Many people have poor sleep habits. We stay up too late and get up to early. We interrupt our sleep with drugs, chemicals and work, and we over stimulate ourselves with late-night activities such as television.
It is important to have good sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene refers to measures you can take to ensure good quality nighttime sleep. One of the most important things you can do is to maintain a regular sleep and wake pattern.
Good Sleep Hygiene Practices
Good sleep hygiene practices include:
- Avoid napping during the day if you can. If you must take a nap, try to keep it short, (20 minutes or less).
- Avoid caffeine 4-6 hours before bedtime. This includes caffeinated beverages such as coffee, tea and many sodas, as well as chocolate.
- Avoid alcohol 4-6 hours before bedtime. Initially alcohol has a sedation effect but a few hours later it can have a stimulant effect.
- Avoid heavy, spicy, or sugary foods 4-6 hours before bedtime.
- Exercise regularly, but not right before bed. Regular exercise, particularly in the afternoon, can help deepen sleep. Strenuous exercise within the 2 hours before bedtime, however, can decrease your ability to fall asleep.
- Maintain a regular sleep and wake pattern. The body functions best on a regular schedule. You need a minimum of 7 hours per night for your body to function at its best.
- Associate your bed with sleep. It is not a good idea to use your bed to watch TV or use other electronics. Turn off all electronics and hour before bed. Use of these devises stimulate your brain and make it difficult to sleep.
- Make sure your sleep environment is pleasant and relaxing.
- Use comfortable bedding.
- Find a comfortable temperature setting for sleeping and keep the room well ventilated. If your 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.
- Make sure your bedroom is dark. Remove all computers; cell phones, and turn bright light alarm clocks away from you.
Establish a Regular Relaxing Bedtime Routine
- Establish a pre-sleep ritual. Pre-sleep rituals, such as a warm bath or a few minutes of reading, can help you sleep.
- If you have trouble sleeping you can try a light snack before bed. Warm milk and foods high in the amino acid tryptophan, such as bananas, may help you to sleep.
- Avoid emotionally upsetting conversations before bed.
- Don’t make to do lists in your head. Write down what you need to accomplish the next day, and then forget about it once you go to bed. Tell yourself “its on your list, you do not need to worry about it.”
- Practice relaxation techniques before bed. Relaxation techniques such as yoga, deep breathing and others may help relieve anxiety and reduce muscle tension.
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 night and cannot get back to sleep try meditation, visualizing or progression relaxing. Do not perform challenging or engaging activity such as office work, housework, etc. Do not watch television. Try one of these relaxation techniques:
- Try to concentrate on your breathing. Count 1 on the inhale and 1 exhale, 2 inhale and 2 exhale, 3 inhale and 3 exhale, 4 inhale and 4 exhale then go back to 1 inhale and 1 exhale. Keep repeating until you fall asleep.
- You can try visualizing, imagining you are in a calm relaxing environment like walking on the beach or sitting in a garden.
Try progressive muscle relaxation. Starting at your toes and progressing up towards your head. Relax each muscle group while concentrating on your breathing