Mercy Regional Health Center
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Tips for Getting a Good Night's Sleep

Daytime performance depends on adequate, restorative sleep the night before. How can you improve your chances of obtaining adequate sleep? The answer is proper sleep hygiene. Here are some tips to better sleep hygiene and, therefore, better sleep:

1. Observe a regular bedtime and awakening time.
2. 
Establish a bedtime ritual.
3. 
Reduce or eliminate caffeine and nicotine intake.
4. 
Exercise.
5. 
Create a sleep-friendly environment.
6. 
Utilize the bed and bedroom for intimacy and sleep only.
7. 
Take a warm bath before bed.
8. 
Do not take naps during the day.
9. 
Do not drink alcoholic beverages in the evening.


Observe a regular bedtime and awakening time.
Establishing a schedule for sleep is very important. The best way to do this is to establish a "bedtime," then allow yourself to sleep until you spontaneously awaken. Do this every night for a week or two (great thing to do during a vacation). This exercise will help you establish exactly how much sleep you need.

For the sake of discussion, let's say the average sleep time was 8 hours.

Now determine what time you need to wake up in the morning. Be sure to consider how much time you need to get yourself ready for work. Let's say this is 7 a.m.

Now calculate back eight hours from 7 a.m., meaning that 11 p.m. would be an appropriate bedtime for optimal sleep.

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Establish a bedtime ritual.
This step is especially necessary for children. Establish a routine for preparing to go to bed, and follow it every night. This readies the mind and body for sleep.
 
Bedtime rituals should be calming activities such as reading or listening to relaxing music.

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Reduce or eliminate caffeine and nicotine intake.
Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants that can stay in the body for hours. Sensitivity to the effects of caffeine can last as long as 8 to 14 hours. There is no "normal" amount of caffeine that can be consumed without affecting sleep. The best practice for caffeine consumers is to limit caffeine consumption as much as possible and to avoid drinking caffeine close to nighttime.
 
If you are experiencing disturbed sleep, it's best to eliminate caffeine consumption for a period of 6 to 10 weeks. If the sleep issues continue, then seek medical advice.
 
Many view the act of smoking a cigarette as a relaxing practice, however the nicotine inhaled actually "revs up" the body and can reduce the efficiency of sleep.

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Exercise.
Vigorous exercise 3 to 4 hours prior to bedtime will enhance the quality of your sleep. Exercising too close to bedtime, however, may make it more difficult to initiate sleep.

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Create a sleep-friendly environment.
Be sure the sleep environment is quiet, dark and comfortable, making it conducive to sleep. The room should be at a comfortable, cool temperature.
 
Use dark shades, curtains or drapes to block out any light that may interfere with your sleep. This tip is especially applicable for shift workers who must sleep during the day. Eye shades or masks can also work to block out light.
 
The room should be quiet. Although many people like to fall asleep with the radio or TV on, it's most effective if they are turned off prior to falling asleep. Many TVs and radios now have sleep controls, which will automatically turn the appliance off at a preset interval. Utilizing this feature is better that leaving the unit on while sleeping.
 
If you sleep in a noisy environment, it may be beneficial to use a white noise machine.

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Utilize the bed and bedroom for intimacy and sleep only.
Sometimes the bed and bedroom become an extension of the family room. We watch TV, play and even eat there. To get the best sleep, eliminate these associations. If your mind associates the bedroom or bed with being awake and alert at other times of the day, then when it is bedtime, it will again want to be awake and alert.
 
If you go to bed and are not able to fall asleep within 20 to 30 minutes, get out of bed and read, or do some other relaxing, sleep-inducing activity.
 
It is this association with being awake and alert that allows some insomniacs to fall right to sleep when they are staying overnight in a hotel — even though they would not typically be able to fall asleep so easily in their own bed.

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Take a warm bath before bed.
A warm bath can help you relax and slow down for the evening.

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Do not take naps during the day.
If possible, avoid taking naps, especially in the late afternoon. The ideal sleep practice is to maintain only one continuous sleep period.
 
If you feel like you must nap, a 10- to 20-minute power nap may help you get through the difficult times in mid-afternoon (generally 6 to 8 hours after arising in the morning) when the urge to sleep is high.

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Do not drink alcoholic beverages in the evening.
A nightcap, or a small drink of wine prior to going to bed, has long been thought to ease the process of falling asleep. However, alcohol tends to cause short or unrecognized awakenings during the night. These micro-arousals disrupt sleep and reduce sleep efficiency, creating a less-than-restful sleep.

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Sleep hygiene, much like personal hygiene, is an individual issue. No one can do these things for you. But if you do take the time to follow these nine simple tips you will be on your way to better, more restful sleep.