Neurology, Neuromuscular Disorders,
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Helpful Hints to Help You Sleep

Source: Searle, 1994

These tips will help most individuals but not everyone. If you still have difficulty sleeping after following these suggestions, see your physician. The cause of your sleeping difficulty may be serious enough to warrant medical attention.

Your personal habits

  • For several hours before bedtime, avoid alcohol; beverages with caffeine; chocolate, heavy, spicy, sugary or sugar-filled foods; and smoking. They can affect your ability to fall asleep or enjoy deep sleep.
  • Regular exercise, particularly in the afternoon, can help deepen sleep. However, strenuous exercise right before sleep may prevent you from falling asleep.
  • Restrict fluids right before bed.
  • Try to establish a schedule where you go to sleep and get up at the same times every day. This will put your body into a good "sleep-wake rhythm."

Your sleeping environment

  • Bedding that is uncomfortable can prevent good sleep. Evaluate whether or not this is a source of your problem, and make appropriate changes.
  • If your bedroom is too cold or too hot, it can keep you awake. Find a comfortable temperature setting for sleeping, and keep the room well ventilated.
  • Block out all distracting noise, and eliminate as much light as possible.
  • Use your bed for sleep and sex and not as an office or recreation room. Let your body "know" that the bed is associated with sleeping.

Getting ready for sleep

  • Warm milk and foods such as bananas are high in the amino acid tryptophan, which may help you sleep.
  • Relaxation techniques before retiring may relieve anxiety and reduce muscle tension. Leave your worries about job or family for another time.
  • Presleep rituals such as a warm bath or a few minutes of reading can help you.
  • Get into your favorite sleeping position. If you don't fall asleep within 15 to 30 minutes, get up, go into another room, and read or watch TV until sleepy.

Other factors

  • Several physical reasons are known to upset sleep, such as arthritis, heartburn, menstruation, headache, and hot flashes. Sleeping difficulties also are associated with psychological factors such as depression, stress, and concern or worry about problems. Your physician can help determine the problem and best treatments.
  • Many medications can cause sleeplessness as a side effect. Ask your doctor or pharmacists about this possibility.
  • To help overall improvement in sleep patterns, sleep medications may be prescribed by your physician for short-term relief of sleep problems. Always follow the advice of your physician and other healthcare professionals. The goal is to rediscover how to sleep naturally.