Sleep hygiene is defined as behaviors that one can do to help promote good sleep quality and quantity.
The importance of sleep:
Sleep is the time your brain uses to reset its own chemical balance. While the mix of chemicals in the brain is quite complex it is easiest to think of them all like liquids in a storage tank. During restful sleep you refill your storage tank. When the tank is full you awaken naturally. During the day you use up your storage tank and as it empties you feel tired and fall asleep.
In the ancient world this is how people lived – based on how they felt – tired or awake.
Today we have modified our daily activities so much that we no longer pay attention to what our bodies are telling us. We get up when we’re still tired, we go to bed when we’re not tired, we stay awake when our bodies tell us to sleep. The cost of this change is feeling poorly. People have an increase in headaches, feel worn out and tired, and lack concentration As a result, people use stimulants like sugar, caffeine and nicotine to try to keep going when they really need better sleep.
What can we do?:
First – listen to your body. By setting a proper environment for sleep you can assure yourself of both better quantity and quality of sleep. The following are some ideas to help you get the rest you need to feel energetic and happy.
Sleep hygiene tips:
Maintain a regular sleep routine
- Go to bed at the same time. Wake up at the same time. Ideally, your schedule will remain the same ( /- 20 minutes) every night of the week.
Avoid naps if possible
- Naps decrease the ‘Sleep Debt’ that is so necessary for easy sleep onset.
- Each of us needs a certain amount of sleep per 24-hour period. We need that amount, and we don’t need more than that.
- When we take naps, it decreases the amount of sleep that we need the next night – which may cause sleep fragmentation and difficulty initiating sleep, and may lead to insomnia and sleep deprivation.
Don’t stay in bed awake for more than 5-10 minutes.
- If you find your mind racing, or worrying about not being able to sleep during the middle of the night, get out of bed, and sit in a chair in the dark. Do your mind racing in the chair until you are sleepy, then return to bed. No TV or internet during these periods! That will just stimulate you more than desired.
- If this happens several times during the night, that is OK. Just maintain your regular wake time, and try to avoid naps.
Don’t watch TV or read in bed.
- When you watch TV or read in bed, you associate the bed with wakefulness.
- The bed is reserved for two things – sleep and sex.
Drink caffeinated drinks with caution
- The effects of caffeine may last for several hours after ingestion. Caffeine can fragment sleep, and cause difficulty initiating sleep. If you drink caffeine, use it only before noon.
- Remember that soda and tea contain caffeine as well.
Avoid inappropriate substances that interfere with sleep
- Cigarettes, alcohol, and over-the-counter medications may cause fragmented sleep.
- Exercise before 2 pm every day. Exercise promotes continuous sleep.
- Avoid rigorous exercise before bedtime. Rigorous exercise circulates endorphins into the body which may cause difficulty initiating sleep.
Have a quiet, comfortable bedroom
- Set your bedroom thermostat at a comfortable temperature. Generally, a little cooler is better than a little warmer.
- Turn off the TV and other extraneous noise that may disrupt sleep. Background ‘white noise’ like a fan is OK.
- If your pets awaken you, keep them outside the bedroom.
- Your bedroom should be dark. Turn off bright lights.
- Have a comfortable mattress.
If you are a ‘clock watcher’ at night, hide the clock.
Have a comfortable pre-bedtime routine
- A warm bath, shower
- Meditation, or quiet time
Some who are struggling with sleep regularly find it helpful to print out these recommendations and read them regularly. If you accidentally miss some recommendations, or have a bad night, do not fret. By following these sleep hygiene recommendations regularly, you will help yourself develop a routine that promotes better sleep.