Tips to Promote Sleep

Maintain a regular bed and wake time schedule including on the weekends.

Our sleep-wake cycle is regulated by a “circadian clock” in our brain and the body’s need to balance both sleep time and wake time. A regular wake time in the morning strengthens the circadian function and can help your ability to fall asleep at night.

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Establish a regular, relaxing bedtime routine such as soaking in a hot bath, reading a book, or listening to soothing music.

Excitement, stress or anxiety can make it more difficult to fall asleep or get quality sleep. Avoid arousing activities before bedtime such as working, playing video games or paying bills.

Create a sleep-conducive environment that is dark, quiet, comfortable and cool.

Consider using blackout curtains, eye shades, ear plugs, “white noise,” humidifiers and fans.

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Sleep on a comfortable mattress.

The average lifespan for a good quality mattress is about 9 -10 years.

Use your bedroom only for sleep and intimacy.

This strengthens the association between your bed and sleep.  Leave work materials and electronics out of the bedroom.

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Finish eating at least 2-3 hours before your regular bedtime.

Eating or drinking too much can negatively affect your sleep. Some people find that a light snack is helpful but avoid heavy or greasy foods.

Exercise regularly.

Late afternoon exercise is the perfect way to help you fall asleep. Do not exercise within 3 hours of your bed time so you can allow your body time to cool down and relax.

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Avoid caffeine (e.g., coffee or soft drinks) close to bedtime.

Caffeine is a stimulant and typically remains in the body for 3 to 5 hours, but it can affect some people longer. Caffeine is found in coffee, chocolate, soft drinks, energy drinks, and some medications.

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Avoid nicotine (e.g., cigarettes or tobacco products).

Nicotine is also a stimulant. When smokers go to sleep, they experience withdrawal symptoms that can cause sleep problems.

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Avoid alcohol close to bedtime.

Although many people think of alcohol as a sedative, it only helps you fall asleep, it may cause you to frequently awaken during the night. Avoid alcohol 4-6 hours before bed.

Refrain from using technology before bed.

Turn off these devices at least 30 minutes before you lay down for bed. The artificial, or blue, light emitted by these devices reduces the production of the “sleepy” hormone, melatonin.

Set aside time for active worry/planning and active relaxation.

Condition yourself to avoid taking the troubles of the day to bed. If you have a lot of things on your mind, make a written list of them and what you plan to do. List making is an excellent stress reducing strategy and can promote sleep. Then just prior to bed time, try to do something enjoyable and relaxing.

What happens when you don’t get good sleep

• Impaired reaction time, judgment & vision

• Problems with information processing & short-term memory

• Decreased performance, vigilance & motivation

• Increased moodiness & aggressive behaviors

• Increased “microsleeps” – brief (2/3 seconds) sleep episodes

How to promote quality sleep at home

LIGHT

• Darken the bedroom & bathroom.

• Install light blocking & sound absorbing curtains or shades.

• Wear an eye mask.

SOUND

• Wear ear plugs or use a white noise machine or fan.

• Install carpeting & drapes to absorb sound.

Sleep Across the Lifespan

NEWBORNS

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Their sleep consist of 2 stages-50% “quiet or non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep” and 50% “active or rapid eye movement (REM)sleep”

They typically sleep 16-17 hours during a 24-hour period with frequent awakenings for feeding.

INFANTS

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By 6 months of age, many infants are capable of sleeping through the night and 70-80% will do so by 9 months of age. They typically sleep 9-12 hours during the night and will take 30-minute to 2 hour naps, 1-4 times a day—fewer as they reach the one-year mark.

PRESCHOOLERS

Preschoolers typically sleep 11-13 hours each night and most give up taking a nap by 5 years of age. Difficulty falling asleep and nighttime awakenings are common as many preschoolers resist going to sleep.  Some children in this age group have a “second wind” if not put to bed when they are physiologically sleepy. During the night and with further development of imagination, nighttime fears and nightmares are common as well as sleepwalking and night terrors.

SCHOOL-AGE

Children ages 5 to 12 need 10-11 hours of sleep, while at the same time there is an increasing demand on their time from school (e.g. homework), social activities and sports as well as other extracurricular activities. In addition, children become more interested in TV, computers, the media and internet as well as using caffeine products – all of which can lead to difficulty falling asleep, nightmares and disruptions to their sleep. 

Children who are overweight/obese or have medical problems such as headaches, stomachaches, allergies, growing pains, or gastroesophageal reflux (heartburn) may have symptoms that interrupt sleep.  As a result of these disruptions and medical conditions, many are sleep deprived, which can lead to mood swings, behavioral problems such as hyperactivity and cognitive problems that impact on their ability to learn in school.

ADOLESCENTS

Need about 9 hours of sleep for optimal health, emotional well-being, and cognitive functioning. They often experience delayed sleep phase syndrome which means they can’t go to sleep until later at night and prefer to sleep later in the morning.

Frequently adolescents do not get the recommended amount of sleep.

ADULTS

Generally, need 7-9 hours of sleep. They are prone to advanced sleep phase syndrome which is becoming sleepy earlier in the evening and wake earlier in the morning. Adults may experience an increase in sleep disorders.

65 and OLDER

Require at least 6 hours of sleep especially if naps become more common. Illness and medications can affect the quality of sleep in this age group. Elderly adults are most prone to advanced sleep phase syndrome.