
- A regular wake-up time may be the most powerful signal we can use to set our internal clock and organize our sleep-wake body rhythm
Put the bedroom clock out of sight
- Many persons with insomnia have a love-hate relationship with their clocks
- Watching the clock puts unnecessary pressure on people with insomnia
- Get rid of the clocks in your bedroom or turn them around so you can't see them during the night
To nap or not to nap?
- Avoid napping; naps can disrupt your natural sleep-wake rhythm and interfere with nighttime sleep
- Morning and evening naps are not beneficial because they may interfere with your natural sleep-wake rhythm
- If you must nap, the guidelines for napping are:
- Nap only once each day
- Nap only in your bed
- Schedule your nap 7 to 9 hours after your morning wake up time to coincide with natural shifts in your internal clock and sleep drive
- Nap for only 15 to 30 minutes. Try to nap at the same time each day.
- If you cannot fall asleep when you lay down to nap, get out of bed, you probably don't need a nap
Reviewed/Updated Date: January 2012
Clinical Advisory Board Sponsors: Karen M. Ott
Clinical Subject Matter Experts: Dr. Dana R. Epstein, Dr. Gail Powell-Cope, Dr. Joseph V. Agostini, Dr. Monica S. Horton
Patient Education Subject Matter Experts: Eileen Canzonetti, Karen M. Ott, Patricia Jost