How to Get a Good Night’s Sleep

There are over 80 well-established sleep disorders. A sleep doctor can help you determine if you have one of them.

John S. Khoury, MD

The average adult needs roughly 7-9 hours of sleep per night. As most people know, a single bad night’s sleep can ruin a whole day. Chronic sleep deprivation is associated with additional risks including diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and poor mental health. Hence, it’s important to make sure that you always allocate enough time for sleep as you are juggling your work life and home life. Establishing good sleep habits is the first step to improving your sleep quality. Here are just a few recommendations to help you on your way.

Maintain a comfortable sleep environment.

You spend nearly 1/3rd of your life in your bed, and having a comfortable bed and good pillow is key to making sure you stay asleep throughout the night. Make sure you replace your pillows regularly and that they maintain good neck support. If you can fold your pillow in half, throw it away. Don’t be afraid to spend money on a good pillow — it’s worth the investment.

Although some people can even fall asleep after having a cup of coffee, they are less likely to go into deeper sleep stages and less likely to go into REM sleep as well. Similarly, alcohol should be avoided about 4-6 hours before bedtime. Although alcohol may help you fall asleep because it reduces anxiety, once the effects wear off, your body will have difficulty getting into deeper stages of sleep.

The light from these devices, suppresses the release of a hormone in your brain called melatonin, which normally signals the brain to start the sleeping process. Additionally, interacting with electronic devices (clicking “Like,” responding to texts, etc.) releases dopamine in the brain which is a natural stimulant.

If you need to sleep in more than an hour on the weekends, you are sleep-depriving yourself during the week. By establishing a set wake-up time, your body will naturally fall asleep at the same time every evening.

Studies are inconsistent as to the timing of when you should exercise, but most people agree that morning and afternoon exercise is preferable over evening exercise to allow you time to wind down at night.

Obviously, you shouldn’t smoke at any time of day, but nicotine is a stimulant and it can decrease deep sleep and even mask your daytime sleepiness.

There are over 80 well-established sleep disorders, and a sleep doctor can help you determine if you may have one of them. For example, if your bed partner informs you that you snore, you may have a very common sleep disorder known as Obstructive Sleep Apnea syndrome (OSA). Sleep apnea occurs when your airway closes off at night, which can cause you to feel tired and increase your risk of stroke or heart attack. Although many people are familiar with a CPAP machine as treatment, there are new treatment options for people who do not tolerate CPAP.

If you score 3 or higher on the STOP-Bang questionnaire, you are at moderate risk for sleep apnea and should be evaluated.