Good Sleep Hygiene
Good “sleep hygiene” is anything that helps maintain your health by keeping your mind and body rested and strong. The idea behind sleep hygiene is the same as dental hygiene. Both rely on nightly or daily rituals for consistently good hygiene. Just as you get in the habit of brushing, flossing, and visiting your dentist regularly, you must implement a nightly routine of healthy habits to improve your sleep hygiene, especially if you suffer from sleep disorders. Follow these sleep hygiene tips to help insure a good night’s sleep.
Sleep hygiene is as important as any other type of personal care, and, to help you understand what it involves, here are a few pointers to keep in mind.
Steps to Good Sleep Hygiene
- Wait until you are sleepy before going to bed. If you’re not sleepy at your regular bedtime, do something relaxing, read a book, listen to music, or do some other activity that will relax, not stimulate you. This will relax your body and distract your mind to remove your anxieties about sleep. Try an article about sleep from our Sleep Center.
- Pre-sleep rituals help to initiate relaxation each night before bed. A warm bath, light snack, or a few minutes of reading or listening to music can initiate good sleep. Avoid eating heavy meals near bedtime.
- If you’re not asleep in 20 minutes, get out of bed. Leave your bedroom and find something else that will relax you enough to make you sleepy.
- Don’t worry about how much sleep you’re getting. Some people lie in bed and fret about their inability to fall asleep, and start to panic thinking about how they’ll function the next day without sleep. These worries themselves keep people from getting restful sleep. Research has shown that most people get more sleep than they think they’re getting. Instead, think soothing thoughts, that you will fall asleep eventually and you’ll make it through the day somehow.
- Don’t keep checking the clock. Even if you can’t fall asleep, don’t keep looking to see how late it is and how long you’ve been lying in bed. This will only increase your anxiety.
- Try to keep a regular sleep/wake schedule. Wake up at the same time each day, even on weekends and holidays.
- Keep a regular daily schedule. Maintaining a regular schedule for meals, medications, chores and other activities helps keep your body’s clock running smoothly.
- Sleep a full night on a regular basis. Get enough sleep every day so you feel well rested, and avoid daytime naps. If you must nap during the day, try to keep it to less than an hour, and not after three o’clock in the afternoon.
- Use your bedroom only for sleeping. Do not eat, read, watch TV, talk on the phone, or play video games in bed.
- Keep in mind that some pre-sleep rituals are not conducive to good sleep hygiene. In our modern, interconnected world we often read from our laptop or tablet device before going trying to fall asleep. A growing in-the-know consensus argues that it is best to turn the screens off well before trying to go to sleep.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol of any kind within six hours of bedtime. (we know – it’s harder than it sounds!)
- Do not smoke or ingest nicotine within two hours of bedtime.
- Exercise regularly, but avoid strenuous exercise within six hours of bedtime. Speak to your doctor before starting an exercise routine.
- Clear your mind of things that make you worry. Find ways to relieve stress and aggravation. The bed is a place to rest, not to ruminate about the day’s problems. Keeping a diary can help you discharge the day’s frustrations and anxieties before you go to bed.
- Maintain a quiet, dark and cool bedroom environment. Each individual has his or her own preferences for the ideal sleep environment. Avoid extremes. If noise helps you fall asleep, use white noise or soft music. If you need light, use off-light such as a night light in the bathroom or down the hall. Set the air conditioner or heat at a comfortable temperature for you. Keep a window slightly open if you need fresh air.
- Get enough sun exposure during the day. Sun exposure helps keep your body’s internal clock in sync with the external environment,
A Note on Allergies and Sleep Disorders
One of the leading challenges of good sleep hygiene is actually allergies. Allergies can impeded sleep, causing serious disruptions to your daily life. Dr. Shukla is an expert on allergies (including those plaguing people in and around the New York area) is an expert on allergies which affect both adults and children, and which can contribute to sleep problems.
Contact our New York Sleep Center
Sleep is nothing to take lightly. A good night’s rest is essential to a healthy and long life. If you are suffering with sleeplessness or other sleep disorders, you owe it to yourself (and your loved ones) to get the help you need.
Don’t suffer with sleepless nights. Sometimes poor quality sleep may be due to sleeping disorders that needs to be detected and treated. Let Dr. Mayank Shukla help you improve your quality sleep by detecting your sleeping disorder. Visit his New York Sleep Center today.
