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


Insomnia is difficulty getting enough sleep or trouble sleeping without interruption. You may have difficulty falling asleep, may wake up too early, or may wake up periodically during the night. Insomnia of any kind can keep you from feeling rested and refreshed during the day. Almost all of us have episodes of insomnia at some time, but insomnia is not a short-term problem for everyone. Insomnia is classified as chronic when it happens almost every night for at least one month. Insomnia can be related to a medical or psychiatric illness, can be caused by mental stress or excitement, or can be caused by your daytime and bedtime habits. Your habits and surroundings are the usual causes of short-term insomnia problems. Factors that contribute to insomnia can include: Stress or anxiety A change in sleeping environment (being a guest at a hotel or a relative's home) An uncomfortable sleeping environment (too hot, too cold, too bright, too noisy) An uncomfortable mattress Pajamas that are too tight Having a bed partner who snores or has disruptive sleep patterns Watching television, reading a book or problem-solving in your bed, so your brain associates lying down in bed without activities other than sleeping Eating a heavy meal before bedtime Taking a prescription medication that has insomnia as a side effect Drinking alcoholic beverages before bedtime Having a high intake of beverages containing caffeine (coffee, tea, cola) during the day Cigarette smoking Exercising immediately before bedtime Not exercising enough during the day, so you have energy to spare Taking a hot bath or shower before bed Traveling to a different time zone Traveling to a much higher altitude Shift work Pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to insomnia. Women who are pregnant may have insomnia because of hormone changes, heartburn, leg cramps or a need to urinate more frequently. In addition, the unborn baby's increasing size often makes it harder for the mother to find a comfortable sleeping position. Chronic insomnia may be caused by a medical or psychiatric problem. Some common causes of chronic insomnia include: Psychiatric illness, especially depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) Chronic medical illnesses, especially kidney disease, heart failure or asthma Painful illnesses, especially arthritis, neuropathy, acid reflux or cancer Hormone imbalance, especially menopause or hyperthyroidism Taking a prescription medicine that has insomnia as a side effect Restless legs syndrome -- This disorder causes uncomfortable sensations in the legs. Symptoms can include twitching of the legs, a habit of repetitive leg movements, and leg cramps Obstructive sleep apnea Sleep apnea is a common condition. However, often the people that have this problem don't realize it. Snorers or people who are overweight may have repeated episodes in which breathing stops for 10 seconds to 30 seconds during sleep, just when the person is relaxing into deep sleep. Sleep apnea is caused most often by relaxing the tongue and throat tissues, which can settle into a position that closes your airway. Your body reacts to sleep apnea by releasing adrenaline-like "alarm" hormones so you will awaken and resume breathing. These hormones keep you awake for periods of the night. (Locked) More »

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a disorder that causes people to stop breathing for short periods during sleep. These periods are called apneas. Apneas usually last between 10 and 30 seconds. In severe cases, apneas can happen many hundreds of times each night. People with untreated sleep apnea are more likely to develop high blood pressure. Apneas disrupt a person's ability to get a good night's sleep, making them less alert during the day. This can lead to accidents. People with untreated sleep apnea are up to seven times more likely to be involved in motor vehicle accidents. There are two types of sleep apnea: Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the airway in your nose or throat becomes partially or completely blocked. It can be blocked by large tonsils, a large tongue or by too much tissue in the airway. Excess tissue in the airway is more common in people who are overweight. When airway muscles relax during sleep, this extra tissue can block the breathing passages. Central sleep apnea occurs when the brain stem, the area of the brain that controls breathing, is damaged. The brain stem may be damaged by an infection or stroke. (Locked) More »


Narcolepsy is a disorder that causes sudden episodes of deep sleep. These episodes can occur often and at inappropriate times, for example while a person is talking, eating or driving. Although sleep episodes can happen at any time, they may be more frequent during periods of inactivity or monotonous, repetitive activity. Narcolepsy usually appears between ages 15 and 30, but the condition can appear earlier or later. Once it appears, narcolepsy is present for life. Men and women are affected equally. (Locked) More »

Jet Lag

Jet lag is a type of sleep disorder that is a reaction to traveling between time zones. Our bodies naturally develop a sleep-wake cycle that is tied to the patterns of light and dark in our environment. This cycle, called the circadian rhythm, affects many body processes, including temperature and hormone levels. Because traveling between time zones changes the light-dark patterns in your environment, it can disrupt your body's rhythms. A change of even a few hours may not seem significant, but often it is enough to affect the body's sleep-wake cycle. For example, a Californian who travels to New York may receive a wake-up call at 7 a.m., but his or her body still is running on California time, where it is only 4 a.m. The effects of jet lag go beyond being tired for a few extra hours. Because the disruption in the sleep-wake cycle affects your body's hormone levels, many body processes can be thrown off balance, leading to a variety of symptoms. (Locked) More »