What is Sleep Hygiene?
Numerous factors can affect our ability or inability to fall asleep, stay asleep and our quality of sleep. Most sleep experts refer to the management of these factors as Sleep Hygiene.➀
The term Sleep Hygiene relates to developing a routine or habits that will help you fall asleep more easily, help you stay asleep and provide you with a better quality sleep.➁
Techniques To Help You Sleep Better?
• Do not consume caffeinated products within 4-6 hours of bedtime. Caffeine is a stimulant known to affect the ability to fall asleep.
• Avoid alcohol 4-6 hours before bedtime. Alcohol does have a sleep inducing effect however as the alcohol level in your blood wears off it has a stimulating effect causing wakefulness.
• Establish a pre-bedtime relaxing routine. About 90 minutes before bedtime, start allowing yourself to wind down. Take a warm bath or try some light reading or listening to soothing music. Try relaxation techniques.
• If you need to take a nap during the day limit these to 45 minutes. Avoid napping after 5.00 PM.
• Finish your evening meal a few hours before bedtime.
• Regular exercise can help with your sleep quality however exercising within two hours of bedtime can decrease your ability to fall asleep. Exercise causes the secretion of cortisol, a stress hormone which activates the brain’s alert mechanism.
• Set a time for bed and a time for wakening. An important aspect of sleep management is to go to bed and waken at the same times every day even on weekends. You can train your body to expect sleep during these specific hours if you stick with this routine.
• If you can’t sleep after being in bed for 20 minutes, get up and go to another room and do some light reading or listen to soothing music. Practice relaxation techniques such as meditation or slow deep breathing. When you feel you are ready to sleep go back to bed.
• Prepare your bedroom for sleep. The ideal environment for sleeping is a cool (around 70° F.) dark, quiet room. Use heavy curtains to block out as much light as possible. If you are distracted by noise use earplugs. Never use your bedroom for texting, sending emails or business telephone calls. Your brain needs to associate your bedroom with sleep. Don’t watch TV in bed. The light from the TV screen can suppress your melatonin production.➂ Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland that helps control sleep-wake cycles.➃
• Turn off your electrical gadgets. Even the small glow of light from your smart phone or laptop can interfere with your melatonin production.
• Limit your fluid intake. Make sure your fluid intake is adequate to prevent you from being thirsty during the night but be careful not to drink enough to cause you a trip to the bathroom during the night.