How much sleep a person needs varies from person to person. The number of hours you sleep is not as important as how you feel when you wake up. If you do not feel refreshed, you probably need more sleep.
Feeling tired during the daytime is another sign you are not getting enough sleep. Talk to a doctor if you are sleepy during the day and this gets in the way of the normal things you do. It's especially important that you do not drive or use machinery while you are drowsy.
The average total nightly sleep time is 7½ to 8 hours. Healthy adults can require anywhere from 4 to 10 hours of sleep. Many times, simple home treatment can help you get the sleep you need.
If your sleep problem does not require a visit to your doctor, establish a routine to promote good sleep habits:
- Set a bedtime and time to get up, and stick to them, even on weekends. This will help your body get used to a regular sleep time.
- Get regular exercise but not within 3 to 4 hours of your bedtime.
- Wind down toward the end of the day. Don't take on problem-solving conversations or challenging activities in the evening.
- Take a warm bath before bed.
- Keep your bedroom dark, cool, and quiet.
- Remove distractions, such as a clock, telephone, or radio, from your bedroom.
- Use a humidifier or "white noise" machine to block out background noise in your bedroom throughout the night.
- Try using a sleep mask and earplugs at night.
- If you take medicine that may be stimulating, such as antihistamines, decongestants, or asthma medicines, take them as long before bedtime as possible.
- Reserve the bedroom for sleeping and sexual activities so that you come to associate it with sleep. Go to another room to read, watch television, or eat.
- After getting into bed, make a conscious effort to let your muscles relax. Imagine yourself in a peaceful, pleasant scene. For more information, see the topic Stress Management.
When you can't get to sleep, try the following:
- If you are still awake after 15 or 20 minutes, get up and read in dim light or do a boring task until you feel drowsy. Don't lie in bed and think about how much sleep you're missing or watch TV.
Avoid activities that might keep you from a good night's sleep:
- Do not take naps during the day, especially in the evening.
- Do not drink or eat caffeine after 3:00 p.m. This includes coffee, tea, cola drinks, and chocolate.
- Do not smoke or use other tobacco products. Nicotine can disrupt sleep and reduce total sleep time. Smokers report more daytime sleepiness and minor accidents than do nonsmokers, especially in younger age groups. For more information, see the topic Quitting Smoking.
- Avoid drinking alcohol. It may make you sleepy but also will probably wake you up after a short time.
Try a nonprescription medicine, such as Nytol, Sleep-Eze, or Sominex. Use nonprescription medicines wisely since they can cause daytime confusion, memory loss, and dizziness. Continued use of sleeping pills may actually increase your sleeplessness (rebound insomnia). If you take any prescription medicines, talk with your doctor before trying any nonprescription sleep medicines.
Melatonin is a popular herbal remedy for sleep problems. Experts disagree about its usefulness for sleep problems. Before using any treatment, it is important to consider the risks and benefits of the treatment. For more information, see the topic Melatonin.
If you have several nights of trouble sleeping, review all of your prescription and nonprescription medicines with your doctor or pharmacist to determine whether the medicines you take could be the cause of your sleep problem.
You may have sleep problems after traveling (jet lag), especially if you change time zones.
Symptoms to watch for during home treatment
Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:
- Your sleep problem becomes worse.
- Your sleep problem lasts longer than 4 weeks.
- Your symptoms become more severe or frequent.