Patient Resources

Sleeping Better

Sleep is important for your physical and emotional health. Sleep can help you stay healthy by keeping your immune system strong. Getting enough sleep can help your mood and make you feel less stressed.

But we all have trouble sleeping sometimes. This can be for many reasons. You may have trouble sleeping because of depression, insomnia, or fatigue. If you feel anxious or have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), you may also have trouble falling or staying asleep.

Whatever the cause, there are things you can do.

Your sleeping area

Your sleeping area and what you do during the day can affect how well you sleep. Too much noise, light, or activity in your bedroom can make sleeping harder. Creating a quiet, comfortable sleeping area can help. Here are some things you can do to sleep better.

  • Use your bedroom only for sleeping and sex.
  • Move the TV and radio out of your bedroom.
  • Try not to use your computer, smartphone, or tablet to compute, text, or use the Internet while you are in bed.
  • Keep your bedroom quiet, dark, and cool. Use curtains or blinds to block out light. Consider using soothing music or a “white noise” machine to block out noise.

Your evening and bedtime routine

Having an evening routine and a set bedtime will help your body get used to a sleeping schedule. You may want to ask others in your household to help you with your routine.

  • Try to not use technology devices such as smartphones, computers, or tablets during the hours before bedtime. The light from these devices and the emotions that can result from checking email or social media sites can make it harder to unwind and fall asleep.
  • Create a relaxing bedtime routine. You might want to take a warm shower or bath, listen to soothing music, or drink a cup of noncaffeinated tea.
  • Go to bed at the same time every night. And get up at the same time every morning, even if you feel tired.
  • Use a sleep mask and earplugs, if light and noise bother you.

If you can’t sleep

  • Imagine yourself in a peaceful, pleasant scene. Focus on the details and feelings of being in a place that is relaxing.
  • Get up and do a quiet or boring activity until you feel sleepy.
  • Don’t drink any liquids after 6 p.m. if you wake up often because you have to go to the bathroom.

Your activities during the day

Your habits and activities can affect how well you sleep. Here are some tips.

  • Get regular exercise. Figure out what time of day works best for your sleep patterns.
  • Get outside during daylight hours. Spending time in sunlight helps to reset your body’s sleep and wake cycles.
  • Limit caffeine (coffee, tea, caffeinated sodas) during the day. And don’t have any for at least 4 to 6 hours before bedtime.
  • Don’t drink alcohol before bedtime. Alcohol can cause you to wake up more often during the night.
  • Don’t smoke or use tobacco, especially in the evening. Nicotine can keep you awake.
  • Don’t take naps during the day, especially close to bedtime.
  • Don’t take medicine that may keep you awake, or make you feel hyper or energized, right before bed. Your doctor can tell you if your medicine may do this and if you can take it earlier in the day.

If you can’t sleep because you are in great pain or have an injury, or you often feel anxious at night, or you often have bad dreams or nightmares, talk with your doctor.


Restless Legs Syndrome: Getting More Sleep

Having a sleepless night now and then can be annoying. But when you have restless legs syndrome (RLS), going without sleep night after night can make life miserable. You may be so tired that you just feel like crying.

If restless legs are robbing you of sleep, you’re not alone. But there may be some things you can do for yourself to make it easier to get a good night’s sleep, especially if your symptoms are mild.

How can you make changes to sleep better?

If your RLS symptoms are mild, you may be able to get a good night’s sleep most nights by making some changes in your lifestyle. Make sure to follow these general sleep tips:

During the day

  • Don’t drink liquids that have caffeine (coffee, tea, some sodas), especially 4 to 6 hours before bedtime.
  • Don’t use tobacco, especially near bedtime or if you wake up during the night. Nicotine is a stimulant, which means it makes you more alert and more awake.
  • Don’t drink alcohol late in the evening.
  • Get plenty of sunlight in the outdoors, especially in late afternoon.

At bedtime

  • Avoid heavy meals close to bedtime. A light snack may help you sleep.
  • Don’t go to bed thirsty, but don’t drink so much that you have to keep getting up to go to the bathroom.
  • Set aside time for solving problems earlier in the day so you don’t carry anxious thoughts to bed. Try writing down your worries in a “worry book,” and then set it aside well before bedtime.
  • Do relaxing activities before bedtime. Try deep breathing, yoga, meditation, tai chi, or muscle relaxation techniques. Take a warm bath. Play a quiet game, or read a book.

During the night

  • Reduce noise in the house, or mask it with a steady, low noise such as a fan running on slow speed or a radio tuned to static. Use comfortable earplugs if you need to.
  • Keep the room cool and dark. If you can’t darken the room, use a sleep mask.
  • Use a pillow and a mattress that are comfortable for you.
  • If watching the clock makes you anxious about sleep, turn the clock so you can’t see it, or put it in a drawer.
  • Reserve the bedroom for sleeping and sex. A bit of light reading may help you fall asleep, but if it doesn’t, do your reading elsewhere in the house. Don’t watch TV in bed.
  • If you can’t fall asleep, or if you wake up in the middle of the night and don’t get back to sleep quickly, get out of bed and go to another room until you feel sleepy.

Daily habits

  • Regular exercise is important, but very hard workouts may make your symptoms worse. Try to figure out what level of exercise works for your symptoms and at what point exercise makes them worse.
  • Bathing in hot or cold water before bedtime may help. Or try using a heating pad or ice bag. Some people find that having a heated mattress pad on the bed helps.
  • Change your sleep schedule. If your symptoms usually get better around 4 a.m. to 6 a.m., try going to bed later than usual or allowing extra time for sleeping in to help you get the rest you need.
  • You may be able to control your symptoms by gently stretching and massaging your limbs before bed or as discomfort begins.

If your symptoms don’t get better, talk to your doctor. He or she may prescribe drugs to control your RLS and help you sleep.