How to Get a Good Night’s Sleep

Tired of being tired? If you aren’t getting enough restful sleep, it’s inevitable you will soon feel exhausted and find you aren’t functioning effectively during the day. Plus, an ongoing pattern of inadequate sleep can lead to missed work, irritability and numerous health complications, including diabetes, obesity, depression and difficulties with memory and concentration.

Want to sleep better? Take the following quiz to see what you know about good sleep habits and learn some of the research-based “sleep hygiene” tips for how to get a good night’s sleep.

The “Get a Good Night’s Sleep” Quiz

Answer ‘True’ or ‘False’ for each question:

1) It’s best to go to bed and wake up at about the same times each day.

Answer: True. Keeping a regular sleep schedule helps train your body to sleep better. Also, even if you don’t sleep well, try and stick to your planned daily routine.

2) Everyone needs at least 8 hours of sleep each night.

Answer: False. Sleep needs vary. Most adults require 6 to 8 hours of sleep but some will do fine with around 4 hours and others may need 10 to 12 hours of sleep per night.

3) Having an alcoholic drink or two right before bedtime will make you drowsy and sleep more soundly.

Answer: False. Avoid alcohol for at least 4 to 6 hours before going to bed, since it interrupts the quality of your sleep.

4) Having coffee or cigarettes in the evening can keep you from sleeping.

Answer: True. Both caffeine and nicotine are stimulants, and should be avoided for several hours before bedtime.

5) Use the bed only for sleeping (and sex).

Answer: True. You want your body to associate the bed primarily as a place for sleep. Don’t get in the habit of working, watching hours of TV or doing other non-restful activities in bed.

6) There’s nothing like a big meal at dinnertime to make you sleep better.

Answer: False. Eating a heavy meal soon before bedtime can interrupt your sleep. Always go for a healthy diet and don’t eat a big meal right before you go to bed.

7) If I’m not sleepy when I go to bed, I should get up for a while.

Answer: True. If you haven’t gone to sleep after 20 minutes or so, get up. Go and sit quietly in a darkened room until you feel sleepy or jot down some brief notes if your mind is racing or you are worried. Then go back to bed.

8) Taking naps during the day won’t affect my nighttime sleep.

Anwer: False. Frequent naps in the daytime can disrupt how you sleep at night. Try to eliminate daytime naps, or have only one nap of an hour or less and have it before mid-afternoon.

9) A regular exercise or workout schedule will help me sleep better.

Answer: True. Regular physical activity will improve overall sleep. The one caution is not to exercise strenuously in the 4 hours before bedtime.

10) A simple ritual prior to bedtime can lead to better sleep.

Answer: True. Using simple breathing or relaxation exercises right before bedtime can help remind your body that it’s time for sleep. Also it’s best to avoid stimulating activity just before going to sleep.

11) A nice cool shower before going to bed can lead to drowsiness.

Answer: False. A hot bath or shower 1-2 hours before bedtime is better, as it raises the body’s temperature. As the body cools off, feeling sleepy is associated with the drop in temperature.

12) It can be helpful to keep a diary of your sleep patterns.

Answer: True. Recording your patterns of sleep can be useful in determining areas of difficulty, but only do it for a couple of weeks as too much clock-watching is associated with poorer sleep.

13) Cool, dark and quiet are the best conditions for sleeping.

Answer: True. If the bedroom is too warm, too bright, or too noisy, you won’t sleep as well. Also, try to keep all of your electronic gadgets out of the room. Finally, make sure your mattress and pillows are comfortable.

I hope you can use some or all of these tips to sleep better. It’s also worth mentioning that while sleep medications can be useful in the short-term, doctors won’t want you to stay on them for more than a few weeks. And don’t mix these medicines with alcohol.

Finally, ongoing sleep problems often lead to sleep-related diagnoses such as insomnia, sleep apnea or other conditions. Sleep difficulties can be due to stress, depression, anxiety, pain, or other medical issues. Sometimes depression can also be associated with hypersomnia, or sleeping too much.

You may need to seek out the help of a sleep specialist who can do a thorough evaluation and then treat these conditions through a variety of effective physical and psychological techniques. One particular type of psychotherapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia, has been shown to be very effective for many individuals with insomnia.

Here’s a question: Which of these strategies can I try right away to help me sleep better? Please leave a comment. Also please consider subscribing to my blog and feel free to follow me on Twitter, “like” my Facebook page, or connect on LinkedIn. Thanks!

For further information on sleep hygiene: National Sleep Foundation

  • Well, since I have panic attacks when I try to take naps, it’ll be easy for me to eliminate them. lol

    I do have a question though. My dad likes to sleep in til late (sometimes til 1 or 2) unless I wake him up and make him eat breakfast, but part of the reason is that he’s been sleeping poorly. He’s also been taking chemotherapy and is set for another round in a couple of weeks. Given that he’s going through this, how much sleep should he be getting, and how can I get him to change his sleep patterns?

  • DavidSusman

    Amber, I’m not a medical doctor, but would think it would be important to talk with your dad’s medical providers about the sleep issues and to find out if the medications he is currently taking can interfere with sleep. They can also likely do other assessments to look for additional factors that may be interrupting his sleep patterns. Plus I would think just the emotional stress from undergoing a chemotherapy regimen could be another factor. Thanks for your question!

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