What are the important guidelines for getting healthy sleep?

Sleep is a behavior, and although it can be influenced by many medical conditions, the actions you take prior to sleeping will have a great impact on how well you sleep. Here are some basic sleep guidelines:
  • Go to bed and get up at a similar time every day. This may be more challenging on the weekends, but by using an alarm clock you can make sure your sleep cycle has a regular rhythm, which will help improve your sleep.
  • Use your bed for only for sleeping. Don't use it for watching television, paying bills, or working. That way, when you go to bed, your body will know it's time to sleep.
  • Reduce any noise in your room. If you can't reduce the noise, consider getting a "white noise" machine or foam ear plugs.
  • Make sure your bed and bedroom are quiet and comfortable, and slightly cool. A hot room can disrupt sleep. A cool room and enough blankets to keep warm if needed are best.
  • Set up a sleep routine you can follow every night. These are simply actions that you engage in to help you unwind. It's important to give your body cues that it's time to slow down and sleep. Try listening to relaxing music, read something soothing for 15 minutes, or practice meditation or prayer. Anything that calms you down and makes you drowsy is good. Be sure to practice the routine every night, regardless of how sleepy you are.
  • Don't drink caffeine or alcohol, smoke, or exercise 4-6 hours before bedtime, because it can interfere with the quality of sleep
  • Don't take naps. You want to be tired at bedtime. If you can't make it through the day without a nap, sleep less than 1 hour and take your nap before 3 P.M.
  • Finally, if you can't fall asleep, don't stay in your bed for more than 20 minutes. Instead, get up, go into a dimly lit room and do something restful, such as listen to quiet music. Get back into bed when you feel sleepy.
Living SMART: Five Essential Skills to Change Your Health Habits Forever

More About this Book

Living SMART: Five Essential Skills to Change Your Health Habits Forever

The myriad of books and programs that encourage people to stop smoking, get organized, spend less, or exercise more tend to focus on what or why to change, but rarely explain how to change. Living...
Kelly Traver
Internal Medicine

The guidelines for getting a healthy sleep are as follows:

Get regular daily exercise. This is one of the best ways to ensure healthy, good-quality sleep. When you exercise, your body temperature fluctuations throughout the day become more accentuated. This allows your body to achieve the deeper stages three and four sleep, which are more rejuvenating for your body.

Stick to a schedule. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day. Going to bed at the same time every night is not as important as getting up at the same time every day.

Avoid alcohol at night. Alcohol is sedating; it induces stage two sleep, but it disrupts the deeper stages three and four. It is also metabolized quickly, over a one- to two-hour period and, once metabolized, causes the release of a pulse of epinephrine that is stimulating and often wakes you up.

Try to limit caffeine to no more than two cups of coffee before noon. Caffeine is metabolized slowly, with a half-life of up to 7 to 12 hours. This means that if you have four cups of coffee in the morning, you may still have the equivalent of two cups of coffee in your system when you go to bed at night.

Have a bedtime ritual. Avoid paying bills or checking e-mail right before you go to bed. Stimulating mental activities right before bedtime make it harder for the brain to slow down and shift into sleep mood. Consider a warm bath as part of your bedtime ritual.

Reserve your bed for sleep and sex. Don't use your bed to engage in mentally stimulating activities. You want your brain to associate your bed with relaxation and sleep.

Get rid of night worries. If you tend to wake up in the middle of the night with racing thoughts or worries, keep paper and a pen by your bedside. Without even turning the light on, you can jot down the thought that woke you up. Tell yourself that you are going to let it go until the morning.

Don't smoke. Nicotine is a stimulant. Smokers who stop smoking notice that they sleep better.

Check your medications. Over-the-counter medications such as decongestants can be stimulating, as can some prescription medications. If you have trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor about whether you should take your medication in the morning or in the evening.

Continue Learning about Healthy Sleeping

Don’t Let Light Pollution Keep You Up at Night
Don’t Let Light Pollution Keep You Up at Night
Chances are you’ve spent more than one night tossing and turning—up to 70 million U.S. adults have a sleep disorder. But what can help you sleep bette...
Read More
Is it safe to share a bed with an infant?
Baptist Health South FloridaBaptist Health South Florida
Instead of recommending bed sharing, healthcare providers recommend room sharing–keeping baby’s slee...
More Answers
How can I get support from my partner in changing my sleep habits?
Joshua C. Klapow, PhDJoshua C. Klapow, PhD
Your efforts to improve your sleep may significantly change your current sleep habits, and that,...
More Answers
Do People Sleep Better Alone or With a Partner?
Do People Sleep Better Alone or With a Partner?

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.