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What is sleep?

Sleep is a periodic state of rest during which consciousness of the world is suspended. The most significant characteristic of sleep which differentiates it from the waking state is the interruption of perception; a sleeping person does not see or hear. Additionally, sleep is marked by:

  • decreased movement of the skeletal muscles,
  • slowed-down metabolism, and
  • complex and active brain wave patterns.

Sleep consists of five stages and is an essential component of a healthy body and mind.


Why do we need sleep?

Sleep helps the body restore and rejuvenate in many different ways including:

Memory, Learning and Social Processes – Sleep enables the brain to encode new information and store it properly. REM sleep activates the parts of the brain that control learning. The parts of the brain that control emotions, decision-making and social interactions slow down dramatically during sleep, allowing optimal performance when awake.

Nervous System – Some sleep experts suggest that neurons used during the day repair themselves during sleep. When we experience sleep deprivation, neurons become unable to perform effectively and the nervous system is impaired.

Immune System – Similarly, sleep also enables the immune system to function effectively. During deep sleep, the body’s cells increase production while proteins break down at a slower rate. Without proper sleep, the immune system becomes weak and the body becomes more vulnerable to infection and disease.

Growth and Development – Children need much more sleep than adults. Growth hormones are released during sleep, so sleep is vital to proper physical and mental development. The effects (positive and negative) of sleep for babies and children are magnified. Tired children are often cranky, fussy and become easily frustrated and difficult. It is often easier for adults to interpret and remedy the effects of tiredness in children than for them to listen to their body’s own signals for more rest.


What are the stages of sleep?

There are five stages of sleep: stages 1, 2, 3, 4 and REM (rapid eye movement). The body cycles through the different sleep stages from stage 1 to REM and then begins again with stage 1. Each stage represents a different physical and mental state of the body during sleep. During some stages, the body is in a lighter sleep and can be awakened more easily, while others indicate a very deep sleep.

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke provides this description of the five sleep stages (from Brain Basics, see references & resources):

Stage 1 (Drowsiness) – We drift in and out of sleep for about 5 to 10 minutes and can be awakened easily. Our eyes move very slowly and muscle activity slows.

Stage 2 (Light Sleep) – Our eye movements stop and our brain waves (fluctuations of electrical activity that can be measured by electrodes) become slower, with occasional bursts of rapid waves called sleep spindles. Our heart rate slows and body temperature decreases.

Stages 3 and 4 (Deep Sleep) – Slow brain waves called delta waves begin to appear, interspersed with smaller, faster waves. By Stage 4 the brain produces delta waves almost exclusively. It is very difficult to wake someone during stages 3 and 4, which together are called deep sleep. There is no eye movement or muscle activity. People awakened during deep sleep do not adjust immediately and often feel groggy and disoriented for several minutes after they wake up. Some children experience bedwetting, night terrors, or sleepwalking during these stages.

REM Sleep – During REM sleep, our breathing becomes more rapid, irregular, and shallow, our eyes jerk rapidly in various directions, and our limb muscles become temporarily paralyzed. Our heart rate increases, our blood pressure rises, and males develop penile erections. People dream during this stage.

The average length of time for a complete sleep cycle is 90-110 minutes. About 50 percent of sleep time is spent in stage 2 and about 20 percent in REM sleep. The remaining 30 percent is split among the other stages. On average, a person will cycle through the stages 4 or 5 times in an eight hour period. After a person falls asleep, the first REM sleep period generally happens 70-90 minutes later.

The first cycles of the night will tend to have shorter REM periods and longer periods of deep sleep. This trend reverses as the night goes on. The later cycles have longer REM periods and shorter deep sleep periods. By morning, most sleepers spend almost all of their time in stages 1, 2 and REM sleep with very little or no deep sleep (stages 3 and 4). Infants are unique in that they spend approximately 50 percent of their sleep time in REM sleep.


How much sleep do I need?

Many people don’t assess how much sleep they need to function at their best; they just know they don’t get enough. Each person’s sleep requirement is different. Some people find that they only need 5-6 hours of sleep, while others need 10-11 hours for optimal performance. The average adult functions best with 7-8 hours of sleep a night; however, it is important to consider how much sleep you need on an individual basis.

Some guidelines to help you consider how much sleep you or your loved ones might need are:

Infants and Children – Infants require about 16 hours a day. From 6 months to about 3 years, children’s sleep requirement decreases to about 14 hours. Young children generally get their sleep from a combination of nighttime sleep and naps.

