Sleep plays a vital role in health and well-being. Not getting enough sleep is associated with a number of health problems including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, depression, and obesity. Lack of sleep also contributes to accidents; driving drowsy can be as dangerous as driving while intoxicated.

Adults need 7-8 hours of sleep a night.

What are some factors that can prevent a good night's sleep?

  • Drinking tea, coffee, soda or other liquid that contains caffeine in the late afternoon may prevent sleep. It can take as long as 6–8 hours for the effects of caffeine to wear off completely.
  • Nicotine leads to lighter than normal sleep. Heavy smokers also tend to wake up too early because of nicotine withdrawal.
  • Although alcohol is a sedative that makes it easier to fall asleep, it prevents deep sleep and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, allowing only the lighter stages of sleep. People who drink alcohol also tend to wake up in the middle of the night when the effects of an alcoholic "nightcap" wear off.
  • Being overweight can lead to snoring and breathing problems while sleeping.
  • Some commonly used prescription and over-the-counter medicines may contain ingredients that can keep you awake.

Some helpful hints for getting sleep:

  • Have a regular bedtime and regular wake time.
  • Make sure your bedroom is a quiet, dark, and relaxing place, neither too hot nor too cold.
  • Choose a comfortable mattress and pillow.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol late in the day.
  • Exercise regularly, but not within 3 hours of bedtime.
  • Avoid large meals before bedtime.
  • Have a bedtime ritual. For example, take a shower, have a glass of milk, brush your teeth, read, and then go to bed.
  • Keep a journal or diary next to your bed. If a problem is bothering you write it down and tell yourself you will deal with it the next day.

If you work the night shift:

  • Use bright lights in your workplace.
  • Keep your bedroom very dark and quiet. Use room darkening shades and earplugs if necessary.
  • Stick to a regular daily schedule with the same routine every day, even on days off.
  • Schedule your longest period of sleep soon after you get home.
  • Take a nap just before work to help avoid on the job drowsiness.

If you have regular sleepless nights see your healthcare provider. You could have a sleep disorder like sleep apnea or restless legs syndrome. It is important to find the cause of a sleep disturbance and treat it.

View the Game Plan for Your Health video, Rest for Success, to learn even more about getting your best rest!

Additional Information:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Sleep and Sleep Disorders

Your Guide to Healthy Sleep

Vanderbilt Sleep Disorders Clinics