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How to Sleep Better: Tips for Patients and Families

Good sleep habits are important for overall health and well-being. Doing certain things help you fall asleep faster, stay asleep, and be more alert during the day. Just like good nutrition and exercise, good sleep habits work best if you do them each day.

Keep a regular sleep schedule.

Go to bed and wake up about the same time every day. School or work days should be about the same as weekends and holidays. Try to stay within one hour of your normal schedule.

Have a consistent, relaxing bedtime routine.

Make the 30 minutes before bed a quiet time. Do not watch TV or use electronic devices. Put away phones, tablets, and game consoles. Avoid exercise and vigorous play near bedtime. Try relaxing activities such as reading a book or listening to soothing music.

Having a a consistent, relaxing bedtime routine, such as reading a book or listening to soothing music, may help you sleep better.

Having a a consistent, relaxing bedtime routine, such as reading a book or listening to soothing music, may help you sleep better.

Create a place that is only for sleeping.

As much as possible, try to make a comfortable, dark, and quiet place for sleep. Keep the bedroom temperature cool, under 70 degrees. Remove electronic devices from the room. Try to limit potential disruptions such as noise or people coming in or out of the room.

Eat a light snack before bed.

Having a light snack before bed can help sleep. Good choices include milk, yogurt, cheese, cereal, crackers, or fresh fruit. Make sure that snacks do not have caffeine or large amounts of sugar. Avoid heavy meals at bedtime. Eating too much before lying down can cause heartburn and interfere with sleep.

Avoid caffeine after 4 p.m. or within 6 hours of bedtime.

Many foods and drinks have caffeine. You probably know that sodas, coffee, tea, and energy drinks often have caffeine. Some juice drinks, gum, and candy bars can also have caffeine. Caffeine can also be found in certain medicines.

Exercise during the day, but avoid vigorous activity at bedtime.

Physical activity during the day can help sleep at night. Try to exercise in the morning or afternoon. Limit intense physical activity at night, especially right before bed.

Get sunlight during the day.

Exposure to sunlight and bright light in the daytime helps set a good sleep/wake rhythm. Increase your exposure to natural light, especially in the morning. Limit bright light at night, and turn off electronic devices 1-2 hours before bedtime.

Plan naps so they don’t get in the way of nighttime sleep.

Many people find that a 20-30 minute nap helps them feel more rested and have more energy. Naps can be especially important for young children and teens who need more sleep. Patients with narcolepsy may be more alert after a brief nap. However, naps can interfere with sleep at night. Do not nap late in the day, and avoid naps if you have trouble falling asleep at night.

Get out of bed instead of tossing and turning.

If you can’t fall asleep after 20-30 minutes, it can help to get up and do a relaxing activity. Read a book, listen to soothing music, drink warm milk, or try deep breathing or meditation. Keep lights low. Do not turn on the TV or use your smartphone or other device. The blue light from electronic devices can make it harder to get back to sleep. Go back to bed when you feel sleepy again.

Answers to Common Sleep Questions

Resources for More Information on Sleep

Reviewed: May 2019