'Sleep hygiene' means habits that help you to have a good night's sleep.
Below are some essentials of good sleep habits.
Many of these points will seem like common sense. But it is surprising how many of these important points get forgotten .
You can often dramatically improve your sleep quality by making a few minor adjustments to lifestyle and attitude.
Work with your body clock
The body's alternating sleep-wake cycle is controlled by an internal 'clock' within the brain. Most bodily processes (such as temperature and brain states) are synchronised to this 24-hour physiological clock. Getting a good sleep means working with your body clock, not against it.
• Get up at the same time every day (or within an hour). Even on weekends. When your sleep cycle has a regular rhythm, you will feel better.
• Don't ignore tiredness. Go to bed when your body tells you it's ready.
• Don't go to bed if you don't feel tired. This will only reinforce bad habits such as lying awake.
• Get some sunshine. Exposure to light during waking hours helps to set your body clock.
Day time sleeping
In general, it is best not to have naps during the day as this can interfere with your ability to sleep at night. However, often mothers with new born babies are encouraged ‘sleep when baby sleeps’ during the day as this may be the only time they can catch up on their sleep. Once your baby is waking less through the night, it is best to avoid naps during the day. If you cannot make it through the day then limit your nap to one hour and not after 3pm.
Improve your sleeping environment
Good sleep is more likely if your bedroom feels restful and comfortable. Suggestions include:
• Invest in a mattress that is neither too hard nor too soft.
• Make sure the room is at the right temperature (not too hot and not too cold).
• Ensure the room is as dark as possible.
• If you can't control noise (such as barking dogs, traffic or loud neighbours), try a pair of earplugs. Turn off your cellphone. Text messages disturb your sleep
Only use your bedroom for sleeping. If you use your bed like a second lounge room - for watching television or talking to friends on the phone - your mind will associate your bedroom with activity. Sex is the only exception.
Regular exercise is recommended to help you sleep well, but the timing of the exercise is important. Exercising in the morning or early afternoon will not interfere with sleep. Don’t exercise straight before bed as your body needs time to wind down.
• Cigarettes - many smokers claim that cigarettes help them relax, however, nicotine is a stimulant. The side-effects, including accelerated heart rate and increased blood pressure, are likely to keep you awake for longer. Avoid smoking for at least an hour before going to bed.
• Alcohol is a depressant drug, which means it slows the workings of the nervous system. Drinking before bed may help you doze off but alcohol actually disturbs the rhythm of sleep patterns during the night.
• Cafffeine also interferes with your ability to fall asleep. Coffee, tea, coca cola, energy drinks, chocolate and some prescription and non prescription drugs contain caffeine.
Getting Ready For Bed
• Establish a pre-sleep ritual. Bedtime rituals, such as a warm bath, can help you sleep. It is best to have a warm bath 90 minutes before bedtime. A warm bath will raise your body temperature, but it is the drop in body temperature that can make you sleepy.
• Try a light snack before bed. If your stomach is too empty, it can interfere with sleep. Also avoid heavy, spicy or sugary foods 4-6 hours before bedtime as these can affect your ability to stay asleep. Warm milk and foods high in the amino acid tryptophan, such as bananas, may help you to sleep.
• Practice relaxation techniques before bed. such as yoga, deep breathing and others may help relieve anxiety and reduce muscle tension.
• Don’t take your worries to bed. Leave your worries about job, school, daily life, etc., behind when you go to bed. Some people find it useful to assign a "worry period" during the evening or late afternoon to deal with these issues.
• Turn your alarm clock to the wall. Watching the minutes tick by is a sure way to keep yourself awake.
Getting to sleep
- If you can’t fall asleep within within 15–20 minutes, then don’t stay in the bed trying to get to sleep.
- Get out of bed and leave the bedroom.
- Read, have a light snack, do some quiet activity, or have a bath. You will generally find that you can get back to sleep 20 minutes or so later.
- Do not do anything active such as office work or housework, and don’t watch television.
- It’s also a good idea not to expose yourself to bright light while you are up. The light gives cues to your brain that it is time to wake up.
- To help overall improvement in sleep patterns, your doctor may prescribe sleep medications for short-term relief of a sleep problem.
- The decision to take sleeping medication is a medical one to be made in the context of your overall health picture.
- Ultimately, the goal is to rediscover how to sleep naturally.
- If you have tried and failed to improve your sleep, you may like to consider professional help. See your doctor for information and referral