Learn how to sleep and stay asleep


I hope this column puts you to sleep...really. Last week, I heard Joyce Walsleben, RN, PhD, of the NYU Sleep Disorder Center, talk about sleep and how to sleep. What she said changed how I approach bedtime. Here are a few highlights from her excellent presentation:

What is normal?

  • Adults usually need 7-8 hours of sleep per night
  • Adolescents need more, up to 10 hours each night
  • Each person has 4-5 awakenings every night
  • Everyone has 10-15 brief arousals each hour
  • The ability to sleep changes across the life span

If you don't get enough sleep each night or know how to sleep through the night, you aren't alone. According to Walsleben, 30% of people between the ages of 30-60 sleep fewer than 6 hours a night. This lack of sleep can affect your behavior, performance, mood, memory, and even different body functions. Sleepers who get fewer than 5-6 hours of shuteye and those who sleep more than 8 hours a night, have a greater risk of developing diabetes. This may occur because shorter sleepers have lower insulin sensitivity and longer sleepers participate in fewer hours of activity.

The amount of sleep we get can also affect our appetites. People who don't get enough snooze time have an increased level of ghrelin. Ghrelin is an appetite stimulant that can cause you to eat more and gain weight. It also raises the desire for calorie-rich foods.

Tips on How to Sleep

  • Try to wake up at the same time every day (with an hour variation on weekends).
  • When you feel yourself start to wake up in the middle of the night, do not turn on the light, watch TV, read, or get out of bed. If you do, it will make it harder to fall back asleep. Instead, close your eyes, roll over, and wait—your body will take you back to sleep.
  • Small aches and pains may wake you up during the night. To overcome this annoyance, you can try taking a single Tylenol or Advil before you head to bed. Ask your doctor if this is an appropriate option for you.
  • Valerian is an herbal sleep aide that is popular in Europe. If you can find a high-quality product from a reliable company, you may find it helpful. You must take it consistently for several weeks before you see any effects. If you want to try Melatonin as a sleep aide, take it at 9:00 PM each night. Discuss these options with your healthcare team.

The night after her talk, I decided to try Walsleben's trick for mid-sleep wake ups and brief arousals. When I felt myself waking up, I closed my eyes, rolled over, and waited. I did it several times. When my alarm finally woke me up, I discovered I had slept 8 full hours and felt amazing!

I hope these suggestions on how to sleep help you get more from your time of rest. Sweet dreams!

NOTE: The information is not intended to be a replacement or substitute for consultation with a qualified medical professional or for professional medical advice related to diabetes or another medical condition. Please contact your physician or medical professional with any questions and concerns about your medical condition.


Last Modified Date: February 28, 2014

All content on is created and reviewed in compliance with our editorial policy.

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