Studies have shown that a lack of SLEEP HYGIENE is the main reason why many people have trouble getting to sleep. Sleep hygiene are the steps that we can take to ensure that we are getting the highest quality of sleep possible. The most important step you can take is to have regular sleep and wake times every day of the week (including weekends). Other sleep hygiene practices include:
- Avoid napping during the day. It can disturb the normal pattern of sleep and wakefulness.
- Avoid stimulants such as caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol too close to bedtime. While alcohol is well known to speed the onset of sleep, it disrupts sleep in the second half as the body begins to metabolize the alcohol, causing arousal.
- Exercise can promote good sleep. Vigorous exercise should be taken in the morning or late afternoon. A relaxing exercise, like yoga, can be done before bed to help initiate a restful night’s sleep.
- Food can be disruptive right before sleep. Stay away from large meals close to bedtime. Also, dietary changes can cause sleep problems. If someone is struggling with a sleep problem, it’s not a good time to start experimenting with spicy dishes. Also, remember, chocolate has caffeine.
- Ensure adequate exposure to natural light. This is particularly important for older people who may not venture outside as frequently as children and adults. Light exposure helots maintain a healthy sleep-wake cycle.
- Establish a regular relaxing bedtime routine. Try to avoid emotionally upsetting conversations and activities before trying to go to sleep. Don’t dwell on, or bring your problems to bed.
- Associate your bed with sleep. It’s not a good idea to use your bed to watch TV, listen to the radio, or read.
- Make sure that the sleep environment is pleasant and relaxing. The bed should be comfortable, the room should not be too hot or cold, or too bright.
How Do I Know My Level Of Sleep Hygiene?
The best way to assess one’s level of sleep hygiene is to look at how sleepy one is during the day. More daytime sleepiness is associated with poorer sleep hygiene. Take the Sleepiness Quiz to assess your sleep hygiene!
Creating the Ideal Sleep Environment
There are a number of factors that can contribute to an environment most conducive to a great night sleep. These factors can range from physical factors, such as our bedroom, to scheduling, and personal habits. Here you will find the information you need to create the perfect slumber sanctuary for you.
Noises at levels as low as 40 decibels or as high as 70 decibels can keep us awake. That means that a dripping faucet can steal your sleep, as well as the next door neighbour’s blaring stereo. But the absence or presence of a familiar noise can have as great an impact on your sleep as out-of-the-ordinary noises. Studies show that sirens and traffic noise from a city street can actually become soothing to longtime city sleepers (they will cringe at the thought of sleeping in the serene desert or mountain climate) just as the absence of the tick, tick, tick of your favourite clock while you try to sleep at a hotel can become a sleep stealer.
What to do:
- Try to block out unwanted sounds with earplugs
- Use “white noise” such as a fan, nature sounds, or meditation music to cancel out other noises and help you reach a meditative state
- Take keepsakes with you when you travel in order to recreate familiar sounds that help you sleep (e.g. your favourite alarm clock)
- Consider where your bedroom is – is it close to a street with heavy traffic? If you have a particularly tough time falling asleep, consider changing sleep locations
In most cases, temperatures above 25°C and below 12°C will disrupt sleep, but even sleep researchers fail to agree on the ideal temperature for sleep. The point at which sleep is interrupted due to temperature or climate conditions varies from person to person and can be affected by bed clothes and bedding materials selected by the sleeper. In general, most sleep scientists believe that a slightly cool room contributes to good sleep. That’s because it mimics what occurs inside the body when the body’s internal temperature drops during the night to its lowest level. (For good sleepers, this occurs about four hours after they begin sleeping.)
What to do:
In general, sleep scientists recommend keeping your room slightly cool – turning the thermostat down at night in cold weather sets the stage for sleep and saves on fuel bills. Blankets, comforters, or electric blankets can lock in heat without feeling too heavy or confining. Or the heat-seeking partner might dress in warmer bedclothes while the warmer partner might opt not to wear sleep clothes or bed covering. A room that’s too hot can also be disruptive. In fact, research suggests that a hot sleeping environment leads to more wake time and lighter sleep at night, while awakenings multiply. An air conditioner, open window, or fan can help, and a humidifier can provide relief if you’re suffering from a sore throat or dryness in your nose.
