Your Sleep Checklist

Getting a good night's rest is good for your body and your mind. Use these tips to wake up refreshed:

  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
  • Create a relaxing bedtime routine to get your body and mind ready to sleep.
  • Stop working on any task an hour before bedtime, and avoid talking about stressful or emotional issues in bed.
  • Make your bedroom dark, quiet, cool, and comfortable. Use earplugs or a sleep mask if you need to.
  • Skip caffeinated beverages within 6 to 8 hours of bedtime.
  • Don't smoke. Nicotine is a stimulant, which can keep you up.
  • Avoid eating big meals close to bedtime -- especially spicy foods, which may cause heartburn.
  • Exercise at least 20 minutes each day, but try to do it at least 6 hours before bedtime.
  • Can't sleep? Read or listen to soft music. Skip the TV, tablet, and smartphone.
  • Start a sleep diary to track what affects your rest.
  • Move the computer and TV out of your bedroom so they don't distract you. Don't just swap in your tablet or phone; their lights and distractions can keep you up late.
  • Make it a priority to get at least 7 hours of sleep every night.
  • If you nap, keep it short (20-30 minutes) and not close to bedtime. Late-day naps can lead to sleepless nights.
  • Use your bed only for sleep and sex.
  • Stop drinking alcohol at least 3 hours before bed so it doesn't wake you up later.
  • Consider moving your pet out of your bed, and maybe out of your bedroom.
  • Wear sunscreen and spend time in the sunlight. But avoid bright lights close to bedtime.

If you still can't sleep well after doing all of these things, talk to your doctor about your next steps.

Other Things to Consider

Snoring. If you snore, you can buy special strips to go over your nose (or sometimes inside your nose) that may help you breathe more easily. It might also help to raise the head of your bed, either with a wedge pillow or with risers. You can also do this with special motorized, adjustable bed frames. 

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Over-the-counter sleep aids. Even though you can get these sleep aids without a prescription, it’s best to talk to your doctor about regular use. There may be some risk because of certain medical conditions or other medications that you take. OTC sleep aids typically contain antihistamines (diphenhydramine and doxylamine). With regular use, your body can build a resistance to these medications. There are also possible side effects like daytime grogginess, blurred vision, dry mouth, and problems going to the bathroom.

Supplements. Over-the-counter supplements that claim to help with sleep don’t go through the same careful testing that FDA-approved medicines get. In general, there’s not enough research to know if they work and whether they’re safe.

When to call your doctor. If you still can't sleep well or you’re really tired during the day, even after following this checklist, it may be time to talk to your doctor. You may have a treatable sleep problem like sleep apnea, a serious cause of interrupted breathing during sleep, or some other treatable illness.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Sabrina Felson, MD on October 18, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

American Academy of Sleep Medicine: "Two Week Sleep Diary."

Medscape Education: "Consequences of Nighttime Heartburn: QoL and Sleep Disturbances: Nighttime Heartburn and Sleep Disturbances -- Issues in Prevalence and Quality of Life."

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: "Your Guide to Healthy Sleep."

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: "Brain Basics: Understanding Sleep."

National Sleep Foundation: "Diet, Exercise and Sleep," "Healthy Sleep Tips," "How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?" "Let Sleep Work for You."

Psychology Today: "Get Fido His Own Bed."

Roehrs, T. Sleep Medicine Review, 2007.

Drake, C. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, Nov. 15, 2013.

ScienceDaily: "Dog Tired? It Could Be Your Pooch."

The Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide: "Insomnia: Restoring Restful Sleep."

Sleep Foundation: “Are Natural Sleep Aids Safe?”

Harvard Medical School Division of Sleep Medicine: “An Overview of Sleep Disorders.”

Mayo Clinic: “Sleep aids: Understand over-the-counter options.”

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