22 sleep hygiene tips for perfect sleep.

7 November, 2011

sleep hygiene

sleep hygiene

“Sleep is the golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.” Thomas Dekker

We can all practice lifestyle rituals that can directly affect our sleep.  We call this Sleep Hygiene.

If we follow a few simple steps each day, we should soon get a better night’s sleep.  Many of these ideas may seem like common sense, but it is amazing how often we ignore this simple advice and pay the price.

Poor sleep habits are among the most common problems encountered in our society.  We stay up too late and get up too early. We interrupt our sleep with drugs, unhealthy diet and work, and we over-stimulate ourselves with late-night activities.

Having an evening routine will help your body get ready for sleep.

  1. Keep regular hours.  Go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning.  Do this seven days a week.  Resist the temptation to have late nights and lie-ins at weekends.  If you can do this, your body will program itself into a natural and regular rhythm.  It stands to reason: you are programming a machine – YOU!
  2. Start by setting the time that you have to wake up to get to work on time and then work backwards, giving yourself the minimum amount of time in bed that leaves you able to operate effectively the following day.
  3. Work back in 90 minute intervals.  Each sleep cycle lasts approximately 90 minutes, and this will ensure that you don’t have to wake up in the middle of a cycle.
  4. Research shows going to bed and waking up at the same times on a regular basis is vital for healthy sleep. This is because we have an inbuilt body clock set by circadian rhythms. Controlled by the hypothalamus at the base of the brain, it governs the body’s daily cycle between sleep and wakefulness.
  5. If you can’t keep to an exact schedule for going to bed, at least make sure you wake up at the same time every day, including weekends.
  6. Create a restful environment for sleep.  Your bedroom should be kept as much as possible exclusively for sleep (and of course intimacy if you are in a relationship).
  7. Exercise is crucial to preparing your body for its natural reward – sleep.  Take more exercise.  Make it as regular as possible within your busy schedule or weekend free time, but don’t overdo it.  And don’t exercise within 3 or 4 hours of bedtime as this will stimulate you and prevent you from falling asleep.   Even moderate daily exercise such as a brisk walk or swim can relieve stress and help you relax into a state of calm.
  8. Yoga is an ideal way to combine relaxation and fitness.  If you’ve never tried it, sign up for a class to see if it suits you.
  9. At least get outside during daylight hours.  Spending some time in sunlight will help to reset and regulate your body’s natural sleep cycle.
  10. Cut down on all stimulants such as caffeine and chocolate, especially in the evening.  Do not drink coffee, caffeinated tea or cola drinks after lunch.  They will interfere with sleep.  Try herbal teas instead.
  11. Try not to drink water or food with high water content for an hour or two before bedtime.  This will cut down the need to go to the bathroom in the night.
  12. Do not over-indulge.  An excess of food or drink, especially near bedtime, will prevent you falling asleep.  Be especially careful of hot, spicy or sugary foods.  Your body has to work to digest the food and this will keep you awake.
  13. Cut back on alcohol.  Even though it may help you fall asleep initially, too much will interrupt your sleep later in the night.  As the effects of alcohol wear off, we are more likely to move into lighter and less restful REM stages of sleep, and leave you feeling groggy and hung-over the following day.
  14. Likewise, smoking has a negative effect on sleep patterns. The nicotine inhaled in tobacco smoke is a stimulant; so smokers take longer to fall asleep and experience disruption to their sleep patterns.
  15. Ideally, don’t go to bed until you are ready.  Wind down by stretching, relaxing with family, gazing at the stars or listening to calming music and generally getting into a tranquil state.
  16. Switch off the television at least half an hour before going to bed.  All news media tends to stimulate the mind and prevent you from going to sleep.  Avoid the radio and newspapers, too.
  17. Take a warm bath or shower, but remember to allow adequate time to cool down.  1 to 2 hours before bedtime is recommended.  Make sure the bath is warm, as the discomfort of a really hot bath has a stimulating effect.  If you suffer from high blood pressure, be particularly careful the bath is not too hot.
  18. For added relaxation add essential oils of lavender, marjoram, camomile, cedarwood & ylang-ylang to the bath.
  19. Drink a cup of herbal tea (camomile is great) or hot milk. Milk contains calcium which helps you to relax and is also rich in tryptophan, which the body converts into serotonin, a natural hormone in the body that can make you sleepy.  Sprinkle a little nutmeg on top: it contains myristicin, which enhances sleep.
  20. Consider adding honey to your warm bedtime drink.  Honey ensures adequate stores of glycogen during sleep preventing the release of adrenalin. It also stabilizes sugar in the blood stream and contributes to the release of melatonin.  All of this promotes restful sleep.
  21. Avoid longer naps during the day.  If you feel sleepy after lunch, which is perfectly normal, take a siesta of 15-20 minutes maximum.  Any more than this and you risk going into deep sleep, which will leave you feeling groggy and may prevent you from sleeping properly at night.
  22. Even if you are extremely sleep-deprived, resist daytime naps which are longer than two sleep cycles (3 hours).  This “nap gorging” will disrupt your sleep patterns and your nighttime sleep.  Also, make sure there are at least 3 hours between the end of your nap and your anticipated bedtime.

…and 3 Special Tips for Shift Workers and Those With Unusual Working Hours:

  1. If necessary, take a nap before work or during a break at work
  2. If you drive home in the morning, wear sunglasses.  Reducing light to your eyes will make the brain think it is getting close to nighttime
  3. Make sure that your sleeping area is as dark as possible.  Use blackout drapes, a thick blanket over the window or a sleep mask

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