Follow these tips to establish healthy sleep habits:
-Keep a consistent sleep schedule. Get up at the same time every day, even on weekends or during vacations.
-Set a bedtime that is early enough for you to get at least 7 hours of sleep.
-If you don’t fall asleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed.
-Don’t nap too long or too late in the day.
-Establish a relaxing bedtime routine.
-Use your bed only for sleep and sex.
-Make your bedroom quiet and relaxing. Keep the room at a comfortable, cool temperature.
-Limit exposure to bright light in the evenings, including screens. Bright light at night can confuse the brain and prevent the ramping up of melatonin.
-Turn off electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
-Don’t eat a large meal before bedtime. If you are hungry at night, eat a light, healthy snack.
-Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy diet.
-Avoid consuming caffeine in the late afternoon or evening.
-Don’t consume much alcohol at bedtime. While alcohol can make you sleepy, it is known to interfere with quality of sleep. Allow enough time for your blood alcohol level to drop before bed.
-Reduce your fluid intake before bedtime.
-Don’t check the clock. If the alarm has not gone off…go back to sleep!
More study is needed on the efficacy of supplements marketed to help improve sleep quantity or quality. There is very little evidence supporting use of over-the-counter supplements and some have serious potential side effects. Note that herbal supplements are not regulated by the FDA and do not need to prove they do what they claim to do. Tell your doctor if you take any supplements. Here is a brief word on several common sleep remedies:
Ashwagandha: Some research suggests this root extract may help reduce cortisol levels, stress, and anxiety, which could help some people with sleep. Pregnant and nursing women and individuals with autoimmune or thyroid disease should not take ashwagandha.
Chamomile: This herb is considered safe and may help with relaxation, but more research is needed to prove its effectiveness for insomnia and other sleep disorders. Do not take if you are allergic to ragweed or chrysanthemums, daisies, or sunflowers.
GABA: While low levels of this neurotransmitter are associated with insomnia and disrupted sleep, it cannot cross the blood-brain barrier, so supplements are useless.
Kava-kava: While this plant extract has been shown to have promising anti-anxiety effects and potential value for the treatment of sleep disorders, serious side effects have been reported, including liver failure that in some cases resulted in death.
Lavender: Several studies suggest that aromatherapy with this flower may improve quality of sleep, but oral supplements are less studied and can cause gastrointestinal side effects.
Magnesium: According to some sources, this mineral may have a relaxing effect, but dietary intake from foods like nuts, seeds, legumes, and avocados should provide enough.
Melatonin: This hormone signals your brain that it’s time to sleep. Taking it as a supplement may slightly improve sleep onset and sleep duration, but product quality and efficacy may vary and long-term safety has not been established.
Valerian: This root seems to be relatively safe and may be of some benefit with mild sleep problems, but study results have been mixed—with more negative results than positive. Valerian can interfere with some medications.