As humans, we spend about one-third of our lives asleep. Though science has taught us about the human brain’s exquisite control of our daily sleep and wake patterns, tens of millions of Americans still don’t get the sleep they need. Nearly 20% of American adults report using a sleep medication to help them sleep, despite known side effects and information about how well they really work. Some people turn to alcohol for relief. And many have tried everything without relief.
Whether your problem is experiencing lack of quality sleep, feeling sleepy during the day, or not being able to get the seven to nine hours of sleep each night that most people need, first ask yourself, “What habits can I change to improve my sleep?”
Do you have good sleep hygiene? In general, sleep hygiene refers to practicing behaviors that promote sleep and stopping behaviors that are bad for sleep:
Nighttime tips to help with sleep
- Get up at the same time every day, even on the weekends. A regular wake time helps to set your body’s natural clock (circadian rhythm) by making sure you do not oversleep. Sleeping in too much can impact your ability to fall and stay asleep the next night, or the night after that.
- Create a comfortable sleep environment: a place that is cool, dark, and quiet.
- Use your bed for sleep and sex only. Doing other activities in bed will train your brain into thinking that activities other than sleep are appropriate in bed.
- Avoid or limit caffeine. Caffeine can make you more alert during the day, but many people are sensitive to its effects. Even one or two cups in the early part of the day can disrupt your sleep at night.
What if I work multiple jobs or do shift work?
Sometimes there are factors that impact our sleep that we can’t control. If you work shifts, strategies such as taking naps before evening shifts, and minimizing light exposure when coming off evening shifts and planning to sleep, may help.
Dr. Bertisch will present “Understanding the Role of Non-Pharmacologic Treatments in Insomnia” at the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine Grand Rounds at Brigham and Women’s Hospital
his may be a sign that you have a clinical sleep problem, such as insomnia disorder or sleep apnea. If you are doing all the right things and practicing good sleep hygiene, and still have trouble falling or staying asleep, you may need to see a sleep specialist.