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goal setting


A key method to stay ahead of sleep-related impairments is to focus on higher level sleep quantity and sleep quality goals.

Look for areas for improvement in your sleep data and set a goal for yourself:  









Choose two healthy sleep behaviors to help you meet your goals and commit to them for two weeks. At the end of two weeks, reflect on whether your sleep quality and/or quantity have improved.


We have included a downloadable goal and behavior chart for your convenience, and a list of recommendations for healthy sleep behaviors under challenging conditions. We know that you may not have control over all aspects of your life but there are steps you can take to prioritize your sleep health.

Avoid drugs to help you sleep unless directed by your healthcare provider. If after two weeks you still have sleep problems and/or have signs of impaired readiness, talk to your healthcare provider.



  • Start to wind down 30-60 minutes before bed

  • Avoid doing activities that prevent you from winding down like playing video games, using the Internet, or cleaning

  • Avoid doing important or stressful things before bed like paying bills, answering emails, or studying

  • Don’t go to bed if you’re actively angry or stressed

  • Don’t focus on sleep issues or lay in bed worrying

  • Get out of bed if you can’t sleep and do something relaxing like listening to music

stay consistent

  • Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day

  • You’ll have an easier time falling asleep and waking up on time if you keep a consistent schedule

  • Nap with caution. Naps should be no longer than 20-30 minutes at a time, longer induces grogginess

  • Avoid napping late in the day when it may interfere with bedtime

  • Allow 7 - 9 full hours in bed

  • Don’t snooze, just set your alarm for when you need to get up

adjust your environment

  • Keep your bedroom cool and dark

  • Use earplugs or white noise to reduce sounds

  • Keep your mattress and pillows in good shape

  • Screens emit blue light which interferes with sleep

  • Shut off all your devices before bed

  • Use amber glasses or an app that filters out blue light in the evenings

  • Use your bedroom exclusively for sleep, sex, and sickness move all other activities and devices to another room

  • Adjust your alarm clock so you can’t see it from your bed


  • Have nutritious meals; don’t eat or drink too close to bedtime but also don’t go to bed hungry 

  • Limit your caffeine intake

  • Exercise regularly, stopping a few hours before bedtime

  • Try to work in some exercise on long shifts

  • Practice mindfulness i.e. being in the present moment

  • Add breathing and meditation exercises to your routine to calm nerves and reduce stress


  • Alcohol and over-the-counter sleep aids can fragment your sleep. This causes dozens of micro-awakenings you are not aware of, that disrupt your sleep 

  • Alcohol and sleep medications can cause a hangover effect which leaves you feeling groggy

  • Consider caffeine as an energy boost but use it wisely

  • Stop using caffeine several hours before bed; if working the night shift, use it before or early in the shift



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  • Sleep when your baby sleeps. Silence your phone, hide the laundry basket and ignore the dishes in the kitchen sink. Calls and chores can wait.

  • Accept help. When friends and loved ones visit, don't offer to be the host. Instead, ask if they could watch the baby while you take a nap. Utilize friends, family, childcare professionals and hospital nurseries to help you get your rest.

  • Split duties. If possible, work out a schedule with your partner that allows each of you alternately to rest and care for the baby.

  • Don’t get stuck on one method. If co-sleeping works for you and your family, keep doing it. If it doesn’t, try a crib or bassinet. Likewise, if your baby is not hungry or uncomfortable, it’s OK to encourage a little self-soothing.

  • Create the best sleep environment (for you and baby). Is the bedroom relaxing? Try to keep clutter to a minimum and out of the bedroom. Don’t feel bad if you need to take a temporary break from sleeping in the same bed with your partner. Opt for separate beds if you and your sleep partner are having bed-sharing issues. Sufficient sleep contributes to healthy and happy relationships, and sleeping in separate beds is a healthy option.

  • Don’t lose hope. By ages 3 to 4 months, many babies can sleep at least five hours at a time. At some point during your baby's first year, nighttime stretches of 10 hours are possible. In the meantime, do what you can to get the sleep you need.



Illness or surgery of a spouse/partner


  • Sleep apart. Sleep in a different room or bed than your partner. Ensure that you can hear them if they call for help.

  • Help your partner sleep. Identify the best sleeping position to support your partner’s sleep. Utilize pillows and cushions to support injuries.

  • Create self-care time. If you must wake several times a night for caregiving and returning to sleep is an issue, consider using the time to read, meditate, or engage in another relaxing activity. Make sure you can get adequate sleep during the day.

