Improved sleep behavior and attitudes do more good than sleeping pills for the treatment of insomnia, experts at a recent National Institutes of Health Consensus Conference agreed, says Daniel Kripke of the University of California, San Diego.
The changes Kripke recommends:
- Do not take sleeping pills. This includes over-the-counter pills and melatonin.
- Don't go to bed until you're sleepy. If you have trouble sleeping, try going to bed later or getting up earlier.
- Get up at the same time every morning, even after a bad night's sleep. The next night, you'll be sleepy at bedtime.
- If you wake up in the middle of the night and can't fall back to sleep, get out of bed and return only when you are sleepy.
- Avoid worrying, watching TV, reading scary books, and doing other things in bed besides sleeping and sex. If you worry, read thrillers or watch TV, do that in a chair that's not in the bedroom.
- Do not drink or eat anything caffeinated within six hours of bedtime.
- Avoid alcohol. It's relaxing at first but can lead to insomnia when it clears your system.
- Spend time outdoors. People exposed to daylight or bright light therapy sleep better.
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Robin Lloyd was a senior editor at Space.com and Live Science from 2007 to 2009. She holds a B.A. degree in sociology from Smith College and a Ph.D. and M.A. degree in sociology from the University of California at Santa Barbara. She is currently a freelance science writer based in New York City and a contributing editor at Scientific American, as well as an adjunct professor at New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program.