Suggestions for a Good Night’s Sleep
John Preston, Ph.D.
Difficulty falling asleep,
fitful sleep, and early morning awakenings are troublesome on their own. But in
the absence of a good night’s rest, we also wake up irritable, fatigued,
depressed and with poorer cognitive functioning. “Deep Sleep”(slow or
delta-wave sleep) is necessary for the manufacture of important
neurotransmitters that keep us alert and happy. The suggestions below are known
to help one fall asleep and have sufficient deep sleep.
- Go outdoors in the bright
light for 10 minutes each morning. This helps regulate the circadian rhythm.
- If you do not happen to
sleep well, do not try to sleep in or take a nap during the day. By evening,
you’ll be ready to make up for the lost sleep.
- Daily exercise helps one
sleep better and deeper.
- Choose a regular sleep
schedule and keep to it. This helps keep the circadian rhythm (24hr
sleep-wake cycle) stable.
- Avoid large meals lat at
night. Digestion keeps some people up.
- Avoid stressful activities
in the evening hours. Don’t pay bills, watch an “intense” movie, etc.
- Have an evening “sleep
routine” that prepares you for sleep.
- Dim the lights in the
evening before bed.
- “De-activating” your mind
is helpful. Reading a boring book or watching a boring movie before bed can
- Unnoticed muscle tension can
inhibit falling asleep. A warm bath or Jacuzzi an hour before bed can help.
Systematic Muscle relaxation recordings are helpful as well.
- Ruminations can be “let go
of” by writing them down or recording them before bed.
- Preserve bed only for sleep
(and sex); avoiding reading, phone calls, TV, etc., will train you to
anticipate sleep when you’re in bed.
- Turn down the thermostat or
open a window. You might have to add covers to your bed. Most people sleep
better when it’s cool (60-70 degrees).
- If you are too warm, try
less covers or run the air conditioning.
- Avoid any caffeine. Even if
taken before 12 noon, it greatly reduces deep sleep.
- Nicotine is a stimulant.
Quitting smoking will help your sleep.
- Do not drink alcohol before
bed. While it may help you fall asleep initially, it greatly reduces deep
- Do not take minor
tranquilizers (such as Xanax, Valium, etc.) to get to sleep. Besides the
problem of habituation and addiction, they greatly reduce the amount of deep
- Sonata and Ambien are better
sleep agents as they are in your system only 1 and 2 hours respectively.
- Antihistamines, such as
benedryl, facilitate sleep also, but may lead to weight gain.
- Over the counter Melatonin,
taken at bedtime may help you fall asleep. But over the counter preparations
tend be 2-5 mg which is toxic and interferes with deep sleep.
- If you want to try Melatonin,
take ½ mg at 6 pm. You may not notice any effect, but it helps reset the
circadian rhythm and prepares you for sleep
- Do not use Sudafed or nasal
decongestants at night. They tend to inhibit deep sleep.
- Pain can keep one awake.
Use analgesics (Tylenol, aspirin, Advil) or consult your doctor.
- With menopause, treatment of
the hot flashes will usually stop the sleeplessness.
- 4% of adults and 20% of
seniors have sleep apnea. If your partner says you snore
and you don’t feel rested during the daytime, you
might want to have yourself checked.
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