Sleep

One in five Americans sleeps less than six hours a night—a trend that can have serious personal health consequences. Sleep deprivation increases the risk for a number of chronic health problems, including obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. If you have trouble sleeping, the following strategies can help you get more sleep.

Check for underlying causes. Some conditions or medications may be interfering with your sleep patterns. Treating a condition or adjusting a medication may be all it takes to restore better sleep.

Practice good sleep hygiene. Use your bed for sleep and sex only, block as much noise and light as possible, go to bed and wake at the same times each day, and get out of bed if you haven’t fallen asleep within 20 minutes.

Nap if needed. If you like to nap, get your daytime shut-eye in midday. Naps late in the day can interfere with sleep later. If your problem is difficulty getting to sleep at night, then not napping can make you sleepier at bedtime and more likely to stay asleep.

Exercise earlier, not later. Exercise stimulates the body and brain, so make sure you finish exercising at least three hours before turning in.

Watch your diet. stay away from foods that cause heartburn. Ban caffeine-rich food and drinks (chocolate, tea, coffee, soda) at least six hours before bedtime. Don't drink alcohol for at least two hours before bed.

See a sleep specialist. If your own efforts aren't working, you'll want the help of a sleep professional to both diagnose your problem and propose behavioral and possibly drug treatments.

Sleep Articles

How to reset your internal clock to combat jet lag

Jet lag, caused by a misalignment between the external environment and the body’s internal clock, is triggered by crossing several time zones. Adjusting sleep patterns days before the trip or fasting 12 to 16 hours before landing may minimize symptoms. (Locked) More »

Treatment options for obstructive sleep apnea

There are many treatments for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). The gold standard in treatment is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), but some people have trouble adjusting to a bulky CPAP mask. Other options to treat OSA include weight loss, sleeping against a wedge pillow, disposable nasal valves, an oral appliance, and surgery. The latest treatment is an implanted pacemaker that stimulates the tongue to tighten when a person breathes, keeping the tongue from blocking the airway. (Locked) More »

Awake at 3 a.m.? Strategies to help you to get back to sleep

By Julie CorlissExecutive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter It's 3:00 in the morning—far too early to get up for the day. But you can't get back to sleep because your mind keeps rehashing past and future worries—and fretting that you're going to be exhausted all day long. Sound familiar? Known as sleep-maintenance insomnia, this common problem often crops up in mid-life. In the wee hours of the morning, the last thing you want to do is take a sleeping pill, since you probably need to get up in a few hours. In fact, experts now recommend a special type of short-term therapy as the first-line treatment for insomnia instead of drugs. Called cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia, or CBT-I, this therapy teaches people to change the unproductive thinking patterns and habits that get in the way of a good night's sleep. It's just as effective but safer than sleeping pills for both sleep-maintenance insomnia and trouble falling asleep at the start of the night (sleep-onset insomnia). More »

At-home testing for sleep apnea

Home sleep tests to diagnose obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) may reliably detect the disorder even if a sleep specialist is not involved. Marked by loud snoring and breathing lapses during sleep, OSA can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. More »

What to do when medication makes you sleepy

Daytime sleepiness is one of the most commonly reported side effects of some medications. Prescription drugs that may cause sleepiness include antidepressants and benzodiazepines. Over-the-counter medicines may also cause drowsiness, such remedies for insomnia, allergies, or diarrhea. When starting a new medication that may cause drowsiness, one should avoid activities that require alertness until it’s clear if there are side effects. Sometimes the sleepiness caused by medications will lessen over time, as the body adjusts. Resolving drowsiness may be a matter of adjusting the dose or changing medications. (Locked) More »

Sleep apnea solutions that lower cardiovascular risks

In obstructive sleep apnea, the tongue or throat tissue blocks the airway. This causes the person to briefly stop breathing many times a night. Sleep apnea also appears to raise the risk of cardiovascular problems. Therapies that help keep airways open during sleep, such as continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), can improve quality of life and lower cardiovascular risks. (Locked) More »