How to Sleep Better
'Sleep Hygiene' Solutions for Better Sleep
Social or Recreational Drugs
Social or recreational drugs like caffeine, nicotine, and
alcohol may have a larger impact on your sleep than you realize. Caffeine,
which can stay in your system as long as 14 hours, increases the number of
times you awaken at night and decreases the total amount of sleep time. This
may subsequently affect daytime anxiety and performance. The effects of
nicotine are similar to those of caffeine, with a difference being that at low
doses, nicotine tends to act as a sedative, while at high doses it causes
arousals during sleep.
Alcohol may initially sedate you, making it easier to fall
asleep; however, as it is metabolized and cleared from your system during
sleep, it causes arousals that can last as long as two to three hours after it
has been eliminated. These arousals disturb sleep, often causing intense
dreaming, sweating, and headache. Smoking while drinking caffeine and alcohol
can interact to affect your sleep dramatically. These sleep disturbances may be
most apparent upon awakening, feeling unrefreshed, groggy, or hungover.
It is important to realize that not getting the proper amount
of and the best quality sleep may have serious short-term and long-term
consequences. Many studies have shown that sleep deprivation adversely affects
performance and alertness.
Reducing sleep by as little as one and a half hours for just
one night reduces daytime alertness by about one-third. Excessive daytime
sleepiness impairs memory and the ability to think and process information, and
carries a substantially increased risk of sustaining an occupational injury.
Long-term sleep deprivation from sleep disorders like apnea have recently been
implicated in high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke.
All that said, here are some sleep hygiene tips to help
you relax, fall asleep, stay asleep, and get better sleep so that you wake up
refreshed and alert.
1. Avoid watching TV, eating, and discussing emotional
issues in bed. The bed should be used for sleep and sex only. If not, we can
associate the bed with other activities and it often becomes difficult to fall
2. Minimize noise, light, and temperature extremes
during sleep with ear plugs, window blinds, or an electric blanket or air
conditioner. Even the slightest nighttime noises or luminescent lights can
disrupt the quality of your sleep. Try to keep your bedroom at a comfortable
temperature -- not too hot (above 75 degrees) or too cold (below 54
3. Try not to drink fluids after 8 p.m. This may reduce
awakenings due to urination.
4. Avoid naps, but if you do nap, make it no more than
about 25 minutes about eight hours after you awake. But if you have problems
falling asleep, then no naps for you.