How can I get a good night's sleep?

The best way to get a good night's sleep is to practice what we call good sleep hygiene. It is best to try to go to sleep the same time every night. If you are consistent, your body will be used to certain "biorhythms" that will make you feel sleepy. It is important not to do anything exciting before bedtime: Do not exercise right before sleep, do not watch a "thriller" movie or read an exciting novel. On the other hand, something boring before bed may help. The bedroom should not have a TV in it. Screen time before sleep is not recommended due to the neuroexcitatory effect of the screen. Also, do not nap during the day. That will disrupt the night cycle.

Connie Haralson
Psychology Specialist

Sleep plays a very important role in your overall health and well-being. Research has shown that getting enough sleep and quality sleep is key in maintaining your health. Here are some tips for getting a good night’s sleep:

  • Setting a set schedule for sleep (a start time and end time). Maintaining a routine is key!
  • Sleeping in the right environment, being mindful of the temperature and distractions such as the TV and lights.
  • Keep a journal by your bed to capture any left-over thoughts from the day or racing thoughts. I call this a “brain dump”. 
  • Watch your caffeine, alcohol, and water intake within 4 hours of bedtime.
  • If you are suffering from insomnia for more than a week please contact a healthcare provider or mental health professional. 
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

To get a good night's sleep, you should be getting to bed around 10 p.m. and sleeping for about eight hours. Of course, that doesn't always happen, because you have a sick child or a job that requires odd or long hours. But that is the goal.

Some research shows that if you go to bed by 10 p.m., you may get higher-quality sleep. The later you stay up, the less likely you'll experience a deep, refreshing sleep.

Remember, sleep is extremely important to your health. I can't emphasize this more. Do whatever you can to make your sleep schedule as consistent as possible, especially if you're already struggling with sleep.

Whenever your bedtime, an hour beforehand, close the curtains and dim the lights. Avoid computer screens and TVs—any bright light source. As it gets dark, even artificial darkness, your body starts to prepare for sleep. This prep time will help you fall asleep.

If you go to bed and you're not asleep in 15 minutes or so, get up and do a nonstimulating activity, like reading, paying bills, taking a warm shower, or stretching. As soon as you start to feel sleepy, head back to bed.

In the morning, do the reverse to wake yourself up. Open the curtains and turn on the lights. If you can watch the sun rise or step outside into sunshine, even better. This also helps reset your sleep-wake cycles if you have jetlag or are recovering from an awkward work schedule.

Keeping as consistent a sleep schedule as possible is one of the best ways to ensure a good night's sleep. Optimizing your sleep environment is also important.

Dr. Oluwatoyin Thomas, MD
Geriatric Medicine Specialist

The first step toward quality sleep is sleep hygiene. What are you doing the first hour or two before you go to bed? Could changes be made to your routine that would be more relaxing, such as a bath, reading a book, or listening to calming music?

The idea is to replace the simulating activity with something soothing. Also, keeping a sleep diary can help us understand when and how often you wake up. A sleep diary helps track several factors for good sleep, like when you went to bed and woke up, how long and well you slept, what medications you took and so on. It can help your doctor identify the issues that he or she may be able to help you control. For example, if your diabetes is out of control it could be causing you to get up at night to use the bathroom.

These three tips can be extremely effective in helping you get a good night's sleep:

  • Get in a schedule. Your body clock runs best like it did when you were a baby. It gets up at the same time every day-whether you have a full day of work or a full day of cartoons. On the weekends, try to rise within one hour of the time you get up during the week.
  • Change your temperature. The ideal setting is a cool, dark room. If you're having trouble sleeping, try removing a layer of clothing (like socks) or lowering the thermostat.
  • Eat small portions before bed. Eat foods that contain melatonin-a substance that helps regulate your body clock. That means oats, sweet corn, or rice. Or try a complex-carbohydrate that has serotonin, like vegetables or whole-grain pasta. You can also go with the classic remedy: skim milk. Of course, you know to avoid stimulants like caffeine and exercise.
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Dr. Thomas Freedom, MD
Sleep Medicine Specialist

To ensure a good night's sleep, keep regular sleep hours, awaken at the same time every day, go to bed only when sleepy, make the bedroom conducive to good sleep (decrease noise, low lights, comfortable bed, comfortable room temperature, etc.) and remove distractions such as televisions and computers. You should also avoid caffeine within 8 hours of bedtime. Slightly lower room temperature and white noise can help if a person is sensitive to noise. If you nap, make sure the nap is less than 30 minutes long and taken no later than early afternoon.

