Sleeping Difficulties

At some point in life one in three adults report some degree of insomnia. If you are having trouble sleeping, certain changes in your lifestyle can help you regain a good night’s sleep.

How Much Sleep Do You Need?

The need for sleep varies widely from individual to individual. If you are sleeping "only" five hours a night but waking up feeling alert, oriented and energetic, that is probably all the sleep you need. Other people need 8 to 10 hours to feel well rested. Your need for sleep may decrease if you are exercising regularly and doing things you enjoy. Conversely, if you are under a lot of stress or have become less active, your need for sleep may increase. Experiment to find the right amount of sleep for you.

Do's and Don'ts


  • Develop a bedtime routine.
  • Stop doing anything that is stimulating (such as physical activity, listening to loud music, or watching a violent or dramatic TV show) 30 minutes before going to bed.
  • Do something relaxing, such as reading light material or listening to quiet music.
  • Keep a regular schedule for sleeping, including weekends. Go to bed at about the same time and get up at the same time, every day.
  • Create a sleep-conducive environment: dark, quiet, comfortable, and cool.
  • Use your bed only for sleep, not for studying or working
  • Exercise regularly. Keeping physically active during the day is one of the best things you can do to promote restful sleep. Be cautious of exercising in the evenings; however, as this tends to keep many people awake.



  • Try not to nap, especially on the day after you haven’t slept well. If you must nap, limit it to 20 minutes or so. Any longer and it will interfere with your ability to sleep that night. 
  • Avoid caffeine after 12 noon. This includes coffee, tea, and caffeinated soda! Also be wary of chocolate, which contains a fair amount of caffeine as well.
  • Avoid late, high-fat, or spice-laden dinners, which are harder to digest.
  • Avoid or cut down on alcohol when you are having trouble sleeping. Alcohol may make you sleepy initially, but it results in shallow, disturbed sleep, abnormal dream periods, and frequent early morning awakening.
  • Bed should be for sleeping. Don’t get into a pattern of reading, watching TV, eating, arguing or talking on the phone from bed. When you get into bed you want your body to assume you are doing so to go to sleep, not to continue the day’s activities.

If You Can't Sleep

  • If you are in bed and unable to sleep, get up and do some quiet activity for a time. Read, play solitaire, or write letters until you start to feel sleepy again. Then go back to bed. Turn your clock away from you so you are not focusing on how late it is getting. Doing so will only leave you feeling more frustrated and make it harder to relax and go to sleep.
  • Sleep medications may provide some short-term relief if your insomnia is transitory. They are not good for chronic insomnia, however, as over the long term they can cause significant changes in the sleep cycle. See your physician if you would like to know more about sleep medication.

Other Things You Can Do

  • Insomnia is almost always a symptom of something else, such as stress. If you are concerned about ongoing sleep difficulties, please consult with your doctor. 
  • Relaxation and stress reduction techniques can help a great deal when you are having problems sleeping.