Exactly what is sleep hygiene? Wikipedia defines sleep hygiene as the controlling of ‘all behavioral and environmental factors that precede sleep and may interfere with sleep.’ The National Sleep Foundation says ‘Sleep hygiene is a variety of different practices that are necessary to have normal, quality nighttime sleep and full daytime alertness.’ In other words, sleep hygiene is a set of practices that help you get a good night’s sleep, and wake up rested and refreshed in both mind and body so you can be more alert, productive and healthy.
Sleep is the natural tendency of our body to regenerate after a long day of work and fun. For some people, falling as sleep comes naturally and without any effort. For others though, sleeping is a struggle that involves a lot of restless tossing and turning, making sleeping more of a task than a joy or privilege. So, how do you develop good sleep hygiene if it doesn’t occur naturally?
If you are have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, you need to change your sleeping habits and practice good sleep hygiene. There are many factors that contribute to poor sleep hygiene. For example, as technology improves the lives of individuals in our society, we are exposed to many different stimulants that interrupt good sleep hygiene. Drugs, alcohol, various electronic media such as TV and computers, heavy workloads and late-night activities are just a few of the reasons why we may find ourselves not ready to get a good night’s rest. Our bodies have an internal clock. Any activities that disrupt or confuse our internal clock can interfere with quality sleep and cause poor sleep hygiene.
Here’s an example of how this can work. All humans have a small area in the brain called the pineal gland. As night time falls, it secretes melatonin into our blood signaling our bodies that it’s time for sleep. It’s what helps us establish our circadian rhythm. The presence of bright light from electronic devices can interfere with our production of melatonin and counteract the sleep cycle. Vigorous exercise too close to bedtime can also interfere with our sleep cycles. These are just a few examples of everyday activities that can disrupt sleep and cause poor sleep hygiene.
Sleeping poorly for one night can have negative effects but a prolonged pattern of poor sleep hygiene can have many long term negative effects. Sleep is a critical time for our minds and bodies to rest and regenerate. Lack of sleep leaves us more vulnerable to stress and disease.
Sleep experts recommend that we establish regular patterns and habits before bedtime i.e. good sleep hygiene. For some that might sound boring but its well worth it if it helps you sleep better.
Below are some vital tips to get us dozing and snoozing all night long.
Sleep Hygiene Tip #1 – Get Your Body Clock in Rhythm.
Your body has the capacity to learn and remember schedules. Keeping a regular schedule of when you go to bed and wake up seven days a week is an important component of sleep hygiene. Changing your schedule on weekends might feel good when you get that extra hour or two of sleep of Saturday morning but you will pay for it the rest of the week.
Good Sleep Hygiene Tip #2 – Develop Regular Patters and Habits Before Going to Bed
Regular pre-bedtime habits can help signal your body that its time for bed. Once the body realizes that it is being prepared for sleeping, it slowly adjusts to sleeping mode. A warm bath, light snack, reading, meditation or relaxation exercises can help your body prepare for sleep and create an overall habit of good sleep hygiene . Establish a good ritual and stick to it. Make sure that it becomes a trigger for your body to sense that it is time for sleep.
Good Sleep Hygiene Tip #3 – Things to Avoid to Sleep Better
If you do eat, keep it light and avoid stimulants like caffeine after lunch. Do not go to bed with a full stomach, digesting it will require a lot of energy and make you uncomfortable. Alcohol should also be avoided at least 4 hours before going to bed. Although it can initially have a sedative effect, once the alcohol level in your blood starts to drop, the effect will be reversed and you will wake up. Nicotine is also a stimulant, so avoid tobacco. Drugs that put you to sleep can have a desirable effect for a while; prolonged exposure can have an addictive effect and might pose a greater health risk in the future.
Good Sleep Hygiene Tip #4 – Fix your bedroom
Your bed and bedroom must be a sanctuary. It should only be used as a place to sleep or for sex; it must not be used as an office, work area or a TV room. The body must know that when you are in the bedroom, it is time for sleep. Having a very sleep conducive and comfortable bedroom can greatly help your ability to get a good night’s sleep. Bedding should be cozy and the room temperature should be cool; our body is more likely to relax in a cool and well-ventilated environment. Light and sound must be at a minimum; distractions should be eliminated if possible.
Good Sleep Hygiene Tip #5 – Daytime Rituals
Get some exposure to the sun in the morning. Like darkness at night, morning sunshine signals your body that it’s day time and helps get you ready for the day. Exercise during the day so it doesn’t interfere with sleep. Avoid naps if possible but if you must, keep them short. Studies show that 15 to 30 minutes is sufficient. Any more than that and you may wake up groggy and tired.
It is very essential for our bodies to get a good night’s sleep to be able to function effectively every day. If you find the recommendations listed above do not help, you may have a more serious sleep disorder such as sleep apnea or insomnia. Consult with a physician who can diagnose your condition and recommend proper treatment. Don’t wait. Make sure that you have good sleep hygiene and are getting the sleep you need to prolong and enjoy your life.
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Sleep disorders are a serious medical condition that affects millions of people. You don’t have to feel guilty any longer but you do need to take action.
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