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Sleep Tips

This page is for general tips and advice, that could be helpful to anyone, and that may help improve the quality of their sleep. Specific tips regarding CPAP use can be found elsewhere throughout this wiki, in the CPAP FAQs, and on the Forum.

Create a comfortable sleep environment to promote your general sleep hygiene
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Improve your sleep

Everybody needs to sleep, and sometimes we all need some friendly reminders about general sleep hygiene; good sleep habits and practices, that can help us all sleep better. There are many things that people can do to help improve the overall quality of their sleep. Here are some ideas.

Know the Goal: Sleep Stages

Stage 1: The lightest stage of sleep. Transitional stage from wake. top

Stage 1 shifts: The number of times the sleep stage changed to stage 1.

Stage 2: The first true stage of sleep.

Stages 3/4: The deepest, most restorative sleep.

Stage REM: The dreaming stage; Normally occurs every 60-90 minutes.

Daytime routine

Daily activities and habits can affect how you sleep at night. It is important to establish good routines during your waking moments to assist with your nightly sleep time. Here are a few areas to explore.


Light is important for the body clock, or circadian rhythm, to work properly and synchronize itself to the optimal wake and sleep cycles. Not getting enough light during the day, or not getting light early in the day, can throw the body out of sync from it's normal and optimal internal circadian sleep patterns. Light lets your body know it is time to enter the daytime active cycle. Darkness has the opposite effect. Natural sunlight also helps the body to produce vitamin D. A vitamin D deficiency may affect sleep quality.


  • Upon awakening, open the blinds or go outside for a few minutes to get some light.
  • Alternatively, turn on some lights to simulate daylight.
  • Light therapy can also be effective for some people to keep the body clock in sync.


Besides having many health benefits, regular exercise is very effective in helping a person fall asleep easier and achieve a better overall sleep regimen. Some people have difficulty exercising for various reasons, but even small amounts of physical activity can results in sleep dividends.

Get Moving for at least 20-30 minutes a day


  • Regularity is one of the keys; try to make some exercise a part of your weekly schedule
  • Even 20-30 minutes of daily exercise is sufficient help get better sleep. Try a brisk walk, ride a bike, swim, or take a short jog.
  • 60 total combined minutes of exercise a day is ideal.
  • If 20-30 minutes is too long, break it up into smaller increments of activity.
  • Try to exercise in the morning or afternoon, because exercising later in the day or at night can stimulate the body and raise the temperature, possibly making it harder to get to sleep.
  • Exercising with a friend keeps you accountable and makes the activity fun.
  • Remember starting your routine is the hardest part, once you've begun exercising each week, you won't be able to imagine life without it.


Daytime naps can hinder your nighttime slumber. Getting extra sleep during the day can upset your body clock and make it difficult to get to sleep at your normal bedtime.

  • Try to limit the number of naps you take.
  • If you must nap, keep it short (30-45 minutes) and take them in the early afternoon.


What you consume in your diet can play a role in how well or not you sleep. Getting proper nutrition is important to your overall health and your sleep. Taking a good multi-vitamin will assure you are not deficient of important nutrients. Some people find that by making changes to their diet, they can improve their sleep and often their overall health. Here are some basic things to know about what foods can help or hurt your sleep experience.

  • Try not to eat within two hours of bedtime.
  • Avoid fatty, heavy, or rich foods near bedtime.
Foods that can help sleep

Eating too much before bedtime is not healthy. Have a light snack 2 hours before sleep time the latest. This advice has simple explanation. Your organism stays awake digesting the food, so even if you fall asleep part of your body is not "sleeping" and overall you still have less effective sleep which is not restful. You will need more sleep which in turn will not let you wake up easily.

Still there are changes you can make to your diet, or inclusions to your diet that can make achieving quality sleep easier. Foods that contain the amino acid tryptophan can help you get to sleep faster and sleep better. These foods should be eaten as a light snack before bed as they promote sleep. Combining tryptophan foods with carbohydrates or foods with calcium help to increase the effectiveness of the tryptophan. Milk also contains tryptophan, which is only released when heated up. Tryptophan pills may also be purchased over the counter as a natural supplement at your local pharmacy or vitamin store.

