As long as one wakes feeling refreshed and well rested, say the experts, there is no “required” amount of sleep. While the average adult does best with seven to seven-and-a-half hours of sleep a night, the normal range is from four to ten hours. For those who would like to improve their sleep, researchers give these tips:

1. Avoid caffeinated beverages after noontime. Limit total consumption to two or fewer cups per day.

2. Do not drink alcoholic beverages in the evening, because alcohol lightens and fragments sleep.

3. Do not smoke just before bedtime or during the night, because nicotine can disturb sleep.

4. Exercise regularly during the day, but do not exercise within three hours of going to bed.

5. Maintain a regular bedtime and awakening time. Get out of bed at the regular time even if sleep was poor, as sleeping in can disrupt sleep the following night.

6. Keep the bedroom dark and quiet. Try to screen out any disturbing noise or light. Maintain a comfortable temperature in the bedroom.

7. Establish a relaxing routine in preparation for sleep. Engaging in frustrating activities or excessive worry close to bedtime may cause anxiety and prevent sleep.

8. Do not use the bed or bedroom for anything other than sleep or sexual activities. If the bedroom is used for non-sleep activities such as balancing the checkbook or watching TV, it becomes a stimulus for alertness, not sleep.

9. Avoid routine use of melatonin (an over-the-counter sleep aid) for treating sleep problems.

10. If sleep problems persist, ask your health-care provider about a referral to a sleep-disorders center.

Adapted from Principles and Practice of Sleep Medicine, third edition.



© 2003 Emory University