Much of our sleep patterns – feeling sleepy at night and awake during the day – are regulated by light and darkness. Light – strong light, like bright outdoor light (which is brighter than indoor light even on cloudy days) – is the most powerful regulator of our circadian rhythms, or biological clock. The biological clock influences when we feel sleepy and when we feel alert. As a result, finding the balance of light and darkness exposure is important. Bright light helps to keep you awake during the day, but in the evening prior to sleep, bright lights can be disturbing.
What to do:
Make sure to expose yourself to enough bright light during the day. Find time for sunlight, or purchase a lightbox or light visor to supplement your exposure to bright light. At bedtime, think dark: a dark bedroom contributes to better sleep. Try light blocking curtains, shades, or blinds. You can also try hanging a towel or blanket in front of the window to block out excess light. If you find yourself waking earlier than you’d like, try increasing your exposure to bright light in the evening. It may delay sleep onset but as little as one to two hours of evening bright light exposure may help you sleep longer in the morning. Also, make sure to avoid light if you wake up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. Minimize light by using a low illumination night light.
For the most part, we know people sleep better when horizontal and not cramped by space, and it is clear that the sleep surface plays a role in getting a good night’s sleep. For example, tossing and turning on a lumpy 20-year-old mattress that doesn’t provide support for your back or neck can impede you from getting the sleep you need and make you very sleepy (and stiff) the next day. Mattress experts say that too often consumers believe that ultra-firm mattresses are good for them, but research on patients with back pain found this was not true and a more supple, comforting mattress may lead to better sleep.
What to do:
Give yourself enough space to sleep. If you share a bed with a partner, make sure it is large enough to give both of you room to move around. Replace an old mattress with a new one, and choose a pillow and mattress that fits you best (soft, firm, thick, thin) and will be comfortable throughout the whole night. Consumer Reports recently found that consumers who spent 15 minutes or more testing each mattress at the store were more likely to be happy with their purchase. When choosing pillows, find the shape and construction that supports your head and neck, and that you find most comfortable, and change your pillows regularly. If you have allergies or asthma, you may also wish to purchase hypo-allergenic covers designed to protect from possible allergic triggers such as dust mites.
If you are in a dorm room or are unable to control the quality of mattress that is provided for you, you should consider purchasing a mattress pad that can be placed on top of your original mattress and will be able to provide you with the support you need.
If you are planning on sleeping outdoors, and air mattress of even a thick yoga mat can help to provide you with additional support and let you get the quality of sleep that you need.
Bed partners with sleep disorders can negatively impact your sleep. Have you ever been kept awake by your partner’s snoring? Or been jolted out of a sound sleep by your partner’s restless movements? If so, you’re not alone. According to the National Sleep Foundation’s 2005 Sleep in America poll, 67% of respondents reported that their partner snores, 27% said their intimate relationship was affected because they were too sleepy, and 38% said they have had problems in their relationship due to their partner’s sleep disorder.
What to do:
Start off by talking to your partner about the problem. If he/she has not sought treatment for a potential sleep disorder, encourage them to see a doctor. Consider ear plugs if snoring prevents your sleep. Try to create a sleeping arrangement that is comfortable for both you and your partner. Keep the lines of communication open.
ELECTRONICS AND SLEEP
TVs, computers, and work in the bedroom are sleep stealing culprits. NSF’s 2005 Sleep in America poll found that 87% of respondents watched TV within an hour of going to bed at least a few nights a week.Doing work, watching TV, and using the computer , both close to bedtime and especially in the bedroom, hinders quality sleep. Violent shows, news reports, and stories before bedtime can be agitating. The sleep environment should be used only for sleep and sex.