Sleep hygiene is a very important aspect of our overall well-being. It is especially important for times when mentally we are not feeling our best. The following are some tips and techniques that have proven beneficial to others in the past.
- Fix a bedtime and an awakening time.
- Do not allow bedtime to be wishy washy thing. Stick to a routine
- The body “get used” to falling asleep at a certain time, but only if this is relatively fixed
- Even if you are not presently working, it is an essential component of good sleeping habits.
- Avoid napping during the day.
- If you nap throughout the day, then you probably will not be able to sleep at night.
- It disturbs the normal sleep rhythms.
- Late afternoon is most people’s sleepy time. Many will take a nap during that time.
- If you do have to have a nap, limit it to 20 minutes and that will not interrupt your normal sleep/wake schedule.
- Avoid alcohol 4 – 6 hours before bedtime.
- Many people believe that alcohol helps them sleep. While alcohol has an immediate sleep-inducing effect, a few hours later as the alcohol levels in your blood start to fall, there is a stimulant or wake-up effect.
- Avoid caffeine 4 – 6 hours before bedtime.
- This includes caffeinated beverages such as coffee, tea and many sodas, as well as chocolate, so read the label before you drink or eat anything before bedtime.
- Exercise regularly, but not right before bed.
- Regular exercise, particularly in the afternoon, can help deepen sleep.
- Strenuous exercise within two hours of bedtime, however, can decrease your ability to fall asleep.
- Avoid computers and video games before bed
- Playing a video game or surfing the Internet on your computer before bed can keep you awake long after you go to bed. The bright light of the computer screen or television screen could alter the body’s sleep – wake cycle and suppress production of melatonin aids in the sleep – wake cycle.
- Use comfortable bedding.
- Uncomfortable bedding can prevent good sleep. Evaluate whether or not this is one of the sources of your problem and make appropriate changes.
- Find a comfortable temperature setting for sleeping and keep the room well ventilated.
- If you bedroom is too cold or too hot, it can keep you awake. A cool (not cold) bedroom is often the most conducive to sleep.
- Block out all distracting noise and eliminate as much light as possible.
- Ear plugs
- Black out blinds
- Eye shade
- Reserve the bed for sleep and sex.
- Don’t use the bed as an office, workroom or recreation room.
- Let your body “know” that the bed is associated with sleeping.
Getting ready for bed
- Try a light snack before bed
- Warm milk and foods high in amino acid tryptophan, such as bananas, may help you sleep.
- Practice relaxation techniques before bed.
- Relaxation techniques such as yoga, deep breathing and others may help relieve anxiety and reduce muscle tension.
- Don’t take your worries to bed.
- Leave your worries about job, school, daily life, etc., behind when you go to bed.
- Some people find it useful to assign a “worry period” during the evening or late afternoon to deal with issues.
- Establish a pre-sleep ritual.
- Pre-sleep rituals, such as a warm bath or a few minutes of reading, can help you sleep.
- Get into your favorite sleeping position.
- If you don’t fall asleep within 15 – 30 minutes, get up, goo into another room and read until you are sleepy.
Getting up in the middle of the night
- Most people wake up one or two times a night for various reasons
- If you find that you get up in the middle of the night and cannot get back to sleep within 15 – 20 minutes, then do not remain in the bed “trying hard” to sleep.
- Get out of bed.
- Leave the bedroom
- Read, have a light snack, do some quiet activity, or take a bath.
- You will generally find that you can get back to sleep 20 minutes or so later.
- Do not perform challenging or engaging activity such as office work, housework etc.
- Do not watch television, play a video game or use the computer.
A word about television
Many people fall asleep with the television on in their room. Watching television before bedtime is a bad idea.
Television is an engaging medium that tends to keep people up. It is generally recommended that the television not be in the bedroom.
At the appropriate bedtime, the TV should be turned off and you should get ready for sleep.
Some people find that the radio helps them go to sleep. Since radio is a less engaging medium than TV, this is an acceptable way to induce sleep.
Several physical factors are known to upset sleep including:
- Acid reflux with heartburn
- Need for a cigarette as your addiction does not go to sleep.
If any of these are an issue for you specific to your family doctor.
Sleep is a wonderful thing. It is a major factor in our health and well-being. Like most changes we don’t see results overnight. So take some time establish a sleep routine and give yourself some time to reap the rewards.