Quality of sleep at night affects how we perform the next day. Mood and overall health are also tied to the quality of sleep we get each night.
We all have nights when we can't fall asleep. Life stresses, medical conditions, or maybe a noisy party next door. Whether you have short-term or chronic insomnia, there are steps you can take to sleep easier.
Environmental Strategies for Healthy Sleep
We love to be comfortable, warm, and cozy. Going to bed at night should give you the same feeling. Look at your bedroom and see if you can make changes. Here are some options to think about:
- Make sure you have a comfortable, supportive mattress and foundation.
- Your bedroom should be very dark. Invest in shades and curtains that block light.
- Try sleep masks.
- If noise keeps you awake, try earplugs or white noise (a machine that uses static noise to drown out disturbing noise).
- Be sure that the temperature of the room is cool.
- Avoid any distractions like TVs, computers, or cell phones in the bedroom. Noises and lights are distracting.
Consider taking a short walk outside during the day. Sunlight or bright light may help you relax at night.
Behavioral Strategies for Healthy Sleep
Your body learns to respond to what you do out of habit. If you think about it, you have sleep habits too. Some of the things you may be doing make it hard for your body and mind to relax and unwind. A nightly routine will help make your body ready for sleep. Remember new habits take some time, so be patient and keep trying new things.
Use the daytime hours to get ready for sleep at night:
- Avoid stimulants such as caffeine (coffee, tea, cola, or chocolate) in the evening. The time will vary depending on your tolerance.
- Set aside some time for worrying and dealing with upsetting situations.
- Exercise regularly, but not within 3 hours of bedtime.
- Try not to nap during the day, but especially not after 3 pm.
There are also some changes you can make to your evening routine:
- Don't stay up too late. Make sleep a priority.
- Go to bed at a similar time each night, even on your days off.
- Use your bed for sleep and sex only.
- Take a warm bath to relax before going to bed.
- Have a light snack a few hours before bed, but avoid spicy foods or large meals which can cause heartburn.
- Avoid drinking a lot of water before bedtime or you may need to urinate often at night.
- Check ingredients on cold medicines to see if they contain caffeine or other stimulants.
Nicotine and alcohol contribute to sleeplessness. Avoid excessive alcohol within 6 hours of bedtime and smoking within 2 hours of bedtime. If do you smoke, talk to your doctor about how to successfully quit. Smokers have more disrupted sleep than nonsmokers.
Of course, everything will not always work all the time. If you can't fall asleep within 20 minutes, get up and do something, then try again when you feel drowsy.
Sleep is essential. Keep in mind there may be underlying medical issues affecting your ability to sleep, like apnea, snoring, or pain. If you have long-term troubles with not sleeping, contact your doctor see if other treatments may help.
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
National Sleep Foundation
Better Sleep Council Canada
The Canadian Sleep Society
Healthy sleep. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/sleep/healthy_sleep_atglance.pdf. Accessed August 4, 2016.
Healthy sleep tips. National Sleep Foundation website. Available at: http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/sleep-topics/healthy-sleep-tips. Accessed August 4, 2016.
Insomnia in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated March 21, 2016. Accessed August 4, 2016.
Yang CM, Spielman AJ, Huang YS. Insomnia. Current Treatment Options in Neurology. 2005,7:373-338.
Last reviewed August 2016 by Michael Woods, MD Last Updated: 11/5/2014