Teenagers – Teenagers need about 9 hours of sleep a night. Sleep is crucial for teenagers because it is while they are sleeping that their bodies release a hormone that is essential during their growth spurt.

Adults – For most adults, 7 to 8 hours a night appears to be the best amount of sleep, although the amount ranges from 5 hours to 10 hours of sleep each day depending on the individual. It should be noted that a recent research study conducted by Boston University School of Medicine found that study participants that reported sleeping less than 6 hours or more than 9 hours a day had an increased incidence of diabetes, compared to those who slept 7-8 hours (see references & resources).

Pregnant Women – Women in the first trimester of pregnancy, and sometimes throughout pregnancy, need significantly more sleep than usual.

How do I know if I am getting enough sleep? How will sleep deprivation affect me?

Some of the signs that indicate you may need more sleep include:

  • difficulty waking up in the morning,
  • inability to concentrate,
  • falling asleep during work or class, and
  • feelings of moodiness, irritability, depression or anxiety.

If you are consistently tired or drowsy during the day, you probably aren’t getting enough sleep. Microsleeps, brief episodes of sleep during the day, are also an indication that you are sleep deprived.

Getting less sleep than needed can cause a “sleep debt,” meaning that your body expects to make up that missed sleep. Remarkably, a person can make up for missed sleep during a night by sleeping more the next night, or compensate for missed sleep during the week by sleeping more on the weekend. Getting the missed sleep is important because the body needs it to recover and restore itself. Some people claim to get used to sleeping less. They may think their body adjusts to a sleep deprived schedule, but this probably isn’t the case. Generally, people who aren’t getting enough sleep show mental and physical signs of sleep deprivation during their waking hours.

The importance of sleep is emphasized by the effects of sleep deprivation. Coordination, judgment, reaction time and social functions will likely be harmed by lack of sleep. When you don’t get enough sleep, several things can occur:

Impaired memory: Drowsiness during the day interferes with your brain’s ability to concentrate, learn and remember things.

Physical impairment: Simple tasks may prove more difficult to perform and complex tasks may become seemingly impossible.

Emotional response: You may become anxious, moody, and impatient, and notice increased difficulties during interaction and cooperation with others.

Severe sleep deprivation can lead to physical incapacity, hallucinations and mood swings. Proper rest supports the body’s ability to perform at its best whereas sleep deprivation impairs the body and mind, preventing optimal performance.

It is clear that sleep deprivation is dangerous – studies have shown that:

Sleep-deprived people who are tested by using a driving simulator or by performing a hand-eye coordination task perform as badly as or worse than those who are intoxicated.

Sleep deprivation magnifies alcohol's effects on the body. A tired person who drinks will become much more impaired than someone who is well-rested.

Driving while drowsy can - and often does - lead to disaster because drowsiness is the brain’s last step before falling asleep. Fatigue is responsible for thousands of car accidents each year and probably many other types of injuries and deaths as well. Caffeine and other stimulants cannot overcome the effects of severe sleep deprivation.


What if I have trouble going to sleep? Is it insomnia?

The American Insomnia Association (AIA) states that insomnia is defined as trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. Different types of insomnia include:

Acute / Transient Insomnia – Lasts from one night to a few weeks and is often caused by a temporary situation in a person's life, such as an argument with a loved one, a brief medical illness, or jet lag.

Intermittent Insomnia – Occurs on and off and most commonly in people who are temporarily experiencing: stress, environmental noise, extreme temperatures, changes in the surrounding environment, sleep/wake schedule problems such as those due to jet lag, or medication side effects.

Chronic insomnia – Occurs on most nights and lasts a month or more (sometimes years). Chronic insomnia can be secondary to causes such as medical, physical or psychological conditions, sleep disorders (i.e., sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, etc.), medications or other substances.

Psychophysiological insomnia - Occurs when an individual worries so much about whether or not he/she will be able to go to sleep, that the person’s bedtime rituals and behavior actually trigger insomnia. The more the person worries about falling asleep, the harder it becomes.

Though symptoms of insomnia are most commonly found in women and older adults, insomnia can be experienced by people of all ages. Over 90 percent of people experience transient or short-term insomnia at some point during their lives, and up to 30 percent of the general U.S. population struggle with chronic or long-term insomnia. Typical symptoms of insomnia include:

difficulty falling asleep,

waking frequently during the night or early morning,

and not feeling refreshed from sleep.

Insomnia is not defined by the number of hours of sleep a person gets, but by the quality of sleep achieved.

