VA Maryland Health Care System
Healthy Tips for Good Night’s Sleep
Either you can’t sleep and are awake all night, watching the digital clock tick off the seconds, or you’re struggling to stay awake at work during the day. Sleep troubles can be a passing annoyance, indicate a sleep disorder or point toward a more serious health concern.
Aside from comfortable mattresses, pillows and bedding, good sleep hygiene contributes a great deal to a good night’s rest. What is sleep hygiene? "Sleep hygiene refers to a set of rules to help get a good night’s sleep. It essentially describes good sleep habits," says Dr. John Brown, pulmonary co-director of the Sleep Program at the Baltimore VA Medical Center.
Brown says that two common problems with sleep include insufficient sleep and insomnia. In the first group, patients with insufficient sleep are trying to stay awake, doing other things rather than getting enough sleep, and in the second, patients with insomnia have problems falling asleep, staying asleep, or both. Many of these problems are caused, or worsened by poor sleep hygiene, but Brown says that, "education can help!”
Good sleep hygiene can help you stay healthy by keeping your mind and body rested and strong. Brown says to be aware of how gadgets and light can impact the ability to sleep. "The bright light coming from the screens of smart phones, computers, video games within an hour of bedtime can interfere with our ability to fall asleep. Learn to turn off the technology," he says. "Our bodies rely on powerful cues of light and darkness to tell us it’s time to rest."
Here are some tips for good sleep hygiene:
- Try to keep a regular bedtime and wake-up time, including holidays and weekends.
- Begin rituals that help you relax each night before bedtime. These can include things like taking a warm bath, having a light snack, or reading for a few minutes.
- Make your bedroom quiet, dark, and a little bit cool (not cold).
- The bed should be reserved for sleeping. Your body will then associate the bed with sleep.
- If you are not asleep within 20 minutes of going to bed, then get out of bed. Try to do something relaxing to do in another room, and avoid bright light from a TV screen or computer. Once you feel sleepy again, go back to bed.
- Avoid taking naps. If you must take a nap, limit it to 30-35 minutes.
- Keep a regular schedule. Regular times for medicines, meals, chores and other activities keep the body’s clock running smoothly.
- Avoid caffeine, including coffee, tea, and chocolate 6 hours before bedtime. Try to avoid beer, wine, or other alcohol 4-6 hours before bedtime.
- Avoid going to bed hungry, but also avoid a big meal near or before bedtime.
- Regular exercise, particularly in the afternoon, can deepen sleep. It’s not a good idea to exercise within 2 hours of going to sleep.