Good Two-hour before bedtime snacks:

  • glass of warm milk*
  • a banana*
  • 1/2 of a turkey sandwich*
  • 1/2 a peanut butter and jelly sandwich*
  • cup of relaxing tea (chamomile tea, Sleepytime tea by Celestial Seasonings, Bedtime tea by Yogi Tea, or many others.

* these foods contain the sleep promoting amino-acid tryptophan

For more info about tryptophan visit this external link.

Foods that can hurt sleep
C'mon, you know you shouldn't.

Avoiding certain foods before bedtime can make a difference in your sleep patterns. For example, too much of any protein rich foods before bed can keep you up. Foods high in protein contain the amino acid tyrosine, which increases brain activity, the opposite of what is needed when heading for bed. If you suspect something you are eating or drinking could be interfering with your sleep, then eliminate it from your diet for a week or two and see if your sleep improves.

Foods to avoid before bed:

  • Sugary, fatty, heavy, or rich foods are often difficult to digest and may keep you up.
  • Large meals before bedtime should be avoided.
  • Spicy foods before bed (especially if combined with foods mentioned above) can cause heartburn or acid-reflux when laying down to sleep.
  • Caffeine consumed too close to bedtime might make it difficult to fall asleep. Careful, coffee is not the only caffeine source. Sodas, tea, and chocolate usually contain caffeine.
  • Alcohol, while most people know it has relaxation effects, it also interferes with sleep by fragmenting it through frequent arousals, and a lack of deep restorative sleep.
  • Too many liquids can cause you to get up frequently in the night to use the restroom. It is best to limit your liquid intake about an hour or two before bed.

Personal Habits

The following personal habits may create problems with sleep.

  • Caffeine - The effects of caffeine in the body can last a long time and may bring about issues with someone trying to go to sleep. For some people, caffeine may last up to 10 or 12 hours after consuming the substance. It is recommended that you eliminate caffeine from your diet after lunch and see if that helps, or cut back on the amount of caffeine you consume altogether.
  • Alcohol - This depressant can make a person feel quite sleeply and may even make them fall asleep faster, or pass out. However, any benefits gained by alcohol are quickly erased, once asleep, because alcohol in the system actually prevents a deep, restorative sleep, through frequent arousals or awakenings. It is best to avoid alcohol a few hours before bed. And as always, drink responsibly and in moderation.
  • Smoking or Tobacco use - Nicotine, found in tobacco products, is a stimulant. Stimulants work against sleep and should be avoided. Tobacco use also has many other negative effects on health, some of which could cause sleep problems. In fact, nicotine users actually begin to experience withdrawal symptoms while they are sleeping, which disrupts the sleep cycle. If at all possible, quit smoking. In the long run, it will help your sleep and your health.

Sleep environment

Your sleep environment plays a big role in how well you sleep. Typically one should try to have a quiet, dark, and comfortably cool place to sleep. Your bed, pillows, bedding, and other factors, also play a role in creating the optimum environment for sleep. Everyone is a little different, so be sure to experiment and keep what works for you.

Make sure it's peaceful.

Beds and comfort

The Bedroom is for Sleeping and Sex Only

Size - A comfortable bed is essential for quality sleep. The bed should be large enough for you to stretch out on and turn over in comfortably. You should not feel cramped in bed.

Mattress Firmness - If your back or neck is sore when you wake up, this is a good sign you may need a new mattress or that you may need to adjust the firmness level of your bed. If your bed is too firm, you can add a foam topper to try and increase the softness.

Bedding - Your bedding (sheets, covers, comforter, etc.) should be soft to the touch and preferably clean. Try soft breathable 100% cotton sheets with a higher thread count. Too much or too little bedding can be an issue, as well. Try to find the right balance.

