Get a Good Night’s Sleep

Health, Home & Family
on October 20, 2002

If you toss and turn much of the night, or perhaps sleep soundly but wake way too early and cant fall back asleep, youre not alone. Some 60 percent of adults have difficulty falling asleep a few nights a week, reports a recent National Sleep Foundation study.

Far too many adults still sacrifice sleep, which is unhealthy and counter-productive, says Richard L. Gelula, the sleep foundations executive director. We have our work cut out for us to educate Americans that a good nights sleep is a necessity, not a luxury. Americans must make time for sleep.

Sleep allows the body to repair itself, revitalize organs and muscles, and maintain a proper functioning immune system. Most adults function better and feel rested after seven to nine hours of sleep, but the amount varies with each individual. Sleep time logged isnt as crucial as how rested you feel upon waking and throughout the day.

The National Sleep Foundation offers these suggestions to get a better nights sleep:

  • Keep regular hours. Going to bed and getting up at the same time every day is essential to healthy sleep patterns.
  • Reduce stress. It is the No. 1 cause of short-term sleeping difficulties, experts say.
  • Avoid heavy meals before bedtime. Eating and drinking too much before bedtime can cause discomfort or heartburn, which normally worsens when you lie down. Drinking too much results in night trips to the bathroom, interrupting sleep.
  • Exercise regularly. Staying physically fit improves sleep patterns, studies show. But dont exercise three hours prior to bedtime; optimum time is in the afternoon. Exercise raises body temperature, which in turn leads to a fall in temperature five to six hours later, which aids in falling asleep.
  • Find something soothing to do before bed, such as reading a book, taking a hot bath, or listening to soothing music. Avoid falling asleep with the television on, because its noise and light can disrupt deeper stages of sleep, advises Margaret Moline, director of the Sleep-Wake Disorders Center at Cornell University.
  • Keep your bedroom dark or dimly lit. Bright light, especially sunlight, regulates our biological clock, telling us if its time to feel sleepy or alert.

Lack of sleep can affect quality of life, job performance, health, and leads to hazardous driving. Continued loss of sleep, nighttime wakefulness, and disruptive sleep patterns dont have to be chronic and troublesome. If sleep problems persist, talk to your physician and discuss treatment options that are right for you.