How to Sleep Well
Sleep Hygiene for Adults
Do you have nights when you just
cannot get to sleep? Do you toss and
turn, your mind thinking of what you did
during the day, what you forgot to do,
and what needs to be done the next day?
You may have a stressful job. You may
have worries that seem to take on their
own lives when you wake up during the
night and cannot get back to sleep.
Before you know it, your day starts once
Stress can be work related or stresses at
home, such as a divorce, a death in the
family, or a family member being
diagnosed with a severe illness or
Here are some tips for getting a good
1. Sleep only when sleepy – if you
sleep when your body is not
tired, you will have trouble
sleeping the next night.
2. If you have trouble falling
asleep within 20 minutes, get
up and do something that is not
stimulating. Don’t look at your
computer, iPhone, Kindle Fire, or
any device with a bright light
(any device that you can read in a
dark closet), because this can
interfere with the level of
melatonin in your brain and this
can trick your brain into thinking
that it is daytime. Read
something that will put you to
sleep, something boring. Rock in
a rocking chair thinking mellow
thoughts. Make some herbal tea.
Do some deep breathing
exercises or meditate. Doing this
in a room that is not your
bedroom is best. Once you feel
sleepy again, head for bed and
try to fall asleep again.
3. Don’t take naps unless you are
absolutely exhausted. If you
have to take a nap, limit yourself
to one hour. Naps can disrupt
your normal sleeping patterns.
Naps tell you that you are not
getting enough sleep, and you
should try to go to bed earlier on
a regular basis.
4. Wake up and go to sleep at the
same time every day. This rule
should be used on weekends as
well. Once you establish a
regular sleep rhythm, you will
feel more energized and better
focused on things that you need
5. Expose yourself to bright light
early in the morning, even if
you are sleepy. Bright light
helps to “re-set” your internal
clock and tells your brain to
wake up. Natural sun light works
the best for this, but any bright
light can help. Just don’t burn
yourself, and don’t look directly
into the light.
6. Exercise in the daytime or
early evening, not right before
bed. Exercise increases
endorphins in your body – this is
why you feel good after
exercising and have more energy.
If you exercise too close to
bedtime, it may wake you up.
Some people can sleep right after
exercising, but many people have
trouble sleeping too soon after a
7. Begin routine sleep rituals.
This gives your body the clue
that it will soon be time to sleep.
Read, listen to some soft music,
drink something warm like tea or
cocoa, do some relaxation
exercises or deep breathing 20-30
minutes before bedtime.
8. Your bed should be used for
sleep. Your bed should not be
used for watching TV, reading,
working, using an iPad, etc.
9. If possible, avoid caffeine,
nicotine, and alcohol 4-6 hours
prior to bedtime. Caffeine and
nicotine and some medicines are
stimulants and will prevent you
from having a good night’s sleep
if taken too late in the day. If
you are sensitive to caffeine, you
may want to stop drinking
caffeine at noon or 1:00 PM to
ensure a good night’s sleep.
Alcohol can make you sleep
soundly for a few hours, but then
you may have poor sleep for the
rest of the night.
10. A light snack before bed will
help you sleep, but avoid eating
a large meal before going to
sleep. Tryptophans will help you
sleep. Tryptophans can be found
in dairy products. A warm glass
of milk, a cup of cocoa, some
yogurt or ice cream can help with
11. You might want to take a hot
bath 90 minutes before
bedtime. Your body
temperature will cool down
before sleep, and the cooling
down of your body temperature
is what makes you feel sleepy.
Do not take a hot bath right
before bed, because the higher
body temperature can disrupt
12. You need to have a quiet and
comfortable bedroom and bed
in order to get good, solid sleep.
Other tips for good sleeping:
- Regular exercise, 30 minutes per
day if possible.
- If you are hot, you will not be
able to sleep. Kick off that extra
blanket, open a window a tad to
get some cool air flowing to cool
- Do some deep breathing
exercises before bed. Take in a
deep breath, hold it for the count
of one – one thousand, two – two
one thousand and then let it out.
Repeat this 4-5 times.
- Some simple stretching exercises
combined with deep breathing 15
minutes before bed can help you
- If you do wake during the night,
think of something special that
you are fond of, such as, a lake,
the beach on an ocean, a city,
vacation spot, etc. Say the name
of that place over and over while
you are deep breathing. This
should relax you enough to help
you fall asleep.
If you would like more information,
here are two useful websites on sleep:
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call
if you have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with
your doctor. This is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical
condition. Because each person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on
your health care team when using this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright ©
10/2017 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the
Department of Nursing. HF#7696