- Personal Health Information & Self-Help
Sleep Well To Live Well
Sleep hygiene-what is it?
Having good sleeping habits is known as sleep hygiene.Long-term solutions to insomnia and related sleep problems can be achieved using the principles of good sleep hygiene as outlined below.
The benefits of medication to facilitate sleep are often only effective in the short-term but adopting the strategies outlined in this article may provide you with a long-term solution if you are having difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep throughout the night.
There is some more good information on sleep hygiene at this link which you will find useful.
Lifestyle and healthy sleep
There are seven essential things to do to maintain a healthy sleeping pattern which also have a positive influence on general health
- Go to bed and get up at the same time every day.
This will train your body and your brain to sleep soundly. It is best to do this even on days you are not working to maintain the routine. Sometimes the demands of life mean that this is not possible but for most people we can do it most of the time.
- Secondly,have a sleep ritual before bedtime.
Getting ready for bed,brushing teeth,etc. in the same routine before bedtime every night is a good ritual to relax your body and train your brain to know that it is bedtime. In this way your body and mind prepare for "sleep mode"
- Naps in the daytime
Avoiding naps during the day or taking a short nap before 3pm for less than one hour will mean that you are likely to sleep better at night-time. There are benefits to having a nap as well as disadvantages which you can read more about here to give you a balanced view and the right information about this.
- Avoid alcohol
It is a myth that alcohol aids sleep by making one relax.It actually disrupts sleep and impairs the quality of sleep so it is best avoided. Alcohol disrupts the quality and amount of REM sleep even though it is effective in inducing sleep as outlined in this article which explains it well.
- Your bed is only for sleeping.
It is best to avoid reading,watching,t.v.,computer,eating etc. in bed as doing these activities does not contribute to the right environment for falling asleep. Furthermore, part of your bedtime routine should be to have a cool,dark room to facilitate your sleep.
In this way,your mind and body will come to associate bed for sleeping rather than these other activities.
- Take regular exercise
Exercise is essential for health in mind and body.One can exercise for it's own sake e.g. going to the gym or get exercise in the course of one's daily activities e.g. doing housework.
It is better to exercise early in the day rather than in the evening when it might interfere with natural tiredness near bedtime.
- Balancing light and dark
Being exposed to enough daylight during the day along with darkness at night helps to balance your circadian rhythm and keep it in harmony which has a positive effect on your sleeping pattern.
Your circadian rhythm is like an internal clock which triggers sleep and being awake based on the cycle of daylight and darkness
This is also known as sleep deficit.Not getting enough sleep negatively affects our health and performance physically, mentally and emotionally. Sometimes we may be able to catch up on our lost sleep by sleeping for longer perhaps at weekends but it is much better to get the same,regular amount of sleep every night.
If we are deprived of sleep we have a good insight into the effect on our performance in the short-term but this awareness diminishes the longer we are sleep deprived.
At this link you will get more information about sleep debt and it's effect which should be avoided insofar as possible
Some tips for sleep hygiene
Some further tips to beat insomnia
Sleep when you feel tired or sleepy if you can rather than trying to sleep when wide awake-spending too much time awake in bed only reinforces the insomnia.
On a similar note,get up after twenty or thirty minutes of trying to sleep and do some boring task to facilitate sleepiness.It is best not to do anything stimulating to reinforce the wakefulness.
As with alcohol,caffeine and nicotine are best avoided before bedtime as they are both stimulants and will inhibit sleepiness and relaxation.
A hot bath preferably with a generous handful of epsom salts is a great way to induce relaxation and tiredness naturally.
Watching the clock will only reinforce the insomnia,especially if you have to turn on the light to do so.It is best to avoid looking at the clock frequently.
Eating a heavy meal shortly before bedtime will have a negative impact on sleep so avoid doing so.Likewise,going to bed on an empty stomach will cause wakefulness so a light snack an hour before bedtime can sometimes be a good idea.
Keep your bedroom cool with enough blankets for warmth and use heavy curtains to block out light if necessary.
Finally and most importantly,maintain your usual daytime routine insofar as possible even if you haven't slept well.Insomnia is reinforced if one avoids one's usual daily business following a restless night.