Good sleep habits can help break the pattern
You toss and turn, flipping the pillow one more time in hopes of finding the sweet spot to help you drift off to sleep. In spite of your best efforts, you still only got a few hours of sleep and woke up groggy and tired … again. A bad night’s sleep will leave you feeling less than your best the next day. Several bad nights in a row, or an even more chronic problem with sleep, may start to have a negative impact on your health and wellbeing. Making a few changes throughout the day and during the few hours leading up to bedtime can help.
“Missing a few hours of sleep once in a while is uncomfortable, but it becomes a problem when an occasional lack of sleep turns into a regular occurrence,” said Michael C. Marino, D.O., medical director of Geisinger Sleep Labs. “Practicing good sleep hygiene habits can help break the pattern.”
The following tips can help you sleep more soundly:
- Turn off your electronics: The blue light from your TV, cellphone and tablet computer are the enemies of sleep. Turn them off at least one hour before your normal bedtime to give your brain some downtime. Opt for reading a printed book instead.
- Keep your room cool and dark: Think “cave-like” when setting the temperature and light in your room. Try to block light sources from outside and dim or block the light from your digital clock.
- Avoid caffeine late in the day: Most people sleep better if they limit caffeine during the afternoon and evening. Coffee isn’t the only source of caffeine – a piece of chocolate can derail your plan to stay caffeine-free.
- Skip the nightcap: While some people have a drink before bed to relax and help them fall asleep, it actually does more harm than good. Alcohol may help you go to sleep, but it also makes it more likely that you’ll wake up in the middle of the night.
“After your body metabolizes alcohol as you sleep, you’ll experience rebound alertness that can wake you,” said Dr. Marino. “This usually affects your sleep during the second half of the night, when you should be getting restorative REM sleep.”
- Exercise early: Working out is a good way to keep your body healthy and primed for sleep. Make sure your most vigorous workouts end several hours before bed, since they can be energizing and make it harder to fall asleep.
- Keep your bed sacred: Your bed should not be a place where you work, watch TV or snack.
- Kick the dog out: As seemingly nice it is to sleep with your dog or cat, they can be very disruptive to a good night’s sleep. They invade your sleeping space and may wake you earlier than needed for attention or to be fed.
- Develop a sleep routine: Build a routine that you keep every night. This includes going to bed at the same time and performing the same tasks – like brushing your teeth and washing your face – to cue your body that it’s time to get ready to sleep. Keep consistent sleep hours.
- Wake up at the same time: As tempting as it is to sleep in on the weekend, it can disrupt your normal sleeping rhythm. It’s better to wake up around the same time each day to maintain consistency.
- Nap if you must: If you must nap to preserve your daytime functioning, delay your bedtime by an equivalent or greater amount of time. Don’t try to compensate for a bad night's sleep – that is, don’t sleep in later than normal or go to bed early the next night.
- Do not spend excessive time in bed once awake: If you are aware that you are clearly awake, it’s time to get out of bed.
“If you’re having problems with sleep for more than three weeks or if lack of sleep interferes with your ability to function normally, contact your doctor to be evaluated,” said Dr. Marino.
Michael C. Marino, D.O., is medical director of Medicine Specialties at Geisinger Bloomsburg Hospital, Geisinger Sleep Labs and Geisinger Home Health. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Marino, please call 1-800-275-6401. For more information, please visit Geisinger.org.