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Pediatric Associates of Livingston

Health Care Library: Healthy Sleep Habits

Getting to Sleep

  • Regular rise time and bedtime: by doing this everyday, you can help your internal clock by providing regular cues, thereby improving your sleep-wake cycle. This should help in getting to sleep faster and reduce the number of nighttime awakenings.
  • Bright light exposure: Get plenty of bright light exposure, especially natural light during the day. This will give your internal clock a strong cue to run on time.
  • Stimulants: avoid stimulants, such as caffeine. Avoid caffeine-containing drugs, drinks, and foods for eight hours before bedtime. This will help with getting to sleep and staying asleep.
  • Avoid thoughts or discussions about topics that cause anxiety, anger, and frustration before bedtime. This will help with getting to sleep.
  • Institute and maintain a definite bedtime routine that is relaxing to help signal the body that sleep is to occur soon. Examples might include: a bath, brushing teeth, a small  glass of warm milk (4-6 oz.), or a light snack. This will help with getting to sleep and will reduce the need to awaken due to hunger.
  • Reserve the bedroom and especially the bed for sleeping. Avoid activities like reading and watching television in bed. Your body needs cues to associate the bed with sleeping and not other activities.
  • If you nap, try to do so at the same time every day and for no more than 1 hour, and ending by 3pm.
  • Don’t spend more than 15 minutes trying to sleep. If you cannot sleep after 15 minutes, get out of be and engage in a quiet activity. Ideally, the activity should be in low light and sedentary, for example, listening to soft relaxing music or meditating, not reading with bright  light. Return to bed only when you are sleepy.
  • Food: avoid a heavy meal late in the day, but a bedtime snack may be helpful. The food should include protein with the amino acid tryptophan. Tryptophan is a precursor to making serotonin and melatonin.

Staying Alseep

  • Minimize light and noise at bedtime and throughout the night. This will reduce stimulation and promote normal function of the body’s melatonin rhythm that helps promote and maintain sleep. Ear plugs may be helpful if the environment is noisy.
  • Fitness: 30-60 minutes of vigorous exercise each day is good, but do not exercise within 2 hours of bedtime. Exercise increases the body temperature. Sleep onset normally occurs as the body temperature is decreasing. Artificially increasing body temperature can therefore give the wrong cue to the brain and contribute to sleep disruption.
  • Environment: Assure the bedroom environment is right for sleep: comfortable bed, dark, quiet, and a cool temperature for sleeping.
  • Avoid looking at the bedroom clock if you awaken. If necessary, face the clock to the wall.


  • Is an over the counter medication for sleep. A dose of 1-3 mg for children and 5 mg for adolescents is usually effective.