Sleep hygiene plays an important role in helping you get the amount of rest you need. Although sleep disorders affect the quantity and quality of sleep a person gets, some people do not get enough quality sleep simply due to poor sleep hygiene. These tips will help you understand how to get your sleep hygiene under control and prevent sleep problems.
What is Sleep Hygiene?
The term “sleep hygiene” simply refers to your sleep habits. Everyone should try to follow the same routine before going to bed each night, as this routine helps you relax and prepare for a good night’s sleep. Some people do not follow a routine, or they have bad habits that interfere with the ability to fall asleep and stay asleep for the right amount of time. In people with insomnia, sleep hygiene changes may reduce or completely eliminate the problem. Use the following sleep hygiene techniques to improve the quantity and quality of your sleep.
One of the basic principles of good sleep hygiene is going to bed at the same time each night and waking up at the same time each morning. When you follow a regular sleep routine, the body gets used to falling asleep at approximately the same time each day. This makes it easier to fall asleep the night before work, school or other daytime activities. Avoid staying up late on the weekends, as this can make it difficult to fall asleep on weeknights. Even if you do not have to get up early in the morning, try to wake up close to your usual time. If you sleep late, you will not be ready for bed as early as usual, causing a shift in your sleep cycle. When it comes to sleep hygiene, shift workers have a particularly difficult time maintaining a normal sleep schedule. The light and noise of the daytime make it difficult to sleep. If you work night shift, consider buying blackout curtains and putting a white noise machine in your bedroom. These small steps may improve your sleep environment enough to help you get consistent sleep.
Established sleep hygiene guidelines indicate that people should avoid alcohol for at least four hours before bedtime. Although alcohol is a nervous system depressant, its effects are short-lived. You might fall asleep quickly after consuming alcohol, but as the alcohol leaves your bloodstream, you are likely to wake up and have difficulty falling back to sleep. Any sleep hygiene handout will tell you to avoid alcohol as much as possible in the hours before going to sleep.
Foods and Beverages
What you eat and drink has a very real effect on your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. Since caffeine is a stimulant, avoid caffeinated beverages for at least four to six hours before bedtime. Some foods, such as chocolate, also contain caffeine. Avoid spicy foods, heavy meals and foods with high amounts of sugar at least four to six hours before bed. These foods can interfere with your ability to sleep through the night. A small study led by investigators from the University of Tasmania confirmed the effects of spicy foods on sleep. During the study, six young males consumed Tabasco sauce and mustard with their evening meals. Consuming this spicy combination increased the amount of time it took them to fall asleep. It also resulted in less slow wave sleep for each participant. The researchers theorized that increased body temperature during the first sleep cycle may be to blame.
Most experts who give sleep hygiene advice recommend regular exercise, but the timing of physical activity is also important. Exercise raises endorphin levels, which can make it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep. If you exercise regularly, plan your exercise sessions for early in the day. If you do not currently have a regular exercise routine, speak with a physician or personal trainer to find out how to get started. Regular physical activity not only improves sleep, it strengthens the cardiovascular system and reduces the risk of serious medical problems.
Your sleep environment is just as important as your sleep routine when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep. Keep the bedroom at a comfortable temperature, as both cold and hot temperatures can make it difficult to get comfortable. If you have bright street lights right outside your bedroom windows, buy blackout shades to block out all of the light. A white noise machine can produce enough noise to block out the sounds of traffic and other street noise. Avoid using your bed for anything other than sleeping and intimate activities. This can help your mind associate your bed with sleep instead of playing video games or surfing the Web. A comfortable bed and high-quality bedding will make it easier to get to sleep and sleep through the night without interruptions.
Avoid playing video games, watching television, or using a computer for at least one hour before bedtime. The glare from television screens and computer monitors may interfere with your ability to fall asleep. Researchers from Finders University in Adelaide, Australia conducted a study to determine the effects of pre-sleep video game play on the sleep of adolescents. The study involved 13 adolescent males, some of whom played video games and some of whom watched DVDs before going to sleep. The adolescents who played video games had reduced sleepiness and took longer to fall asleep than the adolescents who watched DVDs. The video gamers did not experience increased heart rates, however, which suggests that video game play may not affect adolescent sleep as much as researchers previously thought.
Sleep Hygiene for Kids
Getting enough sleep is especially important for kids, as sleep deprivation can cause poor academic performance and even cause problems that mimic the effects of attention deficit disorder and behavioral disorders. If your child is sleepy during the day, or if your child acts out during the day, it may be time to take a short sleep hygiene test to determine if lack of sleep is causing the problem. When it comes to sleep hygiene, children have the same needs as adults. They need comfortable, quiet sleeping environments that are dark enough for sleep. Kids should also avoid watching TV and playing video games before going to bed. One of the best ways to stress the importance of sleep hygiene for children is to set a good example. Parents cannot always go to bed early or get the right number of hours of sleep, but they can teach their kids about the importance of getting enough rest.