Awards and Recognition
Sleep Hygiene: Overcoming Sleeping Problems
Time is a funny thing when you should have been asleep hours ago. You wait for sleep behind closed eyes, and the seconds draw out. But when you check the clock, precious time raced by. You’re going to be so tired tomorrow. At times like this, the most obvious solution seems to be a pill. But the best way to fix a problem with settling down is active, not reactive: it’s a matter of habits. “Sleep hygiene” is the designated term for the decisions we make during the day, that give us a good night’s sleep.
Let’s be clear: there’s hardly anything about modern life that suggests it’s a good time to go to bed. Every convenience, each technological achievement, seems to supply an alternative to getting sleep. We’re way past network television: we have content on demand—the movie we want, when we want it. An Internet to keep us interested forever, and we never have to fight off the drowsy boredom we once knew. Computer screens and TVs glow with the same frequency as daylight, and our bodies think it’s still sometime in the afternoon.
So, in this technological paradise, researchers have scientifically compiled a list of “best practices” for good sleep: sleep hygiene.
Chemicals are Trouble
Alcohol, caffeine and nicotine may feel relaxing, but they’re stimulants. They fiddle with your internal chemistry and play with the dials on your internal clock. Don’t drink coffee or tea for up to six hours before bedtime. Avoid alcohol inside of three hours prior. And by all means, limit daily consumption to a couple of beverages daily.
Control Your Environment
There are distractions everywhere. All the distractions aside of our surrounding gadgetry, urban (even suburban) environments can produce noises or artificial light that will interrupt steady, regular sleep. If the shades aren’t up to the task, buy a mask. If the walls are thin, try some white noise to even things out – like a fan. Earplugs are also an option for more invasive, persistent noises.
Be a Creature of Habit
People usually need at least an hour to gear down from active mode to a restful state. Leave out the exercise; it will only release hormones to gear you back up. Baths are relaxing, and the temperature shift will make you drowsy. Reading is an excellent idea. Preoccupied by myriad thoughts? Write them down in a journal and purge them from your mind.
Listen to Your Body, Not the Clock
Getting frustrated will not help you relax; so if you can’t fall asleep right away, try reading some more, or resort to a bit of TV. When the eyelids get heavy, slide back into bed. And turn the clock away – don’t let yourself fixate on the hour.
Let the Light Shine In
There was an earlier mention about the effect of daylight on the body’s clock. With reference to that pearl of wisdom, embrace the daylight hours. Open the shades as early as possible and do as much as you can by natural light. If you work indoors, try to take a stroll on your break. It’s very helpful.
Your Schedule is Like Fiber: Keep Things Regular
Your body was designed long, long before the industrial revolution. There is no genetic record of the five-day work week, so it has no natural expectation of staying out late on weekends. If there’s any trouble getting to sleep, it can only help to keep as regular a schedule as possible (without estranging yourself from society).
The Cat is Not Your Role Model
Napping can be a great way of refreshing yourself, when you feel you’re wearing down. But if you’re having trouble sleeping at night, excessive napping could be a factor. If you must nap in the day, earlier is better.
Eat Dinner like a Pauper
It’s no secret some foods (notoriously, spicy foods) can keep someone up. While it’s better to manage your eating schedule to eat hearty early and light at night, if it just can’t be helped, try to keep the palate on the modest side of the spectrum. Dairy might be a better choice than pizza with peppers.
If It’s Good Enough for Your Car…
You can monitor your own fluids as well. To put it simply, a dry mouth or a full bladder can wake you up. A proper dose of water at the right time can get you through the night.
Not Too Late
Exercise is good, it will keep you fit and tire you out. But it has a certain afterglow; the exerted body secretes cortisol, which is a stress hormone associated with “survival mode.” It tells the body to prioritize some functions, like blood pressure and fluid balance; and demotes others, like digestion, your sex drive, and – of course – sleep. If you’re going to exercise, wrap it up a few hours before bed. It’s worth mentioning that aerobic exercise (e.g. jogging) is the type most likely to impact on your ability to fall asleep if done too close to bedtime.
Schedule a Consultation
If you find you’re still having difficulty sleeping after following these tips, get in contact with New York sleep specialist Dr. Shukla. He can help diagnose and formulate a plan to address whatever sleep disorder you may be suffering from.