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12 Tips to Avoid Daytime Sleepiness

By Camille Peri
WebMD Feature

Nearly everyone has days when they feel sleepy. But for some people, excessive sleepiness actually gets in the way of daily work, childcare, and even leisure activities. This is known as hypersomnia, recurrent sleepiness that makes people want to nap repeatedly, even at work.

Not surprisingly, the problem of daytime sleepiness usually starts at night. Even missing just a few nights’ sleep, or not getting enough uninterrupted sleep, can slow you down and sour your mood.

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Poor sleep habits are often the cause of daytime sleepiness. Before you go through any more groggy and crabby days, try these 12 ways to improve nighttime sleep and avoid daytime sleepiness.

1. Get adequate nighttime sleep.

That may sound obvious, but many of us succumb to shaving an hour or two off our sleep time in the morning or at night to do other things. Most adults need seven to nine hours a night, and teenagers usually need a full nine hours. Block out eight or nine hours for sleep every night.

2. Keep distractions out of bed.

“Reserve your bed for sleep and sex,” says Avelino Verceles, MD, assistant professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and director of the school’s sleep medicine fellowship. “You shouldn’t read, watch TV, play video games, or use laptop computers in bed.” Don’t do your bills or have heated discussions in bed either. They may leave you sleepless.

3. Set a consistent wake-up time.

People who have problem sleepiness are often advised to go to bed and get up at the same time every day, including on weekends. But randomly setting an ideal bedtime can lead to more frustration if you suffer from insomnia and already have trouble falling asleep, says Barry Krakow, MD, medical director of Maimonides Sleep Arts and Sciences Ltd. in Albuquerque, N.M., and author of Sound Sleep, Sound Mind: 7 Keys to Sleeping Through the Night.

Instead, Krakow suggests starting out by setting a wake-up time only. “Stick by that for the first few weeks or even months to establish a rhythm,” he says. “That process of always getting up at the same time helps to anchor the circadian rhythm. And if you do that and have a bad night, you’ll also to be sleepier the next bedtime.”

4. Gradually move to an earlier bedtime.

Another approach to getting into a consistent schedule is to try going to bed 15 minutes earlier each night for four nights. Then stick with the last bedtime. Gradually adjusting your schedule like this usually works better than suddenly trying to go to sleep an hour earlier.

5. Set consistent, healthy mealtimes.

Regular mealtimes, not just regular sleep times, help regulate our circadian rhythms. Eating a healthy breakfast and lunch on time -- rather than grabbing a doughnut and coffee in the morning or a late sandwich on the run -- also prevents energy deficits during the day that will aggravate your sleepiness. Plan to finish eating meals two to three hours before bedtime.

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