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Rules for Better Sleep
Lawrence Robbins, MD
Posted January 2001

Sleep as much as needed to feel refreshed and healthy during the following day, but not more. Curtailing the time in bed seems to solidify sleep; excessively long times in bed seem related to fragmented and shallow sleep.

A regular awakening time in the morning strengthens circadian cycling and, finally, leads to regular times of sleep onset.

A steady daily amount of exercise probably deepens sleep; occasional exercise does not necessarily improve sleep the following night.

Occasional loud noises (e.g. aircraft flyovers) disturb sleep even in people who are not awakened by noises and cannot remember them in the morning. Sound attenuated bedrooms may help those who must sleep close to noise.

Although excessively warm rooms disturb sleep, there is no evidence that an excessively cold room solidifies sleep.

Hunger may disturb sleep; a light snack may help sleep.

An occasional sleeping pill may be of some benefit, but their chronic use is ineffective in most insomniacs.

Caffeine in the evening disturbs sleep, even in those who feel it does not.

Alcohol helps tense people fall asleep more easily, but the ensuing sleep is then fragmented.

People who feel angry and frustrated because they cannot sleep should not try harder and harder to fall asleep, but should turn on the light and do something different.

The chronic use of tobacco disturbs sleep.

Go to bed only when sleepy.

Use the bed only for sleeping; do not read, watch television or eat in bed.

If unable to sleep, get up and move to another room. Stay up until you are really sleepy, then return to bed. If sleep still does not come easily, get out of bed again. The goal is to associate bed with falling asleep quickly. Repeat this step as often as necessary throughout the night.

Set the alarm and get up at the same time every morning, regardless of how much you slept during the night. This helps the body acquire a constant sleep/wake rhythm.

Do not nap during the day.