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12 Tips to Avoid Daytime Sleepiness

6. Exercise.

Regular exercise (30 minutes a day on most days) offers multiple benefits for sleep. Exercise, especially aerobic exercise, generally makes it easier to fall asleep and sleep more soundly.

Exercise also gives you more daytime energy and keeps your thinking sharp. And if you exercise outside in daylight, you get still more benefits. Sleep experts recommend 30 minutes of exposure to sunlight a day because daylight helps regulate our sleep patterns. 

7. De-clutter your schedule.

“If you don’t think you can allow seven or eight hours for sleep, then you need to look at your schedule and make some adjustments,” says Verceles. “Move some activities from nighttime to early evening or from early to late morning.” Try to eliminate tasks that aren’t really important. Getting enough sleep at night will help you function better during your remaining activities.

8. Don’t go to bed until you’re sleepy.

If you go to bed when you’re just tired, you probably won’t be able to fall asleep, Krakow says. “Distinguish between the feeling of sleepiness and being tired. Get into bed when you’re sleepy -- eyes droopy, you’re drowsy, you feel like you’re nodding off. It’s a very different kind of feeling.”

9. Don’t nap late in the day.

Late afternoon napping can make daytime sleepiness worse if because it can interfere with nighttime sleep.

10. Create a relaxing bedtime ritual.

A relaxation routine before bedtime can help you separate from the day -- especially from activities that are over-stimulating or stressful, making it difficult to sleep. Try meditation, soaking in a hot bath, listening to soothing music, or reading a book. A cup of herbal tea or warm milk can also be soothing, but skip those if they cause you to wake at night to go to the bathroom.

11. Avoid "nightcaps."

People often think that alcohol helps sleep, but it actually robs you of deep sleep, which is essential for feeling well rested. When the effects of alcohol wear off during the night, you’ll probably be wide awake again.

12. See a sleep specialist.

Daytime sleepiness can be caused by sleep disorders. If you are excessively sleepy consistently during the day even when you sleep well or if you fall asleep without warning during daily activities, you may have a sleep disorder such as narcolepsy or sleep apnea, a breathing problem that occurs during sleep. According to Krakow, undiagnosed and untreated sleep disorders are probably the greatest cause of daytime fatigue and sleepiness.

Problem sleepiness can also be caused by certain illnesses and medications. And mental conditions such as depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, and anxiety are very commonly linked to sleep problems.

A sleep specialist can design a treatment program for you that treats the underlying sleep disorder and helps you develop better sleep habits and attitudes though cognitive behavioral therapy. Sometimes it takes a combination of medication and behavioral therapy to eliminate daytime sleepiness, but it can be done.

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Reviewed on April 30, 2013
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