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What is Sleep Hygeine?

In the simplest terms, sleep hygiene is the set of habits a person can adopt to get a good night’s sleep. It can involve lifestyle practices and environmental factors. Anyone who struggles with adequate, refreshing sleep can benefit from incorporating more good sleep habits into their routine.

Before turning to medications or supplements to get to sleep, try the following items. Also, if you are wanting to quite taking prescription sleep aids, developing good sleep habits will help you make the transition.

Keep a consistent bedtime

If you go to bed about the same time each day, eventually you will start getting sleepy as bedtime approaches. Your body will know it’s time for bed. Make sure your bedtime remains the same during the weekend. You also want to get up at about the same time every day.

Avoid Napping

In general you only need a certain number of hours of sleep per night. Daytime napping will decrease the amount of nighttime sleep you need. Taking a nap sounds enticing but this can make it more difficult to fall asleep at night. This is especially true when the nap is later in the day. When creating you new habits, avoid regular naps.

Routine

Create a relaxing bedtime routine. Use the time right before bed to unwind from the day. This can include a warm bath or shower, meditation, quiet time, or reading a book. Do the same routine every night to prepare yourself for a good night’s sleep.

Get out of bed if you can’t sleep

Once in bed and you find you have not fallen asleep within about 20 minutes, you should get out of bed. Keep the lights down and sit quietly in a comfortable chair until you feel sleepy. You want to associate the bed with sleep. You don’t want lie there frustrated that you can’t sleep. Moving to another location helps reinforce the fact that your bed is for sleep.

Regular Exercise

Regular daily exercise can greatly help you enjoy better sleep. If you are just beginning, start  slow and increase intensity and duration slowly. Something as simple as a 20 to 30 minute daily walk can greatly improve sleep quality. Avoid exercising too close to bed. Ideally, you want to exercise in the morning or early afternoon.

Electronics

Ban all electronics beginning 1 to 2 hours before bed until the next morning. Turn off the TV, internet, computer, and social media. These are all very stimulating, and pulling the plug allows you to get into that relaxing bedtime routine discussed above. Also, the bright light on phones, tablets, and computers can disrupt your ability to fall asleep.

Lights

Start dimming lights 1 to 2 hours before bed. The sun setting in the evening used to be a person’s cue to get ready for bed. The invention of the light bulb, although great for society, is detrimental to restful sleep. If you can put a dimmer switch on your main lights, start lowering the intensity as bedtime approaches.

Bedroom Environment

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The bedroom should be reserved for only two things. Sleep and sex. Remove all electronics (except your alarm clock). Do not have a TV or computer in the bedroom. If you have no choice but to keep these in your room, store them in an armoire which can be shut 1 to 2 hours before bed.

 

Spend some time creating a relaxing, pleasant environment. Decorate using neutral and natural colors. Remove clutter. Keep the room dark using blinds and blackout curtains if needed. Make sure the thermostat is set correctly, generally a littler cooler than you keep it during the day.

Food

Don’t eat a large meal close to bedtime. If you are getting hungry just before bed, have a light healthy snack.

Fluids

You want to stay hydrated during the day but you want to back off on how much you drink in the evening to avoid getting up to use the bathroom. Drink enough to not be thirsty at night.

Caffeine

Caffeine can stay in the body for several hours after consumption. Since it is a stimulant, it can disrupt your ability to get to sleep and stay asleep. Avoid all caffeinated food and beverages after about noon. Some items with caffeine include coffee, energy drinks, soda, and tea.

Alcohol

Having a glass of wine in the evening to unwind sounds like a good idea but alcohol can negatively affect sleep quality. Alcohol blocks REM sleep which is the most restorative type of sleep. Alcohol also decreases your ability to stay asleep. If you are experiencing poor sleep, do not use alcohol in the evening.

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White Noise

White noise is a mixture of all the audible frequencies of sound mixed together. It resembles the sound of a radio or TV when there is no signal. It is also similar to the sound of a waterfall or a heavy rain. People often sleep better during on a rainy night.

You can create white noise in the bedroom by turning on a fan or playing white noise on your alarm clock/radio. Some people find using a white noise generator useful.

Don’t Look at the Clock

Clock watching can be tempting but resist the urge. Viewing the clock many times during the night sets off a cascade of thoughts such as “I have been awake for 30 minutes”, “the alarm will go off in 45 minutes” or “I only have 2 more hours left to sleep”. To avoid looking at the clock, cover it or turn it away from your line of sight.

 

Keep a List

If you are constantly thinking about your to-do list, write it down. Make a list of everything that is on your mind. The more items you write on your list, the less your brain feels like it has to think about. Waking up at night with more thoughts? Keep a pad and pencil at the bedside, and write down anything that comes to mind during the night. Writing it down ensures you will not forget and allows your mind to rest.

Keep a Sleep Diary

Another useful tool in getting a restful night is keeping a sleep diary. Keep a daily log of your sleep times, duration, wake time and quality. Write down the foods you ate, caffeine consumption, alcohol use, and exercise. You will want to track any emotions and stress levels. You can use this information to figure out if there any patterns contributing to good/poor sleep.

Hopefully these tips will help you find that restful slumber you have been searching for.