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

8 reasons why you're not sleeping

Many conditions can disrupt your rest, but they can be treated. The most common sleep stealers in women include sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, pain, poor sleep habits, a lack of exercise, and stress. Managing these factors and practicing good sleep habits can help you get a better night’s rest. (Locked) More »

The savvy sleeper: Wean yourself off sleep aids

There are two challenges when it comes to fighting sleep aid dependence. One is that stopping the drugs suddenly results in rebound insomnia, which makes symptoms worse. The other is that the rebound insomnia then convinces users they need the drugs to sleep. Gradual reduction of sleep medication, with a doctor’s supervision, can help a person wean himself off the drugs. Cognitive behavior therapy, relaxation techniques, and improving sleep hygiene can also help. (Locked) More »

How to sleep better with chronic pain

To manage trouble sleeping due to chronic pain, start by adopting healthy sleep habits. Relaxation techniques such as guided meditation and guided imagery may be helpful for falling asleep. When pain wakes you up, avoid mentally stimulating activities. Adopting a strict sleep schedule, even when awakened during the night or awakening too early, can help keep the sleep schedule intact. Long-term use of sleep medications may do more harm than good. (Locked) More »

Improve sleep by eating right

Many foods can either interrupt sleep or keep people from falling asleep. Spicy foods and some medications may cause heartburn, and they may stimulate chronic heartburn known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Foods with lactose may cause abdominal cramping, bloating, and diarrhea in people who are lactose intolerant. Food, drinks, and medicines containing caffeine make it hard to fall asleep and cause sleep to be fragmented. And alcohol consumption results in fewer restful stages of sleep. (Locked) More »

Lack of sleep harmful to women's hearts

Women with heart disease who don't sleep well have higher levels of inflammation markers, such as interleukin-6 and C-reactive protein. Inflammation has been found to increase the risk for heart disease and heart attacks. (Locked) More »

Sleep problems may increase the risk of heart attack and stroke

People who sleep poorly or too little have high levels of stress hormones and more inflammation throughout the body. Stress and inflammation each increase risk of heart disease and add to diabetes risk by increasing insulin sensitivity. One sleep problem—sleep apnea—is especially hard on the heart. Sleep apnea sufferers actually stop breathing from 15 to more than 100 times an hour during the night. Blood oxygen levels drop, making it hard for the heart to do its job of pumping oxygen-rich blood through the arteries. Studies are under way to see whether treating sleep apnea improves heart health. (Locked) More »

Better sleep-without pills

Prescription sleep aids can help you fall asleep, but they can also have side effects like an increased risk for falls and daytime sleepiness that can make it dangerous to drive. Before women take sleep medication, they should see a doctor to identify the cause of their insomnia. Women may be able to sleep better by using lifestyle interventions, such as relaxing before bed, cutting back on caffeine and alcohol, and waking up and going to bed on the same schedule every day. (Locked) More »