Sleep Hygiene Tips – Sleep and Sleep Disorders
Let’s get started with a somewhat ‘scientific’ definition of sleep:
It is a recurring daily state of mind and body denoting altered consciousness. When we fall asleep, our sensory activities get restrained and stopped; our muscle activities get reduced. Nearly all voluntary muscles’ movements get inhibited, and our body stops almost all the interactions with our surroundings.
We don’t need scientists to tell us about the importance of sleep. Every mother knows it, probably better than the scientists – just kidding by the way. The point is, as a mother of two toddlers distanced by only two years, I can tell you about every reason that didn’t let me sleep and every bit of problems caused by lack of enough sleep. Luckily time flew, and the toddlers are big guys nowadays. So I left behind the days of not having enough sleep. But the thing is babies are not the only reasons for not having proper sleep at night. Sleep scientists identified not practicing sleep hygiene as a crucial influence for not enough sleep and sleep-related disorders.
Put – sleep hygiene is mostly a behavioral and environmental practice. The concept was developed in the late 70s to provide a framework for helping people with insomnia. Though findings through new research in 2014, it was assumed that the effects of sleep hygiene on mild and moderate insomnia are inconclusive. Nevertheless, sleep scientists and clinicians strongly recommend sleep hygiene for an old fashioned good night’s sleep and avoid the negatives of sleep disorders.
Tips for sleep hygiene include the following:
· Comfortable and dark sleep environment
· Following a regular sleep schedule
· Not exercising before going to bed
· Stop or limit worrying
· If you can’t sleep, get out of the bed
· The bed is only for sleep and sex
· Alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, and other stimulants must be stopped using in the hours before bedtime
· No Sleeping at random hours
Let’s get to know about them a bit better:
· Comfortable And Dark Sleep Environment:
Noise is detrimental to sound sleep, such as excessive temperature, extravagant lighting, and an uncomfortable bed made of a below-par mattress with low-quality pillows.
As you now know, the disturbances that cause sleep disorder, try to eliminate them. If you find it challenging to keep the noise down, use earplugs. Some people like yours honestly can never use earplugs, for our ears are already ornamented! Anyway, the point being, if the earplugs make you feel uncomfortable or you can’t use them, and you have no control over noisy neighbors or excessive traffic outside, you have to make do with fans or any machine producing sounds at the same audible rhythm continuously. Again, you have to have control over the room temperature. It induces prompt sleep and keeps it that way. Finally, it’s profoundly important to invest in the best mattress and the best pillow you can afford within your limit. Even if you are sleeping in the bunk beds right now, for whatever reasons, you should go after the best bunk bed mattress. And finally, use a heavy, dark-colored curtain over the windows to keep the light-interference to a minimum.
Follow all the above and be sure about having the perfect environment for a fantastic sleep.
· Following A Regular Sleep Schedule:
As per the NHS, it is of utmost importance that we keep our sleeping hours regular. It means we have to aim for a fixed time to go to bed and a fixed time to get up. This internalizes the brain to adjust the body clock accordingly. Have a look at the info-graph below:
Now figure out a regular schedule as per your requirement and follow it vehemently. It would help if you kept it in mind that catching up some lost sleep is a bad idea to disrupt the schedule you may have established.
· Not Exercising Before Going To Bed:
Regular exercises help you sleep better at night and don’t make you sleepy during the daytime. It is also documented in studies that physical exercise can have a positive effect on sleep disorders, insomnia, and sleep apnea. But the only problem caused by exercising to sleep is the timing of it. A new study, published in 2018 in Sports Medicine, suggested that exercising within one hour before sleep will cause you to take longer to fall asleep and poorer quality of sleep. On the other hand, the study also found out that a single session evening work-out causes the person to fall asleep quicker. The noteworthy matter for us here is that regular exercise performing any time of the day except late in the evening or at least 1-2 hours before sleep is an essential part of sleep hygiene.
· You Can’t Be Stressed And Stop Or Limit Worrying:
The link between stress and sleeping disorder has long been known to man. Every living human being experiences stressful situations, which makes them worry about the outcome beyond their control. Many times these worrying about complicated circumstances find their way to our bed, and we wouldn’t sleep fast or wouldn’t be falling asleep again after waking up in the middle of the night.
A significant number of studies have been done in this regard. One such study pointed out that the probability of getting insomnia will be heightened profoundly by the work atmosphere that imbues stress among the employees. In Japan, researchers showed that working hard without the hope of getting a reward in a highly stressful work environment will result in developing insomnia in most of the cases. A study in South Korea documented a correlation between job-induced stresses with insomnia. In the USA, sleep scientists observed that stress arising from family complications would increase the risk of insomnia significantly.
So it is obvious that to fall asleep quickly, you can’t be stressed – no matter what life throws at you. And on top of this superhuman quality, you also have to limit or stop worrying – as much as you can be able to.
· If You Can’t Sleep, Get Out Of The Bed:
If you find yourself awake even after 20 minutes, you hit the bed, get up and get out of the bed. You need to train your mind to perceive the bed as a sacred place that can only be used for sleep. So, leave the comfort of lying down in your cozy bed and engage yourself in any activity that you love. Play the guitar for some time if that doesn’t cause any other member of the family to lose sleep. Can you draw? What about knitting?
All these activities are low key and can’t leave a long-lasting impact. They are the perfect things to be doing if you can’t sleep. But as soon as you get tired and feel drowsy, leave everything and go straight to bed.
· The Bed Is Only For Sleep, And For Sex:
Dr. Charles Czeisler of Harvard Medical School says,
“Artificial light exposure between dusk and the time we go to bed suppresses release of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin, enhances alertness and shifts circadian rhythms to a later hour – making it more difficult to fall asleep.”
Our bed is one of the few inanimate things that become our very own personal possession. A bed is a place where we can sleep, eat, recline, do work, and maybe a few other things too. But please keep reminding yourself from this moment onwards that the bed can only be used for sleep and sex as well.
Dr. Michael T Murray, widely reckoned as the leading authority on natural medicine, says,
“Your body and mind should recognize your bedroom as a place of rest and intimacy.”
That’s why we should use the bed only for the activities for which they were initially made and let your body be familiar with the bed as the place to sleep.
· Stop Taking Alcohol, Nicotine, Caffeine And Other Stimulants In The Hours Before Bedtime:
The essential things about Caffeine, Alcohol, Smoking, and other stimulants is that they can severely create blockade for falling asleep fast. It is well-documented in many studies that caffeine can make it challenging to sleep quickly and sleep deeply. If you are a coffee addict and seem not to be able to live without, at least make sure you drink the last cup 2-3 hours prior to sleep. This is also the length of the time difference, which you should maintain for taking food. For alcohol, the range is a minimum of 4 hours, and within this timeframe, you shouldn’t be drinking alcohol. Nicotine is a substance that should be avoided altogether if you want to incorporate proper sleep hygiene in your life.
· No Sleeping At Random Hours:
A study showed that a decrease in sleeping time during daylight hours would significantly increase bedtime sleeping at night. That means the less you sleep during the day, the more you will be able to sleep at night.
SO, if you follow the above tips – I am sure you would never have any issue with sleep hygiene which in turn will make you fall asleep fast, render quality sleep time and you will be able to get back to fall asleep if you, for some reason, have to wake up.
Now go and sleep!