We all want to get a restful night’s sleep, because when we do, we feel alert, alive and well the next day. But everybody’s sleep needs are different. Some people only need four or five hours a night, while others – especially children – may need eight or nine or even twelve hours of sleep each night. Some sleep researchers claim that we need less sleep as we age.

The quality of our sleep is just as important as the number of hours you spend sleeping. You can always tell when you’ve slept well. You wake up feeling refreshed, relaxed and rejuvenated – just like you feel after a brisk walk. Getting a good night sleep increases your daily energy; an interrupted, sleepless night can leave you feeling tired and lethargic the next day. If you’re not getting a good night sleep most nights, you may want to evaluate your current sleep habits.

Dr. Jim DeMatteis, a neurologist with Northshore Neurological Associates, has done some research on sleep. Based on his findings, he’s come up with some tips for getting a better night’s sleep.

1. It helps to establish a regular wake-up each morning, even if the previous night’s sleep was inadequate. This time should be kept, even on weekends. This strategy will strengthen circadian cycling and improve sleep.

2. Most insomniacs stay in bed too long, much longer than good sleepers. Cutting down on the amount of time in bed will gradually deepen sleep and decrease arousals.

3. Daytime naps help some people sleep better at night, while others sleep poorly if they take naps. Each person should know how he or she is affected by taking naps.

4. A healthy body sleeps better than an unfit one, however, it may take weeks before the effects of exercise are felt.

5. Hunger disturbs sleep. A light bedtime snack is suggested, e.g. cheese and crackers, warm milk or Ovaltine.

6. Many poor sleepers are very sensitive to stimulants, even to Cola drinks or chocolate. Caffeine takes at least eight hours to metabolize; therefore, no stimulant drinks should be taken after lunch.

7. Sleep is clearly disturbed in smokers and in those who withdraw from heavy nicotine use.

8. Alcohol may help individuals fall asleep easier in the evenings, but it will awaken them many times during the night. Thus by the morning, they will have had less sleep than they would have had without alcohol.

9. Occasional loud noises (e.g. trucks of airplanes) disturb sleep, even in those who claim they have adapted to them. Sound-screening the room with a fan or air-conditioner may help.

10. The temperature in the bedroom should be comfortable. Hot rooms disturb sleep, as do excessively cold rooms.

Sleeping well will most certainly help you feel well – every day. You may want to try one of Dr. DeMatteis’s “sleeping better” tips so you can get the sleep you deserve.