Transient and intermittent insomnia are often caused by stress or emotional struggles and are usually not cause for concern. Often, the events and activities of the day have a way of taking over the night, too. If there is something that is consuming you when you are awake, whether it is a problem at work, a relationship issue or a family difficulty, chances are that it might also keep you up at night.

If you are able to overcome your sleeplessness after just a few nights, the effects of the sleep loss will not be great. Chronic insomnia is more concerning as it will eventually take a significant toll on your body and overall well-being.


What causes insomnia?

There are a number of factors that may cause a person to experience insomnia. Some include:

Lifestyle factors. The use of alcohol and stimulants (i.e., caffeine, nicotine, and nonprescription medications), erratic hours, changes in sleep/wake schedules (i.e., jet lag) and/or inactive behavior are known to contribute to unrestful sleep.

Environmental factors. Noise, light, extreme temperatures and changes in the surrounding environment can contribute to sleepless nights.

Psychological disorders. Insomnia is one of the most frequently reported symptoms of depression. It has also been linked to other psychological disorders including anxiety, bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress .

Menopause. Insomnia is frequently reported by women experiencing menopause. Hot flashes that occur during sleep can negatively affect the quality of sleep by bringing women from a deeper, more restful stage of sleep to a lighter, less restful and restorative stage.

Illness or medical problems. It is not uncommon for people experiencing illness or medical problems to suffer from insomnia. Common conditions that often cause or exacerbate insomnia include: arthritis, chronic pain, breathing problems, heart conditions, hormonal or digestive disorders.

Sleep-related disorders. Circadian rhythm disorders, sleep apnea, periodic limb movement or restless legs syndrome can accompany insomnia symptoms. To learn more about these conditions, see related Helpguide articles.

How is sleep affected by caffeine, medications, heavy smoking and alcohol?

Some foods and medicines alter the brain signals which control sleep and wakefulness, causing us to feel more alert or drowsier than we might otherwise. Some of the common products and their effects are listed below:

Caffeine (contained in popular drinks like coffee, tea and cola or foods such as chocolate) is a stimulant and may prevent you from getting the sleep you need. The National Sleep Foundation reports the effects of caffeine can cause problems falling asleep as much as 10-12 hours later in some people. Consider halting your caffeine intake earlier in the day to ensure you get quality sleep.

Spicy and acidic foods or eating a big meal close to bedtime can cause heartburn and indigestion. Instead, eat lighter meals earlier and then allow 2-3 hours to digest before heading to bed.

Herbal supplements and over-the-counter or prescription medications are also known to cause sleep disruption. Diet pills, decongestants, energy-boosting herbal supplements and other over-the-counter products activate parts of the brain and prevent quality sleep. In addition, many antidepressants suppress REM sleep leading to disrupted sleep cycles. Be sure to read labels carefully and consult with your physician should you have any questions on a particular medication or supplement.

Nicotine also stimulates the brain. Regular smokers often sleep very lightly and have reduced amounts of REM sleep. They also tend to wake up after 3 or 4 hours of sleep due to nicotine withdrawal.

Alcohol can induce a light sleep but impairs the more restorative stages of sleep. Many people who suffer from insomnia try to solve the problem with alcohol - the so-called night cap. Alcohol prevents sleepers from achieving REM sleep and deeper sleep. Instead, it keeps them in the lighter stages of sleep, from which they can be awakened easily.

How can I improve my sleep?

Establishing a consistent sleep routine is one of the most important ways to ensure that you get a good night’s sleep. If you consistently go to bed at 11:00 pm, but find yourself always tired during the day, forgo the extra hour of TV or reading to see if you notice a difference in your daytime alertness. Chances are you will see an improvement. The human body has a wonderful way of self-regulating.

What are some tips for getting to sleep?

Recent studies have shown that there is a natural correlation between the onset of sleep and a drop in body temperature (see “Trouble Sleeping – Chill Out” in References and resources).

If you are a person who has difficulty going to sleep, it may help to be aware of this drop in body temperature or even help it along by taking a hot bath 90 minutes before bed time. If you listen to your body’s desire to sleep as its temperature lowers, you may find that you fall asleep more quickly and sleep more deeply. Other tips for a pre-sleep ritual include:

Keep a regular schedule. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time everyday, even on the weekends. Keeping a regular schedule will help your body expect sleep at the same time each day. Don’t oversleep to make up for a poor night’s sleep – doing that for even a couple of days can reset your body clock and make it hard for you to get to sleep at night.

