5 Ways to Sleep Better Tonight

Strategies for getting a good night's sleep, even in a challenging time.

Jyoti Matta, MD
Jyoti Matta, MD

“Everyone is so stressed out these days,” says Jyoti Matta, MD, Medical Director for the Center for Sleep Disorders at Jersey City Medical Center. “Sleep gets impacted by our concerns and the feelings associated with them.” That seems to hold especially true in a time of the pandemic. Indeed, the number of Google searches for terms like “can’t sleep” and “insomnia” hit an all-time high this past spring.

Most people need seven to eight hours a night of uninterrupted sleep, Dr. Matta says. Not getting it can leave us vulnerable to infection due to a weakened immune system. Here’s Dr. Matta’s advice for building up your sleep stats:

  1. Stick to a routine.
    Many circumstances are beyond our control these days, but having a daily schedule is not. “Get up and get dressed at regular times,” says Dr. Matta. “The routine in your home office should be the same as in the workplace. Follow proper mealtimes and incorporate exercise as part of your routine”—but not close to bedtime, when the exercise might be too stimulating.
  2. Go to sleep and get up at regular times.
    “Try not to oversleep or sleep in, which throws off your sleep cycle,” says Dr. Matta. “Also, you may find you have more of a tendency to take naps now, but remember that a healthy, rejuvenating nap is just 15 to 20 minutes. Anything more than that affects your ability to sleep at night.”
  3. Expose yourself to natural light every day.
    “We’re going from our phones to our computers to our tablets and televisions,” Dr. Matta says. “The ambient light that comes off of electronics is not good for sleep. It stimulates the brain and changes our circadian rhythms.” She recommends moving around the house or neighborhood daily to ensure you get natural light—and shelving the electronics as bedtime nears.
  4. Watch what and when you eat.
    “If you eat closer to bedtime, reflux—in which stomach contents come back up into the esophagus—can kick in and lead to interrupted sleep,” Dr. Matta says. Avoid foods that are spicy or high in acid, fat, or carbohydrates (which can cause insulin to fluctuate and, in turn, disrupt sleep). Instead, target foods that are high in protein and fiber, especially closer to bedtime. Also, limit caffeine and alcohol. “Alcohol may make you fall asleep, but it actually is a big deterrent to quality, continuous sleep,” says Dr. Matta.
  5. Keep a sleep diary/worry journal.
    On the diary side, make a note of things like when you went to bed and woke up, how many times you woke during the night and how many hours of sleep you got. On the journal side, “just before bed, make a list of things to do tomorrow. Then tell yourself that there is nothing you can do about any of these things right now and that you will address them first thing in the morning,” says Dr. Matta.

    “Give yourself that precious 30 minutes before bed and tell yourself there will be no worrying,” she advises. “Create pleasant, relaxing rituals so that bedtime will become something you look forward to.”

To schedule an appointment at the Center for Sleep Disorders at Jersey City Medical Center, call 201-915-2020.