Ways To Sleep Better

First, consider your
personal habits. Set a bedtime and a waking up time. When your body is able
to follow a certain rhythm, you will feel better. Avoid napping throughout the
day. If you need to take a nap, try to minimize it to a half hour to
forty-five minutes. Avoid alcohol just before bed. Although alcohol may help
you fall asleep, when blood alcohol levels begin to drop, there is a “wake up”
effect resulting in fragmented sleep. A neurotransmitter known as GABA is the
culprit in this mechanism, which has been studied extensively by 2 well-known
sleep experts, Timothy Roehrs, Ph.D and Thomas Roth, Ph.D. Alcohol is NOT the
only substance to avoid, however. Nicotine and caffeine are also stimulants
that do not allow for optimal sleep and are complete NO-NO’s. Exercise
regularly, but do not exercise right before bed. Regular exercise can improve
your ability to sleep at night but doing it less than two hours prior to bed
may keep you awake.

Second, renovate your
sleeping environment. Make your bed a place you want to sleep. Use
comfortable sheets (the highest thread count you can afford – look for bargains
on ) and comforters. Make your room a comfortable
temperature. A cool, not cold, temperature is usually best with enough warm
blankets. Block out any distracting noise. Use either earplugs or a noise
machine. If your room is too bright in the morning, install tinted shades for
the windows or use a slumber mask.

Third, begin a new
pre-sleep routine. This can be as simple as having a light snack before bed to
taking a hot bath 90 minutes prior to sleeping. Things to eat that can include
warm milk, peanut butter, or turkey (an amino acid called tryptophan in these
foods gets converted to serotonin, the main sleep regulating neurotransmitter
in the body). A bath works in many ways…from relieving tension of the day
which relaxes you enough to sleep; to heating you up and then dropping your
temperature which was shown in the journal Sleep to make you feel
subjectively sleepy!

Finally, the most
trivial of facts is sleep when sleepy. If you have been in bed for 15 minutes
and you still have yet to fall asleep, get up out of bed, walk around, and then
come back to your bed and try to sleep again. Also, use what the environment
offers. Have your sleep habit focus around the movement of the sun. Light can
stimulate photoreceptors in your eyes even when your eyes are shut, which then
decreases the amount of melatonin, thus waking you up. This is how most of the
animals function and that is why animals function on a diurnal pattern. This
physiologic mechanism is the basis for our business hours, work schedule, and
our bathroom cycles!

Sleep is a commodity
that has no price. Despite the $10 dollar-per-pill sleep aids and the $3500
polysomnographs, the nation is still grossly underserved in sleep remedies. Yet
there exists several modifications to your sleep routine that can revolutionize
your slumber. By putting these small changes into practice, you can finally get
the good night’s rest that you’ve always dreamt of.

Timothy Roehrs, Ph.D., and
Thomas Roth, Ph.D.
Sleep, Sleepiness,
and Alcohol



Diagnostic Classification Steering Committee, Thorpy MJ, Chairman.

Classification of Sleep Disorders: Diagnostic
and Coding Manual. Rochester,

Minnesota: American Sleep Disorders Association,

Kryger, Meir H., Roth, Thomas, Dement, William C. Principles and Practice

Sleep Medicine, 2nd Edition. Philadelphia,
Pennsylvania: W.B. Saunders

Company, 1994.