Sleep Hygiene

Have you ever heard of sleep hygiene? I know I hadn’t until a few years back when I was complaining of not being able to sleep well at night. Well, it turns out that many of us have developed bad habits…even when it comes to our sleep! From using our bedroom to watch television to taking long naps during the day, these things greatly affect our ability to get a good night’s sleep.
We as a society spend way too much time trying to get to sleep by the use of drugs, chemicals, sleep machines, ultra expensive beds and all sorts of things. In reality, a good night’s rest may only be as far away as breaking a bad habit, or developing some good ones.
While there are many habits we should consider when it comes to proper sleep hygiene, here is a list of 10 important habits to learn.
  1. Set a fixed bed time and awake time. Yes, even on weekends. After some time, the body will get used to sleeping and awaking at a regular time. By changing up your sleep schedule, you are preventing your body from setting it’s natural alarm.
  2. Avoid long naps during the day. While a short power nap may be in order, do not let it last longer than 40-45 minutes. Any longer than that will upset the natural rhythm you are trying to set for your body.
  3. Exercise regularly. Exercising regularly can help deepen sleep. Of course, you will not want to do it right before bed, as such can have an opposite effect.
  4. Avoid sugary, spicy foods and caffeine 4-6 hours before bedtime.  Consuming such can definitely affect one’s ability to stay sleep.
  5. Try a light snack before bed. While avoiding high-sugar and caffeinated foods is a must, foods high in the amino acid tryptophan (such as warmed milk or bananas) can help you to sleep.
  6. Use clean, comfortable bedding. This is more important than we may sometimes think. Don’t you just feel great sliding into a fresh, newly made bed as compared to a frumpy, unmade one? Find pillows that help you to sleep comfortably and be sure to keep them, and the bedsheets, clean.
  7. Practice relaxation techniques before bed. Meditation, yoga, or sitting in a warm bath have helped many to fall asleep. I have also found that saying a heartfelt, thankful prayer regularly also aids me in relaxing and putting aside worries that otherwise may keep me up at night.
  8. Block out all distracting noise. This includes the television. Television is highly engaging, and even when sleeping our minds can engage with what we hear. If white noise helps you to sleep, try to find something peaceful and relaxing, with few to no words.
  9. Wear comfortable sleep clothing. Some people will fall asleep in anything. However, if you set aside clothing that you use only for bedtime, this, too, can help aid you in creating and maintaining a sleeping ritual. Be sure to change into your sleep clothes close to bedtime, and change out of them soon after you wake up. If you like to lounge around in comfortable clothes in a lazy weekend, try to keep a separate set of clothing for just that purpose.
  10. Reserve the bed for sleep and intimacy. Let your body “know” that the bed is only for these two things. Don’t use your bed as an office or a recreation room.
Please note that mental health problems like depression, anxiety and stress are often associated with insomnia, or sleeping difficulty. Sometimes sleep difficulties are the only presenting sign of such. Always be sure to discuss sleep problems with your health care providers and follow their advice, as the goal is to learn how to fall asleep naturally.
Michelle Sanders, A.P.C.

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