"We're seeing more and more people who are having trouble sleeping," says Advanced Sleep Disorder Center office manager Tanya Breshears. "We focus on improving what we call sleep hygiene, which are things you can do to improve your chances of getting a good night's sleep."
With most adults needing, on average, eight hours of sleep per night, practicing good sleep hygiene can increase the quality of sleep once the time comes to squeeze in those pressure hours of Rapid Eye Movement (REM). Tips on getting a good night's sleep run the gamut from having a good routine to getting a better pillow.
1. First and foremost, keep a solid routine by maintaining a regular bedtime and wake-up time, including on weekends.
2. Avoid consuming caffeinated beverages for up to four or five hours before bedtime.
3. Avoid smoking for 30 to 45 minutes before bedtime and avoid smoking where you sleep. "It can make a big difference in letting your body know it's time to wind down for sleep," says Breshears.
4. Climate control — not too warm, not too cool — in the bedroom can encourage restful slumber. Ideal temperatures for getting to sleep, and staying asleep, vary for each individual but a rule of thumb is not above 75 degrees Fahrenheit or below 60 degrees.
5. Avoid alcohol consumption before bedtime. While alcohol causes a relaxing effect for some, the subsequent dehydration it brings can keep the body from getting into deep slumber and cause waking periods during sleep.
6. No heavy meals. Going to bed on an empty stomach is a bad idea, but eating too much can be equally bad. A too-full stomach can cause an unsettling, bloated feeling, says Rogue Valley Medical Center's Sleep Center clinical manager Beth Mortonson, and even cause acid reflux.
7. Exercise at the right time. While it's important to exercise daily, working out too close to bedtime can send the body the message that it's time to get revved up for the day, rather than time for sleep.
"Sometimes if you exercise before bed, that will keep you wide awake most of the night," Mortonson says.
8. Turn down the lights. Excess light can prevent eyes from fully relaxing. Block light from an alarm clock and have light-reducing shades over windows.
Mortonson adds, "Even getting on the computer before bed can affect sleep because if the screen is bright it's going to stimulate your brain into thinking it's daytime so it's real hard to feel drowsy."
9. Quality bedding, including mattresses, pillows and blankets are key to sleep comfort. A quality mattress aside, contoured memory foam pillows, Breshears says, are a hit with sleep study patients.
10. Finally, focus on sleep and make a habit of concentrating on getting good sleep.
Keep work out of the bedroom (computers and TVs are a no-no) and view the bedroom more as a sanctuary than for storage and web surfing. Read a good book, listen to relaxing music or soak in a hot bubble bath.
Most importantly, if sleep continues to evade, consider talking to a doctor about having your sleep patterns evaluated. Insomnia, which leads to snoring and more serious sleep apnea, can be treated in a variety of ways.
Mortonson says, "If you suffer from excessive daytime sleepiness, that may point to some sort of problem with your nighttime sleep. It's important to find out what's going on so you can get back to getting a good night's sleep."