Insomnia and Sleep Hygiene

Sleep changes go hand in hand with common psychiatric conditions like depression and mania, but before jumping to drugs to help you catch some Z’s, psychiatrists try to understand an individual’s “sleep hygiene” – the personal habits and environment associated with sleeping.

Here are a couple things which my attending has recommended to patients struggling to sleep.

  • Don’t consume any sodas, coffee, energy drinks, or any other caffeinated products after 1 pm.
  • Take a warm bath and/or drink a warm glass of milk
  • Avoid watching TV, using the computer, or any other engaging activities
  • Try to block out all noise
  • Use your bed only for sleeping – don’t train your body into thinking it’s your office too
  • Avoid heavy meals before sleeping (light snacks are okay)
  • Practice yoga or deep breathing techniques for relaxation
If a psychiatrist still feels that in spite of good sleep hygiene, a patient needs pharmacological intervention, one may be started on a sedative/hypnotic like temazapam. The main thing about “sleeping pills” (especially benzos) in general is that they should be taken as needed. Addiction secondary to abusing these meds is all-too-common and very difficult to treat. To avoid this, I’ve had patients who take their sleeping aids 3-4 days a week and have rigorous workout sessions the other three days to naturally exhaust their bodies (and get some exercise in too). 🙂
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  1. So true! I had trouble sleeping for the longest time until I forced myself to stop drinking coffee after 3pm. Made a world of difference! I’ll have to work on your suggestion about scaling back on the engaging activities before bed. Great post!


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