Getting a Good Night's Sleep FAQ and Resources

Dr. Asha Singh standing in the Robertson Life Sciences Building
Dr. Asha Singh is a neurologist and the director of the OHSU Brain Institute Sleep Medicine Program.

Good sleep is essential to our health and well-being. Yet about one in three Americans report sleeping less than seven hours a night.

Here are some tips that sleep medicine experts recommend to help you get a good night’s sleep.

Everyone’s needs are different, but experts say most adults need seven to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep to help the body and mind recover each night. Babies and children need more sleep than adults.

Your routines make a difference:

  • Whenever possible, go to bed and wake up at the same time each day.
  • Don’t drink anything right before bed.
  • Slow your body down before bed with reading or another restful routine, such as taking warm shower or bath.
  • Use relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises or meditation to quiet your body, reduce muscle tension and put the day behind you. Find relaxation and mindfulness resources below.

Reduce bright lights and noise. Consider whether your mattress, pillow and bedding are comfortable. Adjust your thermostat and windows for a comfortable room temperature.

Avoid using your bedroom to work on your laptop, watch movies or do other activities not linked to bedtime. Sleep experts recommend that you use your bedroom only for sex and sleeping. This helps your body associate the room with sleep.

It’s best to avoid alcohol for at least an hour before bedtime. Studies suggest that alcohol can help you fall asleep more quickly, and it may help you sleep more deeply for a while.

But, especially after two or more drinks, it may reduce rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. That’s the restorative part of the sleep cycle when we dream. This can leave you drowsy and lacking concentration the next day.

Avoid coffee or other caffeinated drinks for several hours before bed. Some experts suggest limiting caffeine after 2 p.m. because it blocks a sleep-inducing chemical in the body.

Experts recommend exercising at least 30 minutes a day to maintain your health. Morning or afternoon exercise can help you get more restful sleep, but exercising within a few hours of bedtime can keep you awake.

Exercise raises your body temperature, speeds your heart rate and stimulates your nervous system, which may disrupt sleep for some people.

Try adjusting your sleep position. Meditation, deep breathing or other relaxation techniques can also help. Counting sheep also works for some people. If you don’t fall asleep in 15 to 30 minutes, don’t lie in bed awake. Go into another dimly lit room and read or listen to music until you feel tired.

Over-the-counter products can be effective and safe for insomnia in some cases. Doctors warn against relying on them for weeks or months at a time, though. Check with your doctor about possible side effects for specific products. Some “natural” products for sleeplessness may be effective, but most have not been rigorously tested.

Make sure your bedroom can be darkened, and reduce noise as much as possible. Turn off the phone. Let friends and neighbors know not to bother you during the time you need to sleep. Make arrangements for child care if necessary, and try to eliminate other distractions that could disrupt a full sleep cycle.

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