Better Sleep by Labor Day

WebMD tells you how to combat insomnia during the lazy, hazy days of summer -- and beyond.

From the WebMD Archives


The program is divided into two parts, the first of which discusses key culprits to disordered sleep that you can do something about right here, right now, Breus tells WebMD. Each section offers quizzes to identify problems and action plans to solve them.

Culprit 1: Anxiety

"Anxiety can prevent sleep and even if you get sleep, it may not be quality sleep," he says. After you hit the sack, try counting backwards from 300 by 3's, he advises. "This forces you to focus so you can't think about things that make you anxious."

Culprit 2: Caffeine

"Drink responsibly," Breus urges, which translates to less than 300 milligrams of caffeine or 3.5 to 4 cups of "regular" brewed coffee a day. Keep in mind that soft drinks, chocolate, and even some medications contain hidden caffeine. And not all cups of coffee are created equal: A grande Starbucks coffee packs a whooping 550-milligram jolt, for example.

Culprit 3: Being a Woman

"Women, in particular, experience an enormous array of fluctuating hormones throughout their lives -- from puberty to menopausemenopause -- that can affect sleep patterns," he says.

The program suggests action plans for each stage of life. "If night sweats are a big issue in menopause, for example, you can stay cool by keeping a damp cloth and an extra set of clothes near the bed," Breus says. In fact, this strategy can help men and women alike when a summertime heat wave strikes.

Culprit 4: Children or Bed Partner

"If you have a young child, not a night goes by in which sleep is not disrupted," he says. An easy solution is to have one parent on call each evening, allowing the other to get his or her zzz's. If your bed partner snores or likes to read into the wee hours, try earplugs or eyeshades. And if snoringsnoring persists, try getting your mate to a physician who can get at the root of the problem, he says.

Culprit 5: Business Travel

"Business travel demands high performance and stressstress, hectic schedules, heavy meals, and late nights -- all a recipe for poor sleep," Breus writes. He offers strategies for coping, from yoga exercises you can do in your hotel room to airplane seat selection (sitting in the middle of the plane will provide a less bumpy ride).

Part one of the program culminates with the bedroom makeover, which covers everything from silk sheets (add more to the price than the comfort level) to pillow talk (avoid stiff pillows). The section on gadgets, such as white noise machines and relaxation CDs that offer soothing sounds, is very popular, he adds.