Sound advice for sleeping soundly:
  • Create a sleep sanctuary. Reserve your bedroom for sleep, intimacy, and other restful activities, like pleasure reading and meditation. Keep it on the cool side. Banish the television, computer, cell phone or digital organizer, and other diversions from that space.
  • Nap only if necessary. Night owls and shift workers are at the greatest risk for sleep debt. Napping an hour or two at the peak of sleepiness in the afternoon can help to supplement hours missed at night. But naps can also interfere with your ability to sleep at night and throw your sleep schedule into disarray.
  • Avoid caffeine after noon, and go light on alcohol. Caffeine can stay in your body for up to 12 hours. Alcohol can act as a sedative, but it also disturbs sleep.
  • Get regular exercise, but not within three hours of bedtime. Exercise acts as a short-term stimulant.
  • Address a long-term debt. If you've shorted yourself on sleep for decades, you won't be required to put in a Rip Van Winkle-like effort to repay the hours of missed slumber. Nonetheless, it could take a few weeks to recoup your losses. Plan a vacation with a light schedule and few obligations -- not a whirlwind tour of the museums of Europe or a daughter's wedding. Then, turn off the alarm clock and just sleep every night until you awake naturally. At the beginning, you may be sleeping 12 hours or more a night; by the end, you'll be getting about the amount you regularly need to awake refreshed.
  • Avoid backsliding into a new debt cycle. Once you've determined how much sleep you really need, factor it into your daily schedule. Try to go to bed and get up at the same time every day -- at the very least, on weekdays. If need be, use weekends to make up for lost sleep.
  • If you're able to get enough sleep but don't feel refreshed in the morning, discuss the problem with your clinician. Many common medical conditions, from depression to arthritis to sleep apnea (brief cessations in breathing during sleep), could be responsible.
Ms. Ashley Koff, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

To get a good night's sleep, get on a schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time seven days a week, weekends included. Try not to fall into a cycle of burning the midnight oil on Sunday night in preparation for Monday, letting your sleep debt pile up for the week and then attempt to catch up on sleep over the weekend. It won't work. Stick to the same schedule seven days a week. Your body and energy levels will love it.

Set aside at least 30 minutes before bedtime to unwind and prepare for sleep. Avoid stimulating activities (e.g., work, cleaning, being on the computer, watching TV dramas that get your adrenaline running). Try soaking in a warm bath or engaging in some light stretching. Once you're in bed, do some light reading and push any anxieties aside.

Don't let your To Do list or worries take control before sleeping. Early in the evening -- say, right after dinner -- write out tasks you have yet to complete that week (not tonight!) and prioritize them realistically. Add any particular worries you might have. If these notes begin to talk to you when you're trying to go to sleep, tell yourself it's time to focus on sleep. Everything will be okay. You're tired and will have a productive day tomorrow. You're relaxed and at peace. The body needs to sleep and is ready for it.

Create a restful refuge. Reserve the bedroom for sleep (and sex) only. Remove distracting electronics and gadgets and keep it clean, cool, and dark.

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The following are tips for getting a good night's sleep:

  • Keep to a schedule where you go to sleep and get up at the same times every day. This will put your body into a good sleep-wake rhythm.
  • For several hours before bedtime, avoid alcohol, drinks that contain caffeine, chocolate, heavy, sugary or spicy foods and smoking.
  • Try to get regular exercise in the morning or afternoon. Avoid exercising in the evening.
  • Make the place you sleep as comfortable as possible. Buy a firm, comfortable mattress, make sure your bedroom is a comfortable temperature for sleeping and well ventilated. Block out all distracting noise and darken the room as much as possible.
  • Use your bed for sleep and sex only. Do not use your bed as an office or recreation room.
Dr. Michael Breus, PhD
Psychology Specialist

This can be different for everyone but here are some general guidelines.

Go to bed when sleepy.
This way you are not tossing and turning or thinking too much about falling asleep.

Go to bed relaxed.
Try not to have large emotional discussions before bed, avoid too much physical activity right before lights out, and if you find yourself either emotionally stressed or physically tense, use relaxation or meditation techniques to help: a hot bath, yoga stretching or progressive muscle relaxation.

Do not go to bed full or hungry.
Make sure your stomach is not growling so loud that it keeps you awake.

Go to bed at a consistent time.
The more regular your sleep schedule the more your internal biological clock will know when to wind down.

Make sure that your environment is one that is conducive to sleep: dark, quiet and cool.

Change your pillow every year.
The structural integrity of a pillow will change with use. Make sure yours provides support and reduces neck strain.

Make sure you have a mattress that meets your needs.
It should be supportive, but also comfortable. Remember your body wears out long before your mattress will. Exercise daily.

Research shows that those who exercise daily sleep well, and get the good refreshing sleep that they need. Avoid too much caffeine or alcohol.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.