Incorporate bedtime rituals. Listening to soft music, sipping a cup of herbal tea, etc., cues your body that it's time to slow down and begin to prepare for sleep.

Relax for a while before going to bed. This may include meditation, relaxation and/or breathing exercises, or taking a warm bath before bedtime. Try listening to recorded relaxation or guided imagery programs.

Eat only a light snack before bed. Eating a large, heavy meal can interfere with your normal sleep cycle. Try to make sure you eat dinner at least 2-3 hours before your bedtime.

Drink warm milk before bedtime. In addition to being soothing, milk and dairy products contain tryptophan, a natural sleep enhancer. Plus, the warmth may temporarily increase your body temperature and the subsequent drop may hasten sleep. Other foods which contain tryptophan may also help – see below under "Get up and eat some turkey." for more information about tryptophan.

Jot down all of your concerns and worries. Think about your worries and possible solutions before you go to bed, so you don't need to ruminate in the middle of the night. A journal or "to do" list may be very helpful in letting you put away these concerns until the next day when you are fresh.


Will sleep medications and sleep aids help me sleep better?

Often, people turn to sleeping pills to help them sleep. While sleeping pills can be helpful in the short term, doctors generally agree that sleep medications may compound the problem of chronic sleeplessness over time. Medications are rarely helpful for long-term sleep issues because they do not treat the root cause of the problem and can ultimately exacerbate insomnia. In addition, some sleeping pills are addictive and have negative side effects.

It is very important that you and your practitioner try to identify the cause and type of your insomnia before considering medication. For example, short-term insomnia that is linked to a specific stress or situation in your life is probably best treated by addressing the situation and attempting to reduce the stress through behavioral modifications. Most chronic insomnia will benefit from an improvement in sleep hygiene and gradual attempts to change your mindset towards sleep.

There are numerous non-medical sleep aids available, from herbal remedies and nutritional recommendations to relaxation tapes and meditation exercises, many of which are worth investigating as a longer-lasting alternative to medications. See Helpguide’s Sleep Aids and Medications for the Treatment of Insomnia for more information.


Is there a connection between sleep deprivation and depression?

There is a clear link between sleep deprivation and depression. It has been reported that 80% of people with depression experience sleep problems. People suffering from depression tend to share similar sleep characteristics including:

  • Less sleep time overall
  • Less deep sleep
  • REM sleep earlier in the night
  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Frequent night waking
  • Early morning waking and an inability to go back to sleep

In the same way that a sleepless night can lead to feelings of lethargy and irritability, it can also lead to mild depression and - should the sleeplessness persist - major depression. When people experiencing depression are able to achieve better sleep, their depression tends to improve. Although sleep is not a cure for depression, it can improve a person’s mental state significantly. Plenty of rest and quality sleep can contribute to feeling capable of handling the challenges of life.


References and resources for getting the sleep you need

General information on sleep

Sleep, Sleep Disorders, and Biological Rhythms: Information About Sleep – A comprehensive teacher's guide that describes the biology of sleep, common sleep misconceptions, sleep requirements (for humans and different types of animals), and sleep disorders. (National Institutes of Health)

What is Sleep and Why Do We Do It? – An Illustrated overview of the sleep process that explains the basics of sleep, including what the body and brain are doing during sleep, sleep stages, and why we need sleep. Written ”for kids“ but very helpful to all ages for understanding the sleep process. (University of Washington faculty member)

Brain Basics: Understanding Sleep – A comprehensive overview of the sleep process and its effects on the body. Includes sections on how much sleep we need, the benefits of sleep, dreaming and REM sleep, sleep and Circadian Rhythms, sleep and disease and sleep disorders. (National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke)

The Stages of Sleep – A Toronto sleep clinic provides a comprehensive and illustrated overview of sleep stages including information on waking, REM sleep, non-REM sleep and factors that affect the sleep cycle. (Silent Partners Sleep Clinic)

Trouble Sleeping – Chill Out! – Provides information about a recent study linking a sudden drop in body temperature to the onset of sleep. (Sleep)

Can't Sleep? Myths and Facts About Sleep – A compiled list of common myths about sleep and the facts that dispel them. (National Sleep Foundation)

Ask the Sleep Expert – Conversations with leading sleep researchers address issues concerning sleep and children, stress, heart disease, obesity, narcolepsy, mental health, and more. (National Sleep Foundation)

Sleep IQ Test – Think you know all there is to know about sleep? Find out your sleep IQ by taking this quick 12-question test. (National Sleep Foundation)

