There are many simple steps you can take to help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep . Here are some tips:
- Minimize noise with earplugs and minimize light with window blinds, heavy curtains, or an eye mask.
- Do not turn on bright lights if you need to get up at night. Use a small night-light instead.
- Avoid eating within two hours of bedtime. If you are hungry, a glass of milk or a light snack is a good choice. Milk contains the amino acid L-tryptophan, which has been shown in research to help people go to sleep.
- Avoid consuming protein at bedtime.
- Get aerobic exercise during the day to reduce stress hormones, but avoid anything too strenuous within three hours of bedtime. Regular exercise may promote deeper sleep. Go to bed at a regular time and avoid napping late in the afternoon. If you need to nap, take a brief nap for 10-15 minutes about eight hours after you awake.
- Stop working at any task an hour before bedtime to calm mental activity.
- At bedtime, keep your mind off worries or things that upset you; avoid discussing emotional issues in bed.
- Consider having pets stay outside of your sleeping area. Having a pet in bed with you may cause you to wake if you have allergies or if the pet moves around on the bed.
- Make sure your bedroom is well ventilated and a comfortable temperature (below 75F and above 54F).
- Keep your bedroom for sleeping.
- If you can't sleep or if you wake up in the middle of the night, go into another room and read a book or watch television until you feel sleepy.
- Learn a relaxation technique such as progressive muscle relaxation and practice it in bed.
Nicotine is a stimulant and should be avoided particularly near bedtime and upon night awakenings. Stimulants may interfere with sleep. Caffeine should be discontinued at least four to six hours before bedtime. Caffeine is a stimulant that is present in coffee, cola, tea, chocolate, and various over-the-counter medications. Consider gradually reducing the amount of caffeine you consume to avoid withdrawal symptoms like headaches. Alcohol is a depressant and may help you fall asleep, but the subsequent metabolism that clears it from your body when you are sleeping causes a withdrawal syndrome. This withdrawal causes awakenings and is often associated with nightmares and sweats. If you are still having trouble sleeping after trying some of these suggestions, tell your doctor about it. There may be an underlying medical condition that is causing your sleep problem.
Reviewed by The Sleep Medicine Center at The Cleveland Clinic.
Edited by Michael J. Breus, PhD, WebMD, September 2004.
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