  • Consider restorative sleep. You can't really "bank" your sleep but if you can get an unbroken 8 to 12 hours of sleep once or twice a week, you will be in a better position to continue caregiving duties. Try to find someone who can take over for you on a regular basis. 



Shift work and variable schedules

  • Maintain consistency. Sleep consistency is key for working night shift schedules. Maintain your sleep-wake schedule on your days off. Make sure significant others, children, roommates, and anyone else sharing your roof understands the importance of your designated sleep time.

  • Address light and noise exposure. Consider blackout curtains, an eye mask, ear plugs, or a white noise machine. Unless you are on call, consider turning your phone off while you sleep.

  • Try waking up close to the start of your shift. You can so this by staying up for a few hours after arriving home or following a split-nap schedule This entails napping for a few hours after getting home in the morning and then sleeping for longer in the hours leading up to the next shift’s start time.

  • Use bright light therapy. This involves exposure to a special artificial light at certain times to help reinforce your body. Schedule short sessions when you first wake up and midday. You can use a special light box, desk lamp, visor or dawn simulator for light therapy.

  • Use caffeine carefully. Consume caffeine at the beginning or your shift and stop within 3 to 4 hours of when you plan to go to bed.

  • Exercise on your break. If you have enough time on your scheduled break, consider a quick workout to provide a boost of energy.

  • Nap on your break. If tactically permitted, try to take a 10-20 minute nap on your break. You can also try drinking a cup of coffee and immediately taking a 15-20 minute nap. Your wake up time will coincide with the caffeine taking effect.

  • Avoid drowsy driving. Drowsy driving is a major hazard of shift work. Arrange to have someone pick you up at the end of your shift or take the bus or a taxi/Uber. If you must drive, consider a quick nap before driving home at the end of your shift.

  • Talk to your commanding officer. If you must work rotating shifts, talk to your supervisor about a clockwise rotation where each new shift is later than your last shift. This is a more natural shift for your body.




  • Bring comfort items. Bring a neck pillow, blanket, or comforting items when traveling in order to sleep on a plane when flying across time zones or to sleep comfortably when at locations other than one’s home.

  • Sleep strategically. Days before you are scheduled to travel, begin moving your bedtime an hour earlier (or later, as appropriate) than you normally would. Add another hour the second evening, and a third hour on the third day. It takes one day per time zone for your body to adjust, so planning ahead can help ease the transition.

  • Abide by the two-day rule. If you’re going to be staying somewhere fewer than two days, try and keep to your own schedule. By the time your body adapts, it’ll be time to come home

  • Consider lighting. If your flight touches down first thing in the morning as you travel east, bring along a pair of sunglasses to minimize light exposure. It’s preferable to get maximal light exposure in the late morning and early afternoon, which shifts your rhythms closer to your destination’s time zone. The goal is to recalibrate the clock so that it is closer to bedtime at your destination. If you are traveling westward, which is less disruptive, aim for light exposure in the early evening. Eat outdoors or go for a walk to push your rhythm a bit later.


Sleep recommendations that just aren’t working for me

  • Getting out of bed if I can’t sleep is too disruptive to spouse or family 

    • Use white noise in bedrooms to reduce the (sound-related) disruptiveness of getting out of bed.

    • Minimize disruption by setting out clothes or activities ahead of time

    • Do some quiet stretching in the room, keep a book with a small book light in chair nearby or go for a quiet walk.

    • Do something relaxing while in bed to help fall asleep like meditation, breathing exercises, or progressive muscle relaxation.

    • Get a larger mattress or one that isolates movement like a memory foam mattress or top. 


  • I have difficulty taking naps to reach 7-9 hours of sleep per day.  

    • Keep naps short to avoid interfering with your nighttime sleep.

    • Avoid caffeine within three hours of your nap or drink coffee and immediately nap for 15-20 minutes.

    • Use blackout curtains or an eye mask and earplugs if trying to nap midday.

    • Try going to sleep earlier (or waking up later) to get enough sleep if napping is not an option.

    • Consider just laying down and resting and don't be too concerned if you can't fall asleep.


  • But I like playing videogames, watching TV, and scrolling before bed!

    • Switch to night mode or use an amber filter on phones and devices.

    • Move TVs, computers, and phones away from the bedroom.

    • Consider setting timers on your TV or apps.

    • Allow yourself a small amount of time, not close to bedtime, to engage in these activities if you look forward to them.

    • Pick other enjoyable or entertaining evening activities such as reading a book or listening to music or a podcast.

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