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Sleep Problems, Age 12 and Older (cont.)


Many sleep problems can be prevented. Avoid activities that might keep you from a good night's sleep.

  • Use your bed only for sleeping. Do not read, watch television, or do paperwork in bed. Reserve the bedroom for sleeping and sexual activities so that you come to associate it with sleep.
  • Do not take naps during the day, especially in the evening.
  • Do not drink or eat caffeine after 3:00 p.m. This includes coffee, tea, cola drinks, and chocolate.
  • Avoid eating large meals close to bedtime.
  • Exercise during the day. Avoid strenuous exercise within 2 hours of bedtime.
  • Do not smoke or use other tobacco products. Nicotine can disrupt sleep and reduce total sleep time. Smokers report more daytime sleepiness and minor accidents than do nonsmokers, especially in younger age groups. For more information, see the topic Quitting Smoking.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol. It may make you sleepy but also will probably wake you up after a short time.
  • Do not engage in stimulating activities at bedtime. Substitute reading or listening to relaxing music for watching television.

You may be able to prevent sleep problems caused by jet lag. For information, see:

Click here to view an Actionset.Sleep Problems: Dealing With Jet Lag.

Preparing For Your Appointment

To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.

You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to answer the following questions:

  • How long have you been troubled with a sleep problem?
    • What is your major symptom?
    • Does your sleep problem come and go or does it occur every night?
  • What is your normal sleep pattern?
  • What was happening in your life when the sleep problem started?
  • Have you had a sleep problem in the past? If so, how was it treated?
  • Do you have any other symptoms that may be related to your sleep problems? Symptoms may include:
    • Rapid or irregular heartbeat.
    • Nausea or vomiting.
    • Numbness or weakness.
    • Excessive sweating.
    • Feeling like you are not able to get enough air (air hunger).
    • Restlessness, irritability, or feeling on edge.
    • Feelings of overwhelming anxiety or fear.
  • What makes your symptoms better or worse?
  • Have you ever taken prescription or nonprescription medicine to help you sleep?
  • What other prescription or nonprescription medicines do you take?
  • Are you using alcohol or illegal drugs, such as marijuana or cocaine, to help you sleep?
  • What home treatment have you tried? Did it help?
  • Does your bed partner report that you snore or are restless in your sleep?
  • Do you frequently fall asleep during the day, such as at work or while driving?
  • Is your sleep problem interfering with your usual activities?
  • Has anyone else in your family ever been diagnosed with any form of depression or sleep disorder?
  • Do you have any health risks?

Before visiting your doctor, keep a sleep diary for at least 2 weeks. See an example of a sleep diaryClick here to view a form.(What is a PDF document?).

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