Ask a Top Doc: How Can I Get a Better Night’s Sleep?

Question: I fall asleep fine, but I always seem to wake up in the middle of the night, unable to go back to sleep. I really don’t want to get addicted to sleeping pills. Is there anything else I can do?

Answer: If you’ve been seeing more of the ceiling than the backs of your eyelids, start by checking your bedroom basics. Establishing a dark, comfortable sleep environment is one of the first steps to better sleep, says Philly Mag Top Doc Karl Doghramji, M.D., medical director of the Jefferson Sleep Disorders Center. That means light-generating TVs, laptops and anything work-related or stress-inducing should be left outside your room. Drinking coffee 12 hours before pillow time and working out three hours before bed can also stimulate your system and make slumbering sweetly a thing of the past.

If none of the above works, talk to your MD. You may have medical or emotional issues that you’re not aware of, like depression, anxiety or a breathing disorder like sleep apnea, says Dr. Doghramji. “Optimally, your physician will treat these underlying conditions rather than resort to sleeping pills. However, in some cases, sleeping pills can be used for brief periods of time to help break the insomnia cycle.” The bottom line? Don’t wait to seek treatment until you’re a verifiable zombie. “There are a variety of treatments, including medications, sleep-schedule adjustments, cognitive behavioral therapy and bright-light therapy,” says Dr. Doghramji.