Sleep needs and the effects of sleep deprivation

The Function of Sleep – Regulation or Just Plain Survival? – Discusses why the body needs sleep and recent research on the vital role sleep plays in the overall health of the body. Commercial site. (SleepQuest)

Dire Risk If You Sleep Less Than 6 Hours – Findings from a recent study indicate that people who sleep less than 6 hours or more than 9 hours a day may be at a greater risk of diabetes. (Boston University School of Medicine)

Fatigue: When to Rest, When to Worry – Provides a guide to identifying the root cause of your fatigue and presents tips for getting back on track. (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research)

Sleep Deprivation: Effects on Safety, Health and the Quality of Life – Outlines numerous ways sleep deprivation takes its toll on people’s safety, health, and quality of life. (California State University Fullerton)

Effects of Partial and Total Sleep Deprivation on Driving Performance – Discusses how sleep deprivation negatively affects driving performance. (Federal Highway Administration)

Sleep and children

Sleep Strategies – Provides tips for creating a regular sleep routine for your children. (BBC Parenting series)

Children and Sleep – An index of articles that provide information on sleep needs for children of all ages. (New York Online Access to Health)

Sleep and depression (and other mood disorders)

To Be Dreaming of Sleep – Summarizes the connections between depression and insomnia and other sleep disorders. (Psychology Today)

Getting Better Sleep What You Need to Know – Provides information on the frequent sleeplessness symptoms experienced by people with depression or bipolar disorder and tips for getting better quality sleep. (Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance)

Sleep and Depression – Q&A with a doctor about the relationship between sleep and depression. (National Sleep Foundation)


Tips for better daytime habits

Do not nap during the day. If you are having trouble sleeping at night, try not to nap during the day because you will throw off your body clock and make it even more difficult to sleep at night. If you are feeling especially tired, and feel as if you absolutely must nap, be sure to sleep for less than 30 minutes, early in the day.

Limit caffeine and alcohol. Avoid drinking caffeinated or alcoholic beverages for several hours before bedtime. Although alcohol may initially act as a sedative, it can interrupt normal sleep patterns.

Don't smoke. Nicotine is a stimulant and can make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. Many over-the-counter and prescription drugs disrupt sleep.

Expose yourself to bright light/sunlight soon after awakening. This will help to regulate your body's natural biological clock. Likewise, try to keep your bedroom dark while you are sleeping so that the light will not interfere with your rest.

Exercise early in the day. Twenty to thirty minutes of exercise every day can help you sleep, but be sure to exercise in the morning or afternoon. Exercise stimulates the body and aerobic activity before bedtime may make falling asleep more difficult.

Check your iron level. Iron deficient women tend to have more problems sleeping so if your blood is iron poor, a supplement might help your health and your ability to sleep.


Tips for a better sleep environment

Make sure your bed is large enough and comfortable. If you are disturbed by a restless bedmate, switch to a queen- or king-size bed. Test different types of mattresses. Try therapeutic shaped foam pillows that cradle your neck or extra pillows that help you sleep on your side. Get comfortable cotton sheets.

Make your bedroom primarily a place for sleeping. It is not a good idea to use your bed for paying bills, doing work, etc. Help your body recognize that this is a place for rest or intimacy.

Keep your bedroom peaceful and comfortable. Make sure your room is well ventilated and the temperature consistent. And try to keep it quiet. You could use a fan or a "white noise" machine to help block outside noises.

Hide your clock. A big, illuminated digital clock may cause you to focus on the time and make you feel stressed and anxious. Place your clock so you can't see the time when you are in bed.


Tips for a better pre-sleep ritual

Keep a regular schedule. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time everyday, even on the weekends. Keeping a regular schedule will help your body expect sleep at the same time each day. Don’t oversleep to make up for a poor night’s sleep – doing that for even a couple of days can reset your body clock and make it hard for you to get to sleep at night.

Incorporate bedtime rituals. Listening to soft music, sipping a cup of herbal tea, etc., cues your body that it's time to slow down and begin to prepare for sleep.

Relax for a while before going to bed. Spending quiet time can make falling asleep easier. This may include meditation, relaxation and/or breathing exercises, or taking a warm bath. Try listening to recorded relaxation or guided imagery programs.

Don’t eat a large, heavy meal before bed. This can cause indigestion and interfere with your normal sleep cycle. Drinking too much fluid before bed can cause you to get up to urinate. Try to eat your dinner at least two hours before bedtime.

