- Diseases, Disorders & Conditions
How to Get a Good Night's Sleep - Preventing Insomnia
Set yourself up to sleep well.
Do you get the recommended six to nine hours of sleep on most nights? There are some simple things you can do to make it more likely that you'll get a good night's sleep.
Use your bedroom only for relaxing activities such as sleep, sex, relaxing music, and bedtime reading of that favorite book. Keep distractions like TV's and cell phones out of the bedroom. If your bedroom is a place you associate with sleep and other pleasant, relaxing things, you'll be setting yourself up for sleep whenever you are there.
Make your bedroom dark, cool, and quiet. In a very dark room, your body's pineal gland makes more melatonin, which induces drowsiness and has the side benefit of being an antioxidant which may fight cancer.
At least on weekdays, go to bed and get up at the same time each day. This way you will train your body so falling asleep and getting up are easier.
Exercising each day can make sleeping easier, but make sure you do the exercise at least three hours before bedtime because exercise tends to wake you up in the short term.
Avoid caffeine after noon. Half of the stimulant caffeine you drink will be in your body twelve hours later.
Alcohol may help you fall asleep, but as it leaves your body you'll be likely to wake up while you'd rather still be sleeping. Alcohol is not a good sleep aid.
Try to avoid nicotine within two hous of bedtime.
Keep naps brief. Long naps can interfere with your ability to fall asleep at night.
A good nightcap is a glass of warm milk with 1/2 tsp. of powdered ginger stirred in. The milk contains tryptophan, a pre-cursor of the relaxing neurtransmitter serotonin. Ginger has the side-effect of drowsiness, which you can use to your benefit. If you are on blood-thinners, skip the ginger, as it may promote bleeding.
Another sleep trick I use if I want to get to sleep earlier than usual occasionally is to take 3 mg. of the hormone melatonin at bedtime. More than this can cause daytime drowsiness. Don't operate machinery for 4-5 hours after taking melatonin. Melatonin is only known to be safe for short-term use. Melatonin can raise blood pressure in people taking nifedipine and make seizures more likely. This hormone is not safe in pregnancy, breast-feeding women, and children. Melatonin can raise blood sugar. Melatonin might slow blood clotting. This sleep-inducer might make depression worse. Melatonin supplements tend to work better in older people possibly because they have lower natural levels of melatonin.
I tend to avoid antihistamines (in OTC sleep aids) because of drowsiness the next day. There are many prescription sleep aids, most of which are best used short term (to re-balance a sleep cycle) because they can be addicting. As of June 2014, benzodiazepines and z-drugs have been associated with an excess of deaths amounting to about 1 in 25 people who takes them.
If you have slept eight hours and awake feeling tired, you should check with your doctor about medical conditions like sleep apnea or depression.
Most info on melatonin is from Medline Plus at nlm.nih.gov. Most other sleep tips are from Harvard Medical School. Ginger tip came from a counselor and was verified on Medline Plus.