Can’t Sleep? Here’s How to Fix That and Get Snoozing

Getting proper sleep is crucial to managing stress (a major risk factor for heart attacks) and keeping healthy. If you can’t sleep, it may be because you’re not following healthy sleep habits, or what Harvard Medical School’s Division of Sleep Medicine calls, “sleep hygiene.” Here are some top tips to get you back to bed:

1. Stay on a sleep schedule

The National Sleep Foundation recommends somewhere between 7-9 hours of sleep every night for adults. You should make your best effort to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, including weekends. This consistency will promote your body’s sleep-wake cycle.

Your bedroom should be cool—around 62 to 64 degrees Fahrenheit—with a window open whenever possible

2. Get out of bed

It may seem counterintuitive, but the AHA recommends getting out of bed to rest if you’re feeling restless and having trouble falling asleep. Even just taking 10-15 minutes to rest your mind, read a book or listen to music can help prepare your body reset before trying to go to sleep again.

Matthew Walker, the author of Why We Sleep, told NPR that “You should not actually stay in bed for very long awake because your brain is this remarkably associative device. And it quickly learns that the bed is about being awake. So you should go to another room—a room that’s dim. Just read a book. No screens. No phones. And only when you’re sleepy, return to the bed. And that way your brain relearns the association with your bedroom being about sleep rather than wakefulness.”

3. Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol

Caffeine and nicotine act as stimulants that can keep you awake, so avoid them for four to six hours before bed, says Harvard Medical School’s Division of Sleep Medicine. Keep in mind that caffeine can be found in unexpected places like chocolate, cola, and some pain relievers.

After a few hours of consumption, alcohol can act as a stimulant, decreasing your quality of sleep. Harvard recommends limiting alcohol to one or two drinks per day or fewer, and avoiding drinking within three hours of bedtime.

4. Limit naps

Taking lengthy naps during the day can get in the way of your restful nighttime sleep. If you must nap, make sure it’s less than 30 minutes and not so late in the day.

5. Make your bedroom cozy

Nothing makes you want to curl up for bed more than a comfy, cozy bedroom. Dr. Els van der Herm, one of the founders of the sleep app Shleep, says that “Your bedroom should be cool—around 62 to 64 degrees Fahrenheit—with a window open whenever possible. You might need a thicker blanket, but that’s better than keeping the window closed.”

All the information contained in this website is intended for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. Inclusion of specific information is not considered an endorsement of any organization or content, nor do we believe that this website is comprehensive of all the sources related to heart health. Readers are encouraged to consult other sources and talk with their healthcare provider to obtain further information and personal treatment advice.

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