Principles of Better Sleep

If you have trouble sleeping, there are safe, effective treatments for you.  And you probably do not even need a drug.

Below, I will teach you three basic principles of better sleep.  I believe that these principles represent a consensus among sleep doctors.   Decades of research support their effectiveness.  You might hear the same principles described elsewhere as “cognitive behavioral therapy”, which sounds intimidating and complex, or “sleep hygiene,” which sounds like something your dentist or your mother would recommend.  

Principle 1- Any time you spend in bed awake trains your body to stay awake in bed.  Therefore, I suggest you use the bed for only sleep, sex, and relaxing television.  Do not watch horror movies in bed.  Do not work on your laptop, surf the web, or pay bills in bed.  Since time awake in bed is bad, never get into bed before you are really sleepy.  If you wake up during the night and don’t feel sleepy, get out of bed and do something relaxing elsewhere- read, watch TV, knit, etc.   

Principle 2- Keep a regular wake up time.  The time you wake up each day tells your body when to feel sleepy at night.  If you don’t wake up at the same time each day, your body does not know when to feel sleepy at night.  Even if you’ve had a rough night, get out of bed at your planned time.  Set an alarm, and don’t check it during the night- no need to worry about the time.  

Principle 3- Don’t let your daytime habits sabotage your sleep.  So, don’t have more than 1 or 2 drinks with or after dinner.  The less you smoke in the evening, the better.  Exercise, in the morning, if you can. Try not to nap, but keep naps brief and early if you must.  Don’t gorge on food before bed.

Even these principles may not be sufficient to solidify your sleep.  That’s when you can have your primary doctor refer you to a sleep specialist.  We can extend these techniques, and in some cases, we may offer sleep medicines. We may test you for common sleep disorders like sleep apnea; sleep apnea describes repeated pauses in breathing, usually from upper airway collapses, during sleep.  The main risk factors for sleep apnea are obesity, snoring, and daytime sleepiness.  Regardless, let your doctor know about any problems you have sleeping or staying awake.  Sleep HealthCenters exists to treat these problems.