It’s hard to have a productive day after a bad night’s sleep. Yet it’s estimated that 50 to 70 million Americans have chronic sleep problems and one in three Americans don’t get enough sleep on a regular basis.
How to Get a Good Night’s Sleep
If you're tired of not getting enough sleep, we've got tips to help
Sleep is important
Driving while drowsy causes tens of thousands of accidents and injuries each year. Drowsiness makes it more difficult to pay attention while driving and can slow reaction time.
“In addition, research has shown sleep deprivation can affect memory as well as the ability to learn and retain new information,” says family medicine physician Elzbieta Jacek, MD, with LVPG Family Medicine–Laurys Station.
Not getting enough sleep is linked with an increased risk of developing chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and mental health problems such as depression.
Most adults need at least seven hours of sleep per night. Teens need at least eight hours.
The following techniques can help you fall and stay asleep more easily. Talk with your health care provider if the quality of your sleep doesn’t improve despite your efforts.
- Try to go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning, regardless of how much sleep you’ve had. “Sticking to a schedule helps to set your biological clock,” Jacek says.
- Avoid caffeine in the late afternoon and evening. Caffeine in coffee, cola, tea and chocolate can make it difficult to fall asleep.
- Avoid alcohol in the evening and keep it to less than two drinks. Consuming alcohol before going to bed can interrupt deep sleep.
- Don’t smoke. Nicotine is a powerful stimulant.
- Ask your provider or pharmacist if any of your medications could be disrupting your sleep. “Some over-the-counter pain relievers contain more caffeine than a cup of coffee,” Jacek says.
- Exercise regularly. Moderate-intensity exercise can help you fall asleep faster and wake less often during the night. When possible, schedule your workouts for earlier in the day and avoid strenuous activity within three hours of bedtime.
- Don’t overeat in the evening. A light snack is fine, but avoid eating a large or heavy meal within a few hours of bedtime.
- Find ways to manage your stress. Try breathing exercises or mindfulness, like yoga or meditation. There are many smartphone applications with guided meditations.
- Set aside a time to worry early in the evening. If you often lie in bed thinking of what you should have done during the day and what you have to do tomorrow, make a plan for dealing with those distractions. Try making a to-do list so you don’t stay awake fearful you’ll forget to do something important. Journaling can be helpful as well.
- Limit naps. “A short, 20-minute nap may help you feel more alert,” Jacek says. “But if you have trouble sleeping, consider skipping naps or limiting them to early afternoon.”
- Create a good sleep environment. Keep the temperature in your bedroom cool at night; the ideal temperature is in the mid-60s. Keep the room dark by installing heavy draperies or a light-blocking shade.
- Avoid screens in the evening. Try to limit use of your phone, computer or TV at least 30 to 60 minutes prior to bedtime. Set blue light filter on your phone to limit exposure to blue light, which increases wakefulness.
- Check your bed. Trying to sleep on a bed that’s too hard or too soft is difficult. A bed that does not provide adequate comfort and support can contribute to or cause a sleep problem.
- Consider talking with your doctor about a sleep study. Do this if your significant other tells you that you snore at night, you wake up gasping for air or if you still don’t feel rested after seven to eight hours of sleep. You may be suffering from obstructive sleep apnea.
Don’t get discouraged if you find it hard to put this advice into practice. It takes time and effort to change habits, and some life circumstances make it even tougher. We are here to help!