Sleep habits (referred to as hygiene) are the most important factors dictating our sleep health. Sleep hygiene is a variety of behaviors necessary for healthy, quality nighttime sleep and full daytime alertness. By these behaviors, we can affect directly our neuropsychology for improved health.
What are examples of good sleep hygiene?
The most important step in sleep hygiene is to achieve a regular sleep and wake pattern seven days a week. Humans in general need 7-9 hours in bed, yet individuals need to know their specific “in bed” requirement. For example, if you have a problem with daytime sleepiness, you may need a minimum of eight hours in bed. Yet if you have difficulty sleeping at night, you may need to limit yourself to 7 hours in bed. Whatever your specific requirement is, you should keep it consistent to within 15 minutes every day (even weekends).
- Try to spend at least 30 minutes during daylight hours in natural light. Sunlight exposure early in the day can help synchronise your body’s internal clock.
- Go to bed and get up at the same time each day. The body has an internal clock which makes you sleepy, so do not ignore this. Going to bed too early may also result in disturbed sleep. If you have a fairly regular waking and sleeping time, your body can get used to it. Avoid the temptation to “make up” for a poor night’s sleep by sleeping in. However, you should not be obsessive; an occasional night out or sleep in is not going to hurt.
- Get consistent exercise each day. Research studies demonstrate that daily exercise improves restful sleep.
- Don’t exercise less than 2 hrs before going to bed. Exercise stimulates the body and may make it difficult to fall asleep. Exercise anytime before dinner.
- Don’t go to bed too hungry or too full. You’ll need at least 90 minutes to start digesting a meal before going to bed. On the other hand, a healthy snack before bed can keep you from going to bed hungry.
- Don’t engage in exciting activities 1 hour before bed. Playing a competitive game, watching a dramatic TV program, or having an important conversation stimulates your brain. Also avoid planning the next day’s activity.
- Make the bedroom a place of rest and peace. This means keeping the room cool, quiet, and very dark. Have a light that is easily accessible, and turn off distracting things such as beeping watches or chiming clocks.
- Use your bedroom only for sleep. Using the bedroom as a home office, media room, or hobby area results in your brain connecting the bedroom with events other than sleeping. The bedroom is for sleeping and all sleeping should happen in the bed.
- Be comfortable and relaxed. If you have uncomfortable pillows, mattress, or bedding, get it fixed. You spend 7-9 hours a day in bed, so make sure it is comfortable.
- Address aches and pains. If pain and discomfort keep you up at night, get it diagnosed and addressed by your doctor of chiropractic.
- Don’t drink caffeine in the evening.
- Don’t nap in the evening. If taking a short daytime nap in early afternoon doesn’t seem to affect your night-time sleep, that’s OK. However, napping in the evening is going to alter your body’s need to fall asleep and stay asleep through the night.
- Don’t try to force yourself to sleep. If you do not fall asleep or wake in the middle of the night for roughly 20-30 minutes, then get up and do something boring in another room. Keep the lights low and when you are tired, go back to bed.
- Don’t look at the clock. Checking the time throughout the evening is a distraction making it more difficult to sleep.
- Don’t smoke. Quitting smoking eliminates the stimulant effects of nicotine that contribute to sleep loss.
- Don’t use alcohol as a sleep aid. Alcohol may aid in getting to sleep, but it results in more trips to the restroom, stimulates wakefulness only hours later, causes fragmented sleep, and exacerbates snoring and sleep apnea.
Who should practice good sleep hygiene?
Sleep hygiene is important for everyone. Children and adults at every stage of life benefit from a good sleep hygiene routine which promotes healthy sleep and daytime alertness. Also, good sleep hygiene can prevent and reverse the development of sleep problems and disorders.
How do you