In order to get the best possible sleep each night, it is important to maintain a series of steps to ensure proper sleep hygiene to avoid conditions such as sleep deprivation or insomnia. Sleep hygiene is a set of different practices needed in order to have normal, restful sleep.
Can't sleep at night? Following these sleep tips and practices are necessary for ensuring proper attentiveness during the day:
1. Maintain a steady sleep and wake pattern
Your circadian rhythm, or internal body clock, is set in the body when you go to bed and awaken at the same time each day. It is important to maintain this pattern as closely as you can, especially on weekends. Even if you do not sleep as well, you should wake up at the same time, as the additional sleep drive will allow you sleep the next night.
2. Only take short naps
Taking long naps late in the day can interrupt your regular sleep pattern and wakefulness, reducing sleep drive. Naps should be taken only for 20-30 minutes or less during the day, if at all necessary.
3. Avoid stimulants before bedtime
Stimulants, such as caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine, should be avoided at bedtime. Despite alcohol’s ability to increase the onset of sleep, its’ stimulant properties consequently interrupt the quality of sleep and increase awakenings. During this phase, your body attempts to metabolize the alcohol, inducing arousal in your brain. Caffeine can be found in tea, chocolate, coffee, soda, and a few pain relievers. It should be avoided 4-6 hours, prior to bedtime. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), stimulants like nicotine and alcohol can prevent one from getting enough sleep. Also, as per Washington State University’s Alcohol & Drug Counseling, Assessment & Prevention Services (ADCAPS), alcohol can negatively affect your sleep cycle. This demonstrates a need for education on these stimulants and how they affect sleep.
4. Exercise is advantageous for sleep
Exercising at the right time of day has been shown to help you fall asleep faster. Physical activity stimulates the secretion of cortisol, a stress hormone, subsequently triggering an alerting mechanism in the brain. High intensity workouts should occur in the morning or afternoon. Low intensity, relaxing exercise, such as yoga, can be done at night to aid in getting a relaxing sleep.
5. Avoid eating before bedtime
Initiating digestive processes too close to bedtime can cause sleep problems. Dinner should be eaten several hours before you plan to rest for the night. Foods that trigger digestion should be avoided
6. Make changes to your bedroom, so that it is a sleep encouraging environment
Silent, dark, cool environments are conducive to sleeping. A silent environment can be achieved by lowering outside volume, utilizing earplugs, or a white noise machine. Heavy curtains or eye masks can shield light, making the room darker. The temperature should be maintained between 60 and 75 degrees F. Pets should be kept out of the bedroom, as they are a regular disturbance at night. It is important to limit your bedroom activities to include only sleeping. Electronic devices should be removed from the room to better reinforce your mental association between sleep and your bedroom. A study conducted in 2007 at the University of Memphis showed that poor sleeping habits were correlated with excessive noise in the bedroom and uncomfortable room temperatures.
7. Create a relaxing bedtime routine
Activities before bed should be those that will allow a slow transition from wakefulness to sleep. Activities, such as taking a bath, reading, and watching television, are conducive to tiredness and the need for sleep. Stress-provoking activities should be avoided before bedtime, such as work or talking through emotional problems.
8. Avoid watching the clock
A clock’s face should be turned away from you as you sleep. Watching a clock can create stress and anxiety, making it more difficult to fall asleep.
9. Sleep when you are actually tired
Lacking the ability to fall sleep can cause stress and annoyance. If you are unable to fall asleep after about 20 minutes, leave the room to start a relaxing activity. Reading or listening to music can be relaxing enough to prepare you for a good sleep.
10. Use natural light
Natural light is essential to maintaining your sleep-wake cycle. Light should be let in as soon as you wake up in the morning. Also, as per Michael Thorpy, MD, National Sleep Foundation, an adequate exposure to natural light during the daytime (especially for elderly adults) ensures a good and healthy sleep-wake cycle.
Thorpy, M. Sleep Hygiene [Internet]. 2003. [cited 2014 Oct 30]. Available from: http://sleepfoundation.org/ask-the-expert/sleep-hygiene
Twelve Simple Tips to Improve Your Sleep [Internet]. [updated 2007 Dec 18; cited 2014 Oct 30]. Available from: http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/getting/overcoming/tips
Lacks P, Rotert M. Knowledge and practice of sleep hygiene techniques in insomniacs and good sleepers. Behaviour Research and Therapy. 1986. 24(3): 365-368. (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/000579678690197X)
Gellis L, Lichstein K. Sleep Hygiene Practices of Good and Poor Sleepers in the United States: An Internet-Based Study. Behavior Therapy. 2009;40(1):1-9. (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0005789408000518)
Helpful Peer-Reviewed Medical Articles:
Stepanski, E. J., & Wyatt, J. K. (2003). Use of sleep hygiene in the treatment of insomnia. Sleep medicine reviews, 7(3), 215-225.
Brown, F. C., Buboltz Jr, W. C., & Soper, B. (2002). Relationship of sleep hygiene awareness, sleep hygiene practices, and sleep quality in university students. Behavioral medicine, 28(1), 33-38.
Mindell, J. A., Meltzer, L. J., Carskadon, M. A., & Chervin, R. D. (2009). Developmental aspects of sleep hygiene: findings from the 2004 National Sleep Foundation Sleep in America Poll. Sleep medicine, 10(7), 771-779.
LeBourgeois, M. K., Giannotti, F., Cortesi, F., Wolfson, A. R., & Harsh, J. (2005). The relationship between reported sleep quality and sleep hygiene in Italian and American adolescents. Pediatrics, 115(Supplement 1), 257-265.
Mastin, D. F., Bryson, J., & Corwyn, R. (2006). Assessment of sleep hygiene using the Sleep Hygiene Index. Journal of behavioral medicine,29(3), 223-227.
Jefferson, C. D., Drake, C. L., Scofield, H. M., Myers, E., McClure, T., Roehrs, T., & Roth, T. (2005). Sleep hygiene practices in a population-based sample of insomniacs. Sleep, 28(5), 611-615.