Bedtime snacks can help. An amino acid called tryptophan, found in milk, turkey, and peanuts, helps the brain produce serotonin, a chemical that helps you relax. Try drinking warm milk or eat a slice of toast with peanut butter or a bowl of cereal before bedtime. Plus, the warmth may temporarily increase your body temperature and the subsequent drop may hasten sleep.

Jot down all of your concerns and worries. Anxiety excites the nervous system, so your brain sends messages to the adrenal glands, making you more alert. Write down your worries and possible solutions before you go to bed, so you don't need to ruminate in the middle of the night. A journal or "to do" list may be very helpful in letting you put away these concerns until the next day when you are fresh.

Go to sleep when you are sleepy. When you feel tired, go to bed.

Avoid "over-the-counter" sleep aids, and make sure that your prescribed medications do not cause insomnia. There is little evidence that supplements and other over-the-counter "sleep aids" are effective. In some cases, there are safety concerns. Antihistamine sleep aids, in particular, have a long duration of action and can cause daytime drowsiness. Always talk to your doctor or healthcare practitioner about your concerns!


Tips for getting back to sleep

Do visualization. Focus all your attention on your toes or visualize walking down an endless stairwell. Thinking about repetitive or mindless things will help your brain to shut down and adjust to sleep.

Get out of bed if unable to sleep. Don’t lie in bed awake. Go into another room and do something relaxing until you feel sleepy. Worrying about falling asleep actually keeps many people awake.

Don't do anything stimulating. Don't read anything job related or watch a stimulating TV program (commercials and news shows tend to be alerting). Don't expose yourself to bright light. The light gives cues to your brain that it is time to wake up.

Get up and eat some turkey. Turkey contains tryptophan, a major building block for making serotonin, a neurotransmitter, which sends messages between nerve cells and causes feelings of sleepiness. Eating foods containing tryptophan raise the levels of serotonin produced in the body, which in turn increase a person's feeling of sleepiness. It is best to eat tryptophan on an empty stomach. Other foods, besides turkey, that contain a notable amount of tryptophan are: milk, cottage cheese, yogurt, ice cream, chicken, cashews, soy beans and tuna.

Consider changing your bedtime. If you are experiencing sleeplessness or insomnia consistently, think about going to bed later so that the time you spend in bed is spent sleeping. If you are only getting five hours of sleep at night, figure out what time you need to get up and subtract five hours (for example, if you want to get up at 6:00 am, go to bed at 1:00 am). This may seem counterproductive and, at first, you may be depriving yourself of some sleep, but it can help train your body to sleep consistently while in bed. When you are spending all of your time in bed sleeping, you can gradually sleep more, by adding 15 minutes at a time.


Tips for keeping a sleep diary

Learn about your sleep patterns and habits by keeping a daily sleep diary. See Helpguide's sample sleep diary or make up your own and include:

Time you went to bed and woke up;

  • Total sleep hours;
  • Quality of sleep;
  • Times that you were awake during the night and what you did (e.g. stayed in bed with eyes closed or got up, had a glass of milk and meditated);
  • Amount of caffeine or alcohol you consumed and times of consumption;
  • Types of food and drink and times of consumption;
  • Feelings - happiness, sadness, stress, anxiety;
  • Drugs or medications taken, amounts taken and times of consumption.


References and resources for sleep tips and guides to better sleep

Sleep tips and good sleep habits

How to Get a Good Night’s Sleep (Kansas State University)

Helping Yourself to a Good Night's Sleep (National Sleep Foundation)

Sleep Hygiene: Helpful Hints to Help You Sleep (University of Maryland Medical Center)

10 Tips for Better Sleep (Mayo Clinic)

Foods for sleep

Is there something in turkey that makes you sleepy? - Short article on the effects of tryphtophan and the reason why it is best to eat turkey on an empty stomach to help you sleep. (How Stuff Works)

Foods For Sleep - Comprehensive article about the best foods for promoting sleep including lists of "Snooze Foods," "Best Bedtime Snacks," and "Best Dinners for Sleep." (Ask Dr Sears.com)

The Facts About The L-Tryptophan Effect - Presents information about tryptophan. Reveals that tryptophan can make you sleepy, but only if taken on an empty stomach. (Environment, Health and Safety Online)

Relaxation & meditation techniques for sleep

Relaxation techniques - Provides instructions for a variety of relaxation techniques including: progressive relaxation, toe tensing, deep breathing, guided imagery and quiet ears. (University of Maryland Medical Center)

Welcome to the Meditation Room - Free online audio guidance for a dozen meditations.  Start with “Reducing Stress.” (Learning Meditation)

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