The Choices We Make (Sleep Hygiene)
A good cause of our difficulties in sleeping can be traced to the choices we make and the habits we keep—some of which are not obvious. Let me start by directing you to something called “sleep hygiene”. These first-step ‘tips’ address practices that have been shown to help promote better sleep and identify other practices that we think help—but actually, do not.
Tips for “Sleep Hygiene”
1. Set regular sleep times – the goal is to go to bed and get up at the same time every day(weekends and days off included); it helps train your body when to sleep
2. Sleep when you are sleepy – goal is to go to sleep when you are tired; avoid staying in bed when you are awake
3. Get up/Try Again – If you don’t achieve sleep after 20-30 minutes, get up, do something boring or relaxing, without too much stimulation and avoid bright lights; try again when you feel sleepy
4. Avoid caffeine/nicotine – coffee, tea, sodas, chocolate and the nicotine in cigarettes can act as stimulants; avoid them 4 to 6 hours before bedtime
5. Avoid alcohol – avoid consuming alcohol 4 to 6 hours before bedtime; the relaxing effect wears off and affects the maintenance of sleep
6. Use the bed for sleep – use your bed for sleeping and sex so the body associates the bed for sleep. Avoid watching TV, reading, using electronic devices, paying bills, etc.
7. Try not to nap – if you have to nap, limit it to 20 minutes and before 3pm; sleep is accumulative
8. Establish a routine – 15 minutes before bed, develop a ritual to signal your body it is time to sleep; relaxation techniques or breathing exercises or having a favorite, non-stimulating drink
9. Warm bath/shower – warmth of a bath or shower and the cooling down of the body’s temperature has been shown to be associated with sleepiness
10. Don’t watch the clock – try not to worry about what time it is or how much time you have slept; don’t let the light of the numbers on the clock interrupt the darkness
11. Keep a sleep diary – when trying to determine the facts about your sleep, use a diary for a period of time, rather than relying on assumptions
12. Regular exercises – first thing in the morning can help establish a regular wake time; avoid strenuous exercises within 4 hours of bedtime
13. Eat healthy – a balanced diet helps promote good sleep; avoid a heavy meal too close to bedtime; a light snack or that favorite drink may satisfy the empty stomach
14. Make it comfortable – keep the room temperature cooler and add blankets or layers for warmth; use curtains or a mask for light control; use earplugs to block out noise
15. Keep a regular daily routine – even if you did not sleep well, keep to your normal planned day and don’t avoid activities because you feel tired
These tips for ‘sleep hygiene’ can be found many places, can be worded differently, but they all follow a similar theme. It is a Smart place to start toward sleeping better. Stay tuned!