What Is Sleep Hygiene?
What Is Sleep Hygiene?
Sleep hygiene refers to the steps that you take to prepare yourself for a good nights sleep. The effects of poor sleep can be detrimental to not only our general well being but, as mentioned in last weeks article, but insufficient and/or poor quality sleep can result in weight gain, fatigue, irritability, sleepiness throughout the day, increase in errors, decreased creativity, immune system problems, and skin problems. Poor sleep hygiene can result in difficulty falling asleep, frequent sleep disturbances, and general daytime sleepiness.
Good sleep hygiene means putting yourself in the best position to sleep well each and every night. The following are some important factors to consider in moving toward a healthy restful and refreshing nights sleep:
Set Your Sleep Schedule
Having a set schedule normalizes sleep as an essential part of your day and gets your brain and body accustomed to getting the full amount of sleep that you need.
Try to have a fixed wake up time so your system gets used to consistency or habit. In addition, it is important to make sleep one of your priorities and if you must nap do so early in the afternoon and keep it less than two hours – In fact the Sleep Foundation www.SleepFoundation.org recommends that naps last about thirty minutes (for adults).
Create a Routine
Creating a routine prepares the body and mind for sleep. Some examples are making time to relax prior to bedtime, doing some light stretching, soft music, low lights, and relaxation exercises. Low lighting facilitates the brains production of melatonin – a hormone that produces sleepiness. Use of electronics not only cause mental stimulation but the blue light emitted from these devices can result in a decrease of melatonin. Make a plan for if you awaken in the middle of the night; for example you may decide that if you wake up you will practice your relaxation skills, slow down your breathing and repeat some positive affirmations – perhaps something as straight forward as repeating to yourself “Breathing in I am calm, breathing out I am letting go and relaxing”. If you try to force yourself to sleep this can create more stress and anxiety.
Cultivate Healthy Daily Habits
Lack of activity, stressful situations, high levels of anxiety…. All of these and more can affect the quality of your sleep. The following are recommendations set forth by the The Sleep Foundation:
- Get Daylight Exposure: Light, especially sunlight, is one of the key drivers of circadian rhythms that can encourage quality sleep.
- Be Physically Active: Regular exercise can make it easier to sleep at night and also delivers a host of other health benefits.
- Don’t Smoke: Nicotine stimulates the body in ways that disrupt sleep, which helps explain why smoking is correlated with numerous sleeping problems.
- Reduce Alcohol Consumption: Alcohol may make it easier to fall asleep, but the effect wears off, disrupting sleep later in the night. As a result, it’s best to moderate alcohol consumption and avoid it later in the evening.
- Cut Down on Caffeine in the Afternoon and Evening: Because it’s a stimulant, caffeine can keep you wired even when you want to rest, so try to avoid it later in the day. Also be aware if you’re consuming lots of caffeine to try to make up for lack of sleep.
- Don’t Dine Late: Eating dinner late, especially if it’s a big, heavy, or spicy meal, can mean you’re still digesting when it’s time for bed. In general, any food or snacks before bed should be on the lighter side.
- Restrict In-Bed Activity: To build a link in your mind between sleep and being in bed, it’s best to only use your bed only for sleep with sex being the one exception.
Make your bedroom sleep friendly
The environment is which you sleep has a strong effect on how well you sleep therefore your bedroom should be a calm, safe, and soothing space. By the way this is a reason that parents should avoid using the bedroom as a place to discipline a child – your child should associate the bedroom with safety and tranquility.
It is important to invest in a comfortable mattress and try to set the bedroom temperature towards cooler rather than warmer – the recommended temp is around 65 degrees. You may want to try using a sound machine to block out noise; along with making sure that the room is dark thus facilitating a sound sleep. In addition, certain essential oils such as lavender, sweet orange, jasmine, neroli and ylang ylang may be helpful in creating a calming, environment conducive to a good nights sleep.
How much sleep do I need?
The National Sleep Foundation’s recommendations for nightly sleep are broken down into the following nine age groups.
|Recommended Hours of Sleep
|0-3 months old
|4-11 months old
|1-2 years old
|3-5 years old
|6-13 years old
|14-17 years old
|18-25 years old
|26-64 years old
|65 or more years old
In addition, a busy and stressful mind set can be a barrier to a calm and restful sleep. A racing mind and high levels of anxiety make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. Make sure to talk to your therapist about any issues you may be having with getting a good sleep.