Tips for Good Sleep
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Sleep is a natural process that we go through each night. However, humans are not the same. Some of us are good sleepers who can sleep whenever and wherever they like. Others are bad sleepers who have difficulty falling asleep and when asleep do not have sound restoring sleep. There are certain lifestyle and dietary habits and behaviors that promote sound sleep. These can have positive effect on the quantity and quality of sleep.

There are some misconceptions about sleep that have to be clarified. Normal humans require on average from 4-9 hours of sleep every 24 hours to feel fresh the next day. However, the amount of time needed for sleep is extremely variable from person to person. Many people believe that they need 8 hours of sleep and that the more sleep they can get, the healthier they will be. If you sleep 5 hours only at night and feel fresh the next day, you do not have sleep problems. Others are prone to attribute all their personal failings to their lack of sleep. That causes excessive focus on sleep and prevents its occurrence. It is important to sort out the daytime problems that might reasonably be attributed to poor sleep and the ones that need to be treated independently, such as poor daytime coping style, lack of interpersonal skills, stress, burnout, and so on.

There are general advises to be given to poor sleepers to help them getting better sleep:

Tips for Good Sleep

  • Go to bed only when sleepy.
  • Use the bed only for sleeping.
  • If unable to sleep, get up and move to another room. Stay up until you are definitely sleepy and then return to bed. If sleep does not come easily, get out of bed again. The goal is to associate your bed with falling asleep easily. Trying harder and harder to fall asleep causes anger and frustration rather than improves your sleep. Curtailing time in bed seems to solidify your sleep. Excessive long times in bed seem related to fragmented and shallow sleep.
  • Repeat the above step as often as necessary throughout the night. During the first night, you may have to get up five to ten times and may not get much sleep. However, as sleep deprivation increases over the next several nights, it becomes easier to fall asleep. In one to three weeks normal sleep is usually achieved.
  • Set the alarm and get up at the same time every morning, regardless of how much you have slept through the night. Keep a reasonably regular sleep-awake schedule during weekdays and weekends.
  • Many therapists tell you never to nap during the day. Many people sleep poorly at night when they have an afternoon nap, but others sleep quite a bit better. Be your own sleep therapist, try it, and do what is best for you, no matter what others say. However, you should not nap in the late afternoon and your nap should be short (30-45 minutes).
  • If you are that kind of person who usually starts to have thoughts buzzing through his head when in bed and you cannot stop them or you find yourself worrying about your next day schedule and you are losing control. “WORRY TIME” might be the solution for you. Set a fixed time every day for around 30 minutes where you sit and clear all your worries using a pen and paper. Using that way, you will go to bed with a clear relaxing mind.
  • Avoid trying to force yourself to sleep. Sleep does not come by force. Instead focus on quiescent tasks that occupy the mind such as reading, watching TV, or listening to music (if you like that) to promote relaxation and sleep.
  • Athletes sleep better than people who live sedentary life do. Regular exercise may promote sleep. Sleep induction is associated with a decline in core body temperature while exercise increases the body core temperature. Therefore, exercise should be in the late afternoon or early evening. Spending 20 minutes in a hot bathtub a few hours before going to bed may also promote sleep.

Bedroom environment:

  • Bedroom environment affect sleep. Temperature extremes can disrupt the quality of sleep.
  • Loud intermittent noises can result in light fragmented non-refreshing sleep. These noises can be masked by “white noise” like a fan or air conditioner.
  • Bright light in bedroom affect the quality of sleep as well.
  • Avoid looking to the bedroom clock. If you have to, eliminate the clock. Do not use clocks that light in the dark.

Food and beverages:

  • Heavy meals should be avoided 3-4 hours before bedtime. Heavy meals at any time of the day may result in poor sleep.
  • A light bedtime snack can promote sleep. Hunger is a sleep disturber
  • Avoid alcohol. Small amount of alcohol may promote the onset of sleep. However, as alcohol becomes metabolized, sleep becomes fragmented. It also facilitates the development of sleep apnea.
  • All caffeine containing beverages can disturb sleep, especially if taken in the evening time or before bedtime. Studies have shown that caffeine disturb sleep even in people who claim that caffeine does not affect their sleep,
  • Nicotine is stimulant. Cigarette smoking can result in disturbed fragmented sleep.


Ahmed BaHammam, FACP, FCCP

Professor of Medicine
Director, University Sleep Disorders Center
College of Medicine, King Saud University