Healthy sleep habits

Tip #1: Keep a regular sleep schedule

  • For the best sleep, get in sync with your body’s natural sleep–wake cycle.
  • If you go to bed and get up at the same time every day, you’ll feel more refreshed.
  • Pick a time when you normally feel tired, and try not to stay up late on weekends.
  • If you want to change your bedtime, do it in small increments of 15 minutes a day to help your body adjust.

Tip #2: Don’t watch TV in bed

  • At night, a lot of people watch television to relax or fall asleep.
  • Unfortunately, the light suppresses production of the sleep-controlling hormone melatonin.
  • Rather than relaxing your mind, TV shows and movies stimulate it.
  • Instead, listen to soothing music, read a book or do relaxation exercises.
  • Record your favorite late-night shows to watch another time.

Tip #3: Keep your room cool and dark

  • A bedroom that’s too hot or cold interferes with sleep.
  • For the best sleep, keep your room slightly cool at 65° F or 18° C.
  • If you read from an electronic device, use one that is not backlit.
  • Use low-wattage bulbs in your bedroom to avoid bright lights before sleep.
  • At bedtime, make sure your room is dark by covering electrical displays, using heavy curtains on windows or wearing a sleep mask over your eyes.
  • To go to the bathroom, use a flashlight so it will be easier to fall back to sleep.

Tip #4: Create a relaxing routine

  • Sleep more easily and deeply by consistently relaxing before you go to bed. A peaceful routine tells your brain it’s time to sleep.
  • Reduce neighborhood or household noise by masking it with a fan, recordings of soothing sounds or earplugs.
  • Make sure your bed is large enough to stretch and turn easily.
  • You may need a new pillow or mattress if you awake with a sore back or neck. Try different levels of mattress firmness and pillows with varying levels of support.

Tip #5: Eat smart at night

  • Don’t eat large meals at night.
  • Try to eat dinner early in the evening.
  • Avoid rich or heavy foods within two hours of bedtime.
  • Your stomach has to work harder to digest fatty foods and that may interfere with sleep.
  • Eating spicy or acidic foods at night can cause stomach trouble and heartburn, which may keep you up.

Tip #6: Get anxiety and stress in check

  • Stress left over from your day can make it hard to sleep.
  • Learn to manage your thoughts so you can stop worrying, especially about things you can’t control. Evaluate worries to see if they’re realistic then replace irrational fears with productive thoughts. Even counting sheep is more productive than worrying.
  • To manage stress, learn to manage your time effectively. When you’re productive and maintain a positive outlook, you’ll be able to sleep better.
  • Practicing relaxation techniques before bed helps prepare for sleep. Try these easy exercises:
    • Breathe: Close your eyes and slowly take deep breaths, making each deeper than the last.
    • Tense/release: Starting at your toes, tense your muscles tightly then release them to relax. Work up from your toes to your head.
    • Visualize: Close your eyes and imagine a peaceful place or calming activity. Concentrate on how relaxed this place or activity makes you feel.

Tip #7: Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol before bed

  • Caffeine can cause sleep problems up to 10–12 hours after drinking it. Consider avoiding caffeine after lunch or cutting back overall.
  • Nicotine is a stimulant that disrupts sleep. Also, smokers actually experience nicotine withdrawal during the night, making sleep difficult.
  • Alcohol may help you fall asleep faster, but it reduces sleep quality. It can wake you up later in the night, so it’s best to avoid it before bed.

Tip #8: Avoid drinking too many liquids in the evening

  • Consuming large amounts of water, juice, tea or other drinks can lead to multiple bathroom trips during the night.
  • Caffeinated drinks keep you up in two ways: the caffeine is a stimulant and it also increases the need to urinate.

Tip #9: Be smart about taking naps

  • Instead of sleeping late, try a daytime nap if you need to make up for a few lost hours of sleep. This allows you to pay off your sleep debt without disturbing your natural sleep – wake cycle.
  • If insomnia is a problem for you, consider eliminating naps as they can make insomnia worse. If you must nap, limit it to 30 minutes and do it in the early afternoon.

Tip #10: During the day, get natural sunlight

  • Sunlight causes our bodies to make melatonin, a natural hormone that helps keep your sleep–wake cycle regular.
  • Our busy lives can disrupt melatonin production with time during the day spent out of the sun and exposure to the bright lights of TV and computers at night.
  • Here are ways for you to naturally regulate your sleep – wake cycle:
  • Spend more time outside during daylight by taking short breaks from work.
  • Keep curtains and blinds open during the day.
  • If necessary, a light therapy box can be used to simulate sunshine during short winter days.

Tip #11: Be sure to exercise regularly

  • Getting your heart rate up during the day through exercise helps you sleep better at night.
  • Exercise also increases your energy level during the day and reduces daytime sleepiness.
  • Do an aerobic exercise, such as walking, jogging, swimming or biking, for at least 30 minutes every day to improve the quality of your sleep.

This blog post contains general information about medical conditions and potential treatments. It is not medical advice. If you have any medical questions, please consult your doctor.

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