What is included in patient education about insomnia?

Updated: Sep 11, 2018
  • Author: Jasvinder Chawla, MD, MBA; Chief Editor: Selim R Benbadis, MD  more...
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All patients with insomnia, whether transient or chronic, should be educated about sleep and the elements of good sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene refers to daily activities and habits that are consistent with or promote the maintenance of good quality sleep and full daytime alertness.

Educate patients on the following elements of good sleep hygiene:

  • Develop regular sleep habits; this means keeping a regular sleep and wake time, sleeping as much as needed to feel refreshed the following day, but not spending more time in bed than needed

  • Avoid staying in bed in the morning to catch up on sleep

  • Avoid daytime naps; if a nap is necessary, keep it short (less than 1 hour) and avoid napping after 3 pm

  • Keep a regular daytime schedule; regular times for meals, medications, chores, and other activities helps keep the inner body clock running smoothly

  • Do not read, write, eat, watch TV, talk on the phone, or play cards in bed

  • Avoid caffeine after lunch; avoid alcohol within 6 hours of bedtime; avoid nicotine before bedtime

  • Do not go to bed hungry, but do not eat a big meal near bedtime either

  • Avoid sleeping pills, particularly over-the-counter remedies

  • Slow down and unwind before bed (beginning at least 30 minutes before bedtime (a light snack may be helpful); create a bedtime ritual such as getting ready for bed, wearing night clothes, listening to relaxing music, or reading a magazine, newspaper, or book

  • Avoid watching TV in the bedroom or sleeping on the sofa and then going to bed later in the night

  • Avoid stimulating activities prior to bedtime (eg, vigorous exercise, discussing or reviewing finances, or discussing stressful issues with a spouse or partner or ruminating about them with oneself)

  • Keep the bedroom dark, quiet, and at a comfortable temperature

  • Exercise daily; this is best performed in the late afternoon or early evening (but not later than 6-7 pm)

  • Do not force yourself to sleep; if you are unable to fall asleep within 15-30 minutes, get up and do something relaxing until sleepy (eg, read a book in a dimly lit room, watch a non-stimulating TV program); avoid watching the clock or worrying about the perceived consequences of not getting enough sleep

See the American Academy of Sleep Medicine Sleep Education site for valuable information.

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