5 Tips to Getting a Good Night's Sleep with Quality Rest

A good night’s sleep is essential to maintain prime physical and mental health.

Unfortunately, says sleep specialist Ambrose Chiang, MD, too many Americans today don’t get enough sleep.

“We are a sleep-deprived society,” Dr. Chiang says. “Although we are all different in terms of our sleep needs, adults should generally get at least seven hours of sleep every night.”

Quality sleep can be thwarted by:

  • Physical conditions, such as sleep apnea and other sleep disorders
  • Medical illnesses, including acid reflux and chronic pain
  • Medications, such as corticosteroids and beta blockers
  • Environmental factors, such as a snoring bed partner
  • Mental disturbances, including worry and stress
  • Age because, as you grow older, your sleep tends to become lighter and more fragmented, especially during the second half of the night
  • Hot flashes, which can interrupt the sleep of women during menopause

How to Practice Good Sleep Hygiene

Practicing good sleep hygiene, Dr. Chiang suggests, can help resolve some of the problems that prevent quality sleep. To sleep well, he offers these five tips:

Avoid excessive light and electronics at bedtime. Your bed should be reserved for sleep and sex – not for watching television or using cell phones and iPads to browse the web, Dr. Chiang says.

“TV in the bedroom is a bad idea for adults and children,” he says. “It's natural for your body to sleep in the dark, like it was before electricity. Television is often bright and noisy. Try to have a technology-free sleep environment. This is particularly important for children and teenagers as they develop their sleep routine.”

Create a regular sleep schedule and a good sleep environment. Other sleep hygiene components include a regular sleep schedule and awakening time, as well as a good sleep environment.

A common environmental dilemma is a bed partner who snores loudly.

“If your partner is keeping you awake by loud, irregular snoring, obstructive sleep apnea may be a concern,” Dr. Chiang says. “This is something that can be corrected. You should go with your partner to a doctor to discuss treatment options.”

Generally, a cool room tends to be more conducive to good sleep than a hot room.

“But a warm bath before bed may be a good way to relax and help you to fall asleep,” he says. “A bedtime routine can also help to get your body ready for sleep. A warm, non-caffeinated beverage, like a glass of milk, can be soothing and relaxing before bedtime."

But if you suffer from acid reflux, it's better to avoid food within three hours before you go to sleep, Dr. Chiang says.

Avoid caffeine, alcohol and tobacco. Most people know that evening caffeine can keep you up at night. But what many people don’t realize is how long caffeine stays in your body. The half-life of caffeine can be from three to seven hours. This means you can drink a cup of coffee at 10 a.m., and by bedtime, you may still have a significant amount of caffeine in your body.

Nightcaps should be avoided, as alcohol is known to be a contributor to sleep apnea, Dr. Chiang says.

“Alcohol late in the evening can also cause fragmented sleep, especially during the second half of the night" he says. "Tobacco use disturbs sleep as well.”

Avoid long daytime naps. A short 10- to 15-minute nap or a power nap for just a few minutes in the early afternoon can provide a surprisingly refreshing boost to a person’s alertness. But be careful not to nap too long.

“After 20 to 30 minutes, you can go into a deep sleep, which can make it hard to fall asleep that night,” he says. “It’s similar to eating a big snack before dinner and making your body less hungry at dinnertime. Staying awake throughout the day creates a drive that tells your body to go to sleep at night.”

Schedule a “worry time” in the early evening. Worry and stress are major contributors to insomnia.

“Some people can't stop their mind when it’s time to sleep,” Dr. Chiang says. “Either they ruminate and can’t fall asleep, or they wake up early in the morning worrying and can’t go back to sleep.

If you have a tendency to worry about things, reserve yourself a 30-minute worry time in the earlier evening to plan for the next day. This may clear your worries so you can sleep better at night, Dr. Chiang says.

Finally, Dr. Chiang says, obstructive sleep apnea, during which a person’s airway collapses and causes breathing to stop, can cause insomnia. It's associated with serious health risks, including cardiovascular diseases and metabolic disorders.

“Your doctor or a sleep specialist can suggest a variety of treatments to stop sleep apnea,” he says. “If you feel that you’re not getting good sleep, you may want to discuss it with your family doctor. If your primary care physician isn't able to help, he or she can refer you to a sleep specialist.”

Ambrose Chiang, MD, is a sleep medicine specialist, Director of Sleep Medicine and Associate Division Director of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center. You can request an appointment with Dr. Chiang or any other doctor online.

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