PAMF Health Blog

Be Well, Be Well Informed

Your Checklist for a Better Night’s Sleep

Posted on May 17, 2013

Scrabble tiles with the letter Z on them.

Is counting sheep to drift off to sleep not working for you? If that’s so – you’re not alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than a quarter of the U.S. population state that they occasionally don’t get enough sleep, while nearly 10 percent experience chronic insomnia. Insomnia is a medical condition that keeps you from falling asleep, staying asleep or both. While “adequate sleep” varies from person to person, most adults need about seven to eight hours. Nearly everyone experiences insomnia at some point in their lives.

Most people can reduce their number of sleepless nights by changing a few daily habits. To get more Zs, try the following these tips from Palo Alto Medical Foundation sleep specialist Manpreet S. Sanghari, M.D.:

  • Establish a routine sleep schedule. Go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each day, including on weekends.
  • Incorporate a “buffer zone.” Build in a transition time, of about 30 to 60 minutes between your day activities and bedtime, to help you prepare for sleep. Relaxing bedtime routines may include reading, soft music, meditation or prayer. Avoid screen time, including computers, TV, smartphones and tablets, close to bedtime.
  • Manage your stress level. Try to reduce the stressors in your life. Making a list of all the things on your mind earlier in the evening may help to reduce “racing thoughts” at night.
  • Don’t look at the clock at night. Set your alarm and then turn the clock face away from you. Knowing what time it is when you’re awake at night, or knowing that you have to get up soon, may increase your anxiety.
  • Go to bed when you’re sleepy and don’t stay in bed if you’re not sleeping. If you’re unable to sleep for about 15 to 20 minutes, get out of bed and go back to doing a buffer-zone activity.
  • Restrict your sleep. Limit the time you spend in bed trying to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night. The harder you try to get to sleep, the more difficult it may become.
  • Only use your bed for sleeping or sex. Don’t read, watch TV, eat, do work assignments, or use computers or smart phones while in bed.
  • Avoid or limit naps. If you need to nap, do so before 3 p.m. and limit the nap to 30 minutes or less.
  • Avoid or limit caffeine, alcohol and nicotine intake. Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants that worsen insomnia. Alcohol may initially make you drowsy, but it usually causes you to wake up in the middle of the night.
  • Make sure your bedroom and bed are comfortable. Keep the bedroom dark and try to reduce any disturbing sounds. Keep the room temperature comfortable; a cooler bedroom promotes sleep.
  • Get regular exercise. Aim for 20 to 30 minutes of exercise daily, but avoid exercising within four hours before bedtime.
  • Avoid large meals and drinks close to bedtime. Eating and drinking too much and too late can disrupt sleep.

If you try the items on this list and your insomnia persists, consult your physician. Keep a two-week sleep diary outlining your sleep problems and possible triggers, and take it to your appointment. This will help the doctor identify your sleep patterns and habits.

Manpreet S. Sanghari, M.D., PAMF Sleep Medicine

Manpreet S. Sanghari, M.D., PAMF Sleep Medicine

Manpreet S. Sanghari, M.D., is a sleep medicine physician at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation’s Sleep Center in Sunnyvale. Dr. Sanghari is board certified in family medicine and sleep medicine.