9 Tips to Help You Get a Good Night’s Sleep
By Angel Rodis, MD, Virtua Pulmonologist and Sleep Specialist
Magazine articles, TV shows and the Internet remind us on a daily basis that we need to watch what we eat and exercise daily to feel better mentally and physically. But there's something else we need that’s often overlooked.
A good night's sleep is one of the most underrated aspects of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Research has shown that sleep helps:
- Improve memory
- Boost energy levels
- Reduce stress
- Regulate moods
- Battle obesity
- Strengthen immune system
- Decrease risks for cardiovascular diseases
If you sleep better at night, you'll notice how more active you feel in the morning and throughout the day. Your body needs to have complete rest during sleep. If not, it can increase stress to the heart and elevate blood pressure and hypertension during the daytime.
How much sleep you need
While studies have shown that adults typically require seven to eight hours of sleep, Dr. Rodis says that quality of sleep is more important than quantity.
The definition of “good sleep” is getting enough sleep so you feel better and are more effective the next day. It's different for each person—some require more, while others can do with less. A person who’s sound asleep for five hours will feel much better than someone who’s tossing and turning in bed for eight hours.
As you get older, quality sleep can be difficult to achieve. Aches and pains, trips to the bathroom, stress, interruptions from children or medical problems all challenge nighttime sleep patterns.
Tips to enjoy a good night's sleep
Everyone has the occasional sleepless night, which isn’t a problem for most people. But if a trend of sleeping difficulties arises, then you should take steps to improve your nighttime sleep habits. Here are some helpful tips:
- Avoid emotional upset or stressful situations before bedtime.
- Avoid drinking excessive amounts of alcohol in the evening.
- Avoid caffeine for at least eight hours before bedtime.
- Quit smoking and vaping (using e-cigarettes)—nicotine is a stimulant.
- Establish a regular bedtime, but don't go to bed if you feel wide awake.
- Exercise regularly, but not 2 hours before going to bed. Exercise, especially aerobic exercise, helps people fall asleep faster and get deeper and more restful sleep.
- Relax by reading, taking a bath, or listening to soothing music before going to bed.
- Remove TVs, computers, mobile phones and tablets from your bedroom. Otherwise, your brain becomes used to the stimulation and starts to expect it when you’re there. This makes it harder for you to fall asleep.
- Use the bedroom for bedroom activities only. Once in bed, use creative imagery and relaxation techniques to keep your mind off unrestful thoughts. Avoid staying in bed for long periods of time while awake, or going to bed because of boredom.
Doctors caution using over-the-counter sleep aids to help you escape to dreamland. Most sleep medications are antihistamines that mask problems. They act as a temporary fix and aren’t helpful for chronic conditions. It’s best to talk with your doctor to find out what the best solution is for you.
If better sleep if your goal, Virtua can help you get there.
Virtua's Sleep Centers in New Jersey offer medical evaluation and a full range of diagnostic testing, including sleep studies that measure heart rate, brain waves, breathing, eye and muscle movements, and oxygen levels. Virtua also offers a Pediatric Sleep Lab, in partnership with Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, in Voorhees.
For a referral to a sleep specialist or an appointment, call 888-847-8823.
Updated February 25, 2020