Insomnia

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Adopting good sleep habits is the first step in preventing or managing insomnia. Below are tips for improving your "sleep hygiene":

  • Keep your sleep cycle regular by going to bed and getting up at the same time every day. This includes weekends and vacations. People with insomnia often find themselves chasing sleep by going to bed earlier or staying in bed later. But this makes insomnia worse by disrupting the body's natural rhythms and causing anxiety about the time spent lying awake in bed.
  • Avoid taking long naps during the day. Napping in the late afternoon or early evening can disturb subsequent nighttime sleep.
  • Getting regular exercise is helpful, but exercising within a few hours of bedtime may make it harder to get to sleep.
  • Alcohol can interfere with sleep. Drinking alcohol close to bedtime can lead to repeated awakenings during the latter part of the night.
  • Caffeine and nicotine have an arousing effect and so can interfere with sleep. They also should be avoided.
  • Many common medicines can cause insomnia. If you think your medications might be disturbing your sleep, consult with your doctor about trying different medications or taking your meds at a different time of day.
  • Create a relaxing bedtime routine. Quiet reading or relaxation exercises can tell your body that sleep is on the way. Heavy meals near bedtime should be avoided.
  • Worrying can cause insomnia or make it worse. Plan a few minutes each evening to write your various ongoing concerns. Schedule activities for the following day. This allows one to "put an end" to the extended workday.
  • Save the bed for activities that promote sleep. Some people find reading or relaxing helpful. Using the bed for watching TV or talking on the phone teaches your body to associate bed with activities other than sleep.
  • The bedroom itself may be overlooked as a cause of sleep disturbance. For many people, the level of light in the bedroom is important for sleep. Some people prefer the bedroom to be kept very dark. Others may find comfort in a dim light. The bedroom should be kept quiet. If you can't avoid bright light or noise, consider using an eye mask or earplugs. The temperature should be comfortable for the people sleeping. "Clock watchers" who get alarmed as the seconds and minutes tick away should remove the clock from the bedroom.

Last reviewed on 06/26/2006

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