Creating a Healthy Sleep Routine

Your head pounds. You feel unmotivated, irritable, anddepressed. You can't concentrate or come up with creative ideas foryour project at work. The dinner party you were looking forward toall week suddenly feels like an enormous burden on your dwindlingenergy reserves. You wish the world would leave you alone, at leastuntil you had a chance to catch up on your sleep. But you can'thelp feeling this way. The neighbor's dog barked for half of thenight, and the rest of the night you were restless and justcouldn't seem to get comfortable. Many environmental and behavioral factors can influence thequality and quantity of your sleep. The good news is that a numberof these things are within your power to change. You can create aroutine that is more conducive to healthy sleep by implementing thefollowing strategies. Environmental Strategies for Healthy Sleep Make sure you have a comfortable, supportive mattress andfoundation. Try out different mattresses before you buy a new one.If you share your bed, a queen or king-sized mattress will allowyou enough room to stretch out comfortably while you sleep. Have comfortable, clean sheets that fit the bed properly. Your bedroom should be very dark. If you sleep during the daybecause of shift work, invest in shades and curtains that keep outthe maximum of light. Sleep masks can also help. If noise keeps you awake, buy some heavy duty earplugs. Whitenoisea steady, humming, relaxing noise from air conditioners,fans, heaters, and "white noise machines"can drown out disturbingnoises. Double-paned windows can also help. Play some quiet, relaxing music before or during bedtime. Be sure that the temperature of the room is not too hot or toocold. Sixty degrees is the ideal temperature for most people. Ratherthan turning up the heat, use more blankets. If you're too warm,try a fan or an air conditioner. A humidifier or dehumidifier canmake your environment more comfortable by regulating dryness andhumidity. Get more sunlight during the day-or get a light box or lightvisor. Some people find the use of scents or aromatherapy relaxing.Experiment with scented candles or incense that appeal to you. Behavioral Strategies for Healthy Sleep Go to bed at the same each nighteven on the weekends. Don't have any stimulants such as caffeine (coffee, tea, colaor chocolate) within 4-6 hours of bedtime. Also, beware thatcertain over-the-counter cold medications have a stimulanteffect. Use your bed for sleep and sex only. Take a warm bath before going to bed. Set aside some time during the day (well before bedtime) forworrying and dealing with upsetting situations. Try some relaxation exercises before bedtimedeep breathing,relaxation tapes, etc. Exercise regularly, but not within at least 4 hours ofbedtime. Don't go to bed hungry or full. A light snack about 3-4 hoursbefore bed can help. Carbohydrates such as cereal, crackers, andbread are good choices. Foods with tryptophan such as turkey anddairy products can help make you sleepy. Avoid spicy foods, heavyfoods, and eating too fast, all of which can cause heartburn. Don't drink a lot of water before bedtime or you may need tourinate frequently during the night. If you wake up frequently due to a need to urinate or shortness of breath, this could be a sign of a more serious medical problem. Consult with your physician immediately. Try not to focus on falling asleep. Don't keep looking at theclock. If you can't fall asleep, get up and do something. Do not lay in your bed for more than 20 minutes if you you're having difficulty sleeping. Don't have any alcohol within six hours of bedtime, and don'tsmoke at least two hours before going to bed. It's best not to smokeat all; smokers tend to have more disrupted sleep thannonsmokers. Read something light and enjoyable before bed. Don't stay up too late. Make sleep a priority. Don't nap during the day if you have trouble sleeping atnight. If you have an infant who wakes you at night, take a nap duringthe day when he does. If you have young children, let them sleep intheir own beds rather than with you at night. RESOURCES:

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

National Sleep Foundation


Better Sleep Council Canada

Canadian Sleep Society

Last reviewed August 2007 by J. Thomas Megerian, MD, PhD, FAAP

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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