Sleeping well is vital to good health


Last updated 1/19/2019 at 4:47pm

Want to have less stress and anxiety, along with generally better health? Then start getting more, and better, sleep.

It’s simple advice but for millions of people it’s often difficult to accomplish. The American Sleep Association estimated some 50 to 70 million Americans suffer from some form of sleep disorder, ranging from insomnia that makes falling or staying asleep difficult, to sleep apnea, a sleep breathing disorder that makes a solid night’s sleep virtually impossible.

Anyone who suffers from a serious sleep disorder should discuss the issue with their family doctor. Serious sleep disorders can have a direct effect on a person’s health.

But if, occasionally, it simply feels difficult to fall asleep or to get a good night’s sleep, there are actions they can take.

Experts said one of the best aids to sleeping well is having a regular sleep pattern. By going to bed and getting up at more or less the same time every day, it trains the body and brain to have regular sleep habits.

Researchers have also found there are a number of things to avoid to improve sleep. Alcohol, when consumed within four to six hours of bedtime, might seem relaxing but actually interrupts the quality of sleep.

Caffeine and nicotine, both of which are stimulants, can make it difficult to fall asleep if ingested within four to six hours of bedtime. Nicotine includes not just cigarettes, but also cigars, vaping and anything delivering nicotine. And avoiding caffeine means not just skipping that after-dinner cup of coffee, but also avoiding evening tea, chocolate, and cola drinks, all of which contain caffeine.

And what can help people actually sleep better? Start with a comfortable bed and pillow. People also usually sleep better in cool rooms. Consider ear plugs or an eye mask if noise or excessive light is waking them up. A warm bath helps many people feel more relaxed and sleepy. It’s also a good idea to try not to nap during the day. And keep food, computers, cell phones, TV and other electronics out of the bedroom.

Try reading or even listening to music instead.

Adults need from seven to nine hours of sleep a night; infants and children need even more. Start making changes for better sleep and feel more rested, relaxed and healthier.

Counseling Corner is provided by the American Counseling Association. Comments and questions to or visit the ACA website at


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