Patient Education

Patient Education

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I often have patients ask about difficulty sleeping or insomnia. This is a very common problem. Statistics show that one third of adults report insomnia within any given year.  Insomnia can be caused by a variety of reasons most of which resolve without treatment in a short period of time. The following are recommendations pulled from a variety of sources shown to help improve sleep.


1) Follow a sleep routine. Keep a consistent time to go to bed and to wake up. This should not vary by more than 30-60 minutes from day to day. This helps your internal clock.  You will begin to feel sleepy before bedtime and wake rested on a daily basis.

2) Establish a pre-bedtime routine. For 30-60 min prior to bed do something relaxing to prepare your mind for rest. Take a bath, read, meditate, pray or listen to relaxing music. Use this time to wind-down. Avoid all electronic devices 60 minutes before bed. This includes TV, electronic readers, smart phones, tablets, lap tops. The lighting in electronic devices can interfere with sleep.

3) Keep your bedroom dark, quiet and at a comfortable temperature

4) Use your bedroom only for sleep and intimacy. Do not watch TV, read, eat, or exericse in the bedroom.

5) Do not "try" to fall asleep or "battle" not falling asleep in bed. This only makes the problem worse. If you cannot fall asleep, get up and leave the room. Continue to do your "wind-down" activity until you feel sleepy. Then return to bed.


During the day:


1) Do not nap.

2) Exercise regularly. Exercise helps you fall asleep and sleep sounder. Avoid exercise for the two hours prior to bed as it is stimulating.

3) Avoid caffeine. I generally recommend going caffeine free. However, you may choose to limit caffeine to the morning. Definitely no caffeine after 12:00 pm (lunch).

4) Avoid alcohol. Alcohol may help you fall asleep, but the sleep is not quality sleep and you are more likely to wake up in the middle of the night.

5) Establish regular meal times. A regular breakfast and dinner time also helps to set your internal clock. Avoid eating big meals or heavy food late at night. However, do not go to bed hungry. A light snack before bedtime will help you sleep better if you are hungry.

6) Do not smoke. There are many reasons not to smoke, but smoking disrupts sleep.


Again, there are many causes of insomnia. If your insomnia is not improving you should schedule an appointment with your primary care provider for a more indepth evaluation. Prior to your appointment keep a sleep journal for 3-5 days. Here you can detail your symptoms, bedtime habits, and reasons for not sleeping or waking. This can be very helpful information in developing a medical treatment plan.


For more information go to search insomnia


Kathleen M. Curtis MD