Pillows - There are many different pillows available. Try finding the perfect pillow by experimenting with feather, synthetic, and cotton pillows. You may also want to try some of the various specialty pillows made for stomach, back, or side sleepers, and other situations. Read more about choices on the page devoted to Bed Pillows.

Room used for sleep

Experts on sleep profess that the bedroom should only be used for sleep and sex. The reasoning is that while it may be comfortable to do other things in bed (read, write, eat, surf the web, work, watch tv, etc.), associating the bedroom with other activities besides sleep can make it more difficult to unwind and fall asleep, in the end. Ideally, your bedroom should be quiet, comfortable, dark, and at your preferred temperature.

Light and sound

Light - Keep the room dark while you sleep. Light can send your body the wrong signals and throw off your body clock. If you have light coming in from a window, it is best to use some blackout blinds, or heavy curtains, to limit the amount of light coming in through the window. Eye masks, or sleep masks, can be helpful with regards to blocking out light.

Noise - The sound level in your bedroom should be very quiet. Some people do not like total silence and are accustomed to some kind of white noise (fan, air conditioner, etc.), which is fine. Loud conversations, TV blasting, loud music, and the like should be avoided. If there are loud sounds coming from outside the residence that cannot be controlled, such as traffic or construction, try a white noise machine, or some soft, relaxing music. Earplugs also work very well.

Temperature and humidity

Most people sleep better in a slightly cool environmental temperature with a relatively low degree of humidity. A room that is too cold, too warm, too humid, or too dry can make sleeping difficult or uncomfortable. Try adjusting the temperature in your room slightly, or use a fan to stay cool. Keep notes in a sleep diary to track if there is any improvement in your sleep. In dryer climates, or in the winter when the heater can dry out the air, try using a stand-alone room humidifier. Stagnant air is not ideal either. Use a fan to keep the air circulating, or crack a window to let in a little fresh air. Some people with night sweats have found The Bedfan to be a helpful product.

Sleep preparation

It is true that what you do before bed and to get ready for bed, can make a difference in your sleep habits. Here are some things to consider.

Sleep schedule

Wake up at the Same Time each Morning

Going to bed and waking up at the same time of day, each day, can improve your sleep. Even on the weekends, when it is tempting to stay up late or sleep in, try to stick to your schedule. Having the same schedule helps the body clock stay on cue and synchronized.

  • Try to schedule your bedtime about the same time you normally get tired.
  • Keep your schedule, even on the weekends.
  • Make any changes in small increments if you need to adjust your schedule.
  • Try one of the Ten Most Annoying Alarm Clocks.
Sleep Related iPhone Apps

1. Sleep Tracker TYLENOL PM

Record your sleep hours and moods, view history over time, add sleep notes to create a journal & get dozens of sleep tips FREE

2. EasyWakeUp

Smart Alarm Clock. It uses a motion detector (accelerometer) in order to detect the best time to wake you up (based on research of sleep phases). $0.99 - $14.99

3. Ambience

An "environment enhancer" designed to help you create the perfect ambient atmosphere to focus or relax. Over 500 free sounds to download and choose from. $0.99

4. Relax Sound Sleep Lite

A lite version of the full version of aRelax Sound, which contain more than 50 natural sounds and noises: soft sea wave, soft wind via canyon, stream fall into river, waterfall distant, frog sing, katydid, diving, camp fire, train, ocean wave surf, rain forest, mountain hurst, wind blow tent. chimp, churchbell, clock tick, crane, thunder bolt, wild bird, wild boar, chick, lark, sea birds, seagull, sheep blat, wolf, wind chimes, bubbles noise, etc. FREE - $1.99

5. Stress Reducer

Need to unwind and let go of some stress? Stress Reducer is an application that can help you do just that. Its simple and easy.

Select a picture of a shell by touching the button on the app. Once you find a shell you like, put your iPhone to your ear (or if you have an iPod it will play through the external speaker) and hear the ocean waves through the shell (your iPhone speaker). Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and relax. You'll feel the weight of the world lift off your shoulders. FREE

Bedtime routine

Having a consistent bedtime routine and schedule helps to signal to your body that it is time to start winding down and heading for bed, making falling asleep easier. Avoid stressful situations, strenuous activities, or bright lights before bed. Try some relaxing activities before bedtime. Not only will they help your body prepare for sleep, they relieve anxiety. Here are some suggestions.

  • Listen to some soft music
  • Enjoy some visualization, meditation, yoga, or other relaxation technique.
  • Drink a glass of sleep tea or warm milk.
  • Take a warm bath

Many people have a TV in their bedroom and like to watch television while in bed. However, the light, sounds, and stimulating nature of television is counterproductive to sleep. Most programming on TV is trying to get and keep your attention, and therefore is highly stimulating to the brain, the opposite of what you need when preparing for bed. The light from the TV can also interfere with your body clock and watching TV before bed, or in the bedroom, makes you associate other activities with the bed, and the bedroom. Therefore, it is recommended to remove the television from your bedroom, if you are trying to improve your sleep.

  • Remove the television from your bedroom.
  • Record any late night shows you enjoy for viewing earlier in the day.
  • Be patient, if you were used to falling asleep with the TV on, as it takes time to adjust.
  • Try some soft music or a white noise machine, instead of television.
Worry and anxiety
Clear your head before bed

Worry and anxiety can make it difficult to get to sleep. Bedtime should be a time of peace, quiet, and relaxation and so things that cause worry and anxiety should be avoided, if possible. Having a good bedtime routine that is relaxing is helpful, as worry and anxiety release chemicals in the body that make you more awake and alert, making it difficult to fall, and stay, asleep. Sometimes it is difficult to quiet the mind. Try some of the following.

  • Relaxation or meditation techniques are helpful.
  • Make a list of what is bothering you. Sometimes just getting it out is helpful.
  • Make a to do list for the next day.
  • Write in a journal.
  • Try something else relaxing to distract your mind.

Waking up in the middle of the night

Most people normally wake up during the night, to use the bathroom, or change positions, and then go right back to sleep without a problem. However, sometimes it can be difficult to get back to sleep. It is easy to become frustrated and then feel anxious about getting back to sleep, which only makes the problem worse.

  • If you wake up and have trouble getting back to sleep, try sending signals to your brain that it is still time to sleep by keeping it dark and quiet, and engaging in some kind of relaxation or meditation technique.
  • If you are awake for more than 15 minutes, it is best to get out of bed and do a quiet non-stimulating activity until you feel ready to sleep again. Keep the lights dim so as not to trigger the body clock into thinking that is time to wake up. Drinking some herbal sleep tea might be a good idea.

Other ideas: Melatonin. Blue light therapy. More time on CPAP to see if resolves. Switch to APAP machine.


There are many sleep medications or sleep aids available, either over the counter, or by prescription from your doctor. They are usually meant to be used for a short term and sometimes they can be counter productive, because of their side effects. If you have sleep problems, and want to take medications to help you sleep, it is recommended that you work closely with your healthcare professional to decide if medication is part of the solution in your particular situation. According to Donna Arand, Ph.D., clinical director of the Kettering Hospital Sleep Disorders Center in Dayton, Ohio, interviewed for a recent Reader's Digest Article "Sleep becomes your overriding thought in life," says Dr. Arand. You start mainlining caffeine during the day, then popping sleeping pills at night. Those strategies may give you a temporary boost in alertness, but in the long run they only exacerbate the problem.

Usually behavior modifications make the biggest difference in improving the quality of your sleep.

Medication and CPAP Use

Sinus congestion

Other medications, either over the counter or prescription, can also have unwanted side effects that include insomnia, restlessness, and an increase in alertness. Again, read all warning labels, and work closely with your doctor, if you suspect one of the medications you are taking is interfering with your sleep.

External Links

These are links to external websites that have more sleep tips.