Multiple chronic diseases and conditions, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression, are associated with insufficient sleep.1 More than a quarter of Americans occasionally do not get enough sleep, and approximately 10% experience chronic insomnia. However, new methods for assessing and treating sleep disorders are bringing hope to the millions of people with inadequate sleep. The following sleep hygiene tips may be useful for promoting regular sleep and improving your sleep habits2-4:
- Create and Stick to a Sleep Schedule
Go to bed and wake up at the same time each night and morning, respectively—even on weekends. Avoid taking naps for longer than an hour, and after 3 PM; although they can boost your brainpower, naps in the late afternoon can make it harder to fall asleep at night.
- Make Your Bedroom a Sleep-Inducing Place
Remove anything that might distract you from sleep, including noises, bright lights, and electronic gadgets, from your bedroom. Keep all televisions, computers, and other devices out of this space; it should be comfortably silent, dark, relaxing, and neither too hot nor too cold.
- Avoid Large Meals Before Bedtime
Large intakes of food or liquids before bed can cause indigestion and frequent urination that disturbs your sleep. Although a nightcap may help you fall asleep, alcohol keeps you in the lighter stages of sleep, and you are inclined to wake up during the night once the sedation wears off.
- Exercise Early, Relax Later
Although exercise can help promote sleep, vigorous physical activities should be avoided in the 2 to 3 hours leading up to your bedtime. Instead, take the time to unwind before bed by engaging in relaxing activities (eg, reading, listening to music) or taking a hot bath—the change in body temperature may help induce sleepiness.
- Seek Professional Guidance
If your sleep problems persist or interfere with daily functioning, talk to your physician, or see a sleep specialist. Keep a diary of your sleep habits (eg, when you go to bed, wake up, consume caffeine, exercise) for approximately 10 days prior to meeting your physician so that you can discuss it during your visit.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sleep and sleep disorders. www.cdc.gov/sleep/index.html. Updated March 12, 2015. Accessed March 22, 2016.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Insufficient sleep among New Jersey adults. www.cdc.gov/sleep/pdf/states/Insufficient_Sleep_Fact_Sheet_2011_NJ.pdf. Published 2011. Accessed March 22, 2016.
- US Department of Health & Human Services; National Institutes of Health; National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. In brief: your guide to healthy sleep. www.nhlbi.nih.gov/files/docs/public/sleep/healthysleepfs.pdf. Updated September 2011. Accessed March 22, 2016.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What should I do if I can't sleep. www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/cant_sleep.html. Updated July 1, 2013. Accessed March 22, 2016.