Patient Education

Get a better night’s sleep with these five tips

If counting sheep isn’t cutting it and you find yourself dozing off in those long afternoon meetings, you may need to revamp your sleep style.

And you’re not alone. According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study released earlier this year, one in three people don’t get enough sleep.

From busy work and family schedules, to electronics and late-night entertainment, there is a lot to keep you up at night. And while you can’t control everything that might cut into your sleep routine, adopting a few basic sleep habits could help you on the road to getting a better night’s rest. Try starting with these easy-to-follow tips from our experts at the EVMS Sleep Disorder Center.

1. Children aren’t the only ones who need set bed times

If you aren’t going to bed and getting up around the same time every day, experts say you could be confusing your body. This means sticking to your workweek schedule even on the weekends! Being consistent with your sleep schedule helps to develop your body’s internal clock and ultimately makes for a more restful night of sleep. Plus, it’s important to make sure you are getting enough sleep but not staying in bed too long.  Most adults need between six to nine hours of rest each night.

2. Turn down the lights 

There’s a reason we often wake up with the sun. Bright lights are a trigger for your body that it is time to be awake. That’s why it’s important to set the mood for your slumber by turning down the lights and other devices that can be a light source like televisions, computers and cell phones. According to J. Catesby Ware, PhD, Chief of the EVMS Division of Sleep Medicine, electronic devices work against good sleep because the blue light stimulates receptors in the eye that tell the brain to stay awake. You can help better trigger your sleep cycle by shutting down these items anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour before you head to bed. 

 3. Get regular exercise      

While it might sound counterintuitive, getting moving will actually help you rest better. According to a 2013 study by the National Sleep Foundation, exercisers reported sleeping better than those who identified as non-active. But this doesn’t mean you have to run any marathons in order to catch some Z’s. Adding light to moderate exercise (something as simple as a short walk around the block) to your daily routine can help you to sleep better at night.  

Just make sure you leave enough time between exercise and bedtime to let your body relax, experts say.

4. Cut out caffeine and alcoholic beverages early

In general, it is best to try not to eat or drink alcohol at least two hours before bedtime. The stimulating effects of that late in the day soda can actually take hours to wear off, wreaking havoc on your sleep. And while a glass of wine may make you feel sleepy at first, alcohol can disrupt your sleep, too. 

Your best bet? Keep caffeine and alcohol consumption as far from bedtime as possible, Dr. Ware says. 

5. Make naps a snack, not your meal

Sure, naps can help you catch up on some needed sleep, but too much or too late and you could be costing yourself good sleep later that night.

Dr. Ware says there are two kinds of naps: a snack nap that lasts about 15 minutes and a meal nap which is longer. Snack naps can aid in a number of ways including reducing fatigue, increasing alertness and improving your mood. Meal naps may be helpful if you missed a great deal of sleep the night before, Dr. Ware says, but be careful not to take one too late in the day. The goal is to improve your sleep, not cut into your nighttime rest.

Remember, almost everyone has a sleepless night every once in a while. But if you find yourself having too many nights of disturbed slumber it might be time to talk to your doctor. They can help identify what may be keeping you from sleeping soundly and get you back on track.

For more information about EVMS Sleep Medicine, or to make an appointment call 757.625.0172.