In some cases, sleep problems are related to preventable health conditions. Addressing such conditions may help prevent sleep disorders. For example, experts think that weight loss may help overweight people who have obstructive sleep apnea.
Other sleep problems can be avoided with the use of good sleep habits, called sleep hygiene. Below are some suggestions for better sleep:
- Try to go to sleep at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning.
- Try not to take naps during the day because naps may make you less sleepy at night.
- Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol late in the day. Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants and can keep you from falling asleep. Alcohol can cause waking in the night and interferes with sleep quality.
- Get regular exercise. Try not to exercise close to bedtime because it may stimulate you and make it hard to fall asleep. Experts suggest not exercising for three hours before the time you go to sleep.
- Don't eat a heavy meal late in the day.
- Make your sleeping place comfortable. Be sure that it is dark, quiet, and not too warm or too cold. If light is a problem, try a sleeping mask. If noise is a problem, try earplugs, a fan, or a "white noise" machine to cover up the sounds.
- Follow a routine to help you relax and wind down before sleep, such as reading a book, listening to music, or taking a bath.
- Avoid using your bed for anything other than sleep or sex.
- If you can't fall asleep and don't feel drowsy, get up and read or do something that is not overly stimulating until you feel sleepy.
- If you have trouble lying awake worrying about things, try making a to-do list before you go to bed. This may help you to avoid focusing on those worries overnight.
Reviewed by The Sleep Medicine Center at The Cleveland Clinic.
Edited by Michael J. Breus, PhD, WebMD, September 2004.
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