Sleep Hygiene

Sleep Hygiene

‘Sleep hygiene’ means habits that help you have a good night’s sleep.
• Common sleeping problems (such as insomnia) are often caused by bad habits reinforced over years or even decades.
• If you have tried and failed to improve your sleep, you may like to consider professional help.
You can dramatically improve your sleep quality by making a few minor adjustments to lifestyle and attitude.


#1 LISTEN TO  YOUR BODY CLOCK
The body’s alternating sleep-wake cycle is controlled by an internal ‘clock’ within the brain. Most bodily processes (such as temperature and brain states) are synchronised to this 24-hour physiological clock. Getting a good sleep means working with your body clock, not against it.

Suggestions include:
Get up at the same time every day. Soon this strict routine will help to ‘set’ your body clock and you’ll find yourself getting sleepy at about the same time every night.
• Don’t ignore tiredness. Go to bed when your body tells you it’s ready.
• Don’t go to bed if you don’t feel tired. You will only reinforce bad habits such as lying awake.
• Get enough early morning sunshine. Exposure to light during early waking hours helps to set
your body clock.
• Avoid blue lit screens for at least half an hour before sleep – charge your device outside of the bedroom.
• Darken the room as much as possible – to eliminate any unwanted light. Use lamps and dim
lighting in the evening as preparation for sleep.

 

#2 IMPROVE YOUR SLEEPING ENVIRONMENT

Good sleep is more likely if your bedroom feels restful and comfortable. 

Suggestions include:

  • Invest in a mattress that is neither too hard nor too soft.
  • Make sure the room is at the right temperature not too hot - YOu will actually sleep better if you are on the cooler side of things. 
  • Ensure the room is dark enough - too much light will mean your Melatonin production (the hormone that regulates sleep/wake cycles) can be interrupted.  Over time this can lead to dysregulated sleep - and also a more depressed mood as it will impact the “happy” hormone Serotonin 
  • If you can’t control noise (such as barking dogs or loud neighbours), buy a pair of earplugs.
  • Use your bedroom only for sleeping and intimacy. If you treat your bed like a second lounge room – for watching television or talking to friends on the phone, for example – your mind will associate your bedroom with activity.

Overall your bedroom should represent CALM and PEACE - so if it’s messy, full of work related papers, unfinished work, or other unrelated items, it’s time for a CULL and a clean.

#3 AVOID DRUGS 

Some people resort to medications or ‘social drugs’ in the mistaken belief that sleep will be more likely. Common pitfalls include:

Cigarettes – many smokers claim that cigarettes help them relax, yet nicotine is a stimulant. The side

effects, including accelerated heart rate and increased blood pressure, are likely to keep you awake for longer.

Alcohol – alcohol is a depressant drug, which means it slows the workings of the nervous system.

Drinking before bed may help you doze off but, since alcohol disturbs the rhythm of sleep patterns, you won’t feel refreshed in the morning. Other drawbacks include waking frequently to go to the toilet and hangovers.

Sleeping pills – drawbacks include daytime sleepiness, failure to address the causes of sleeping

problems, and the ‘rebound’ effect – after a stint of using sleeping pills, falling asleep without them tends to be even harder. These drugs should only be used as a temporary last resort and under strict medical advice.

#4 RELAX YOUR MIND 

Insomnia is often caused by worrying.

Stressing or worrying makes for a busy mind, and makes sleep harder to establish.
Not only does it take up space, it can impact your body’s chemistry by increasing levels of certain stress hormones that have a range of impacts on your gut, immune system and overall resilience to stress.  These same “stress hormones” can also make you feel restless, and “tired but wired”.  Here are a few practical tips on managing bedtime stress/ worrying.

  • If you are a chronic bedtime worrier, try scheduling a half-hour of ‘worry time’ well before bed. Once you retire, remind yourself that you’ve already done your worrying for the day. Make a list of your concerns, or your things to do list and intentionally put these thoughts somewhere you can't access until the morning.  After all - there are few work / life problems can be solved in the middle of the night.
  • Try relaxation exercises. You could consciously relax every part of your body, starting with your toes and working up to your scalp. Or you could think of a restful scene, concentrate on the rhythmic rise and fall of your breathing, or focus on a mantra (repeating a word or phrase constantly)
  • Try the Calm App or Smiling Mind app as an introduction to meditation and mindfulness, use this before sleep or if you wake during the night to re-establish sleep
  • If stress and over thinking is a regular interruption to your day or night, seek the input of a qualified counsellor to support your concerns, and gain the skills needed to manage stress effectively.

#5 GENERAL SUGGESTIONS FOR A BETTER SLEEP!  

Other lifestyle adjustments that may help improve your sleep include:

• Exercise every day, but not close to bedtime and try not to overheat yourself –

your body needs time to wind down.

• Try herbal teas such as Chamomile and Lavender at least one hour before sleep is planned

• Try not to engage in mentally stimulating activities close to bedtime. Use the last hour or so before sleep to relax your mind.

• Don’t take afternoon naps.

• Avoid caffeinated drinks (like tea, coffee, cola or chocolate) close to bedtime. Instead, have a

warm, milky drink, since milk contains a sleep-enhancing amino acid.

• Take a warm bath add a cup of Epsom salts and perhaps lavender essential oil for muscle relaxation

• Turn your alarm clock to the wall. Watching the minutes tick by is a sure way to keep yourself awake.

• If you can’t fall asleep within a reasonable amount of time, get out of bed and do something else for half an hour or so, such as reading a book.

• If you have tried and failed to improve your sleep, you may like to consider professional help.

See your doctor for information and referral.

...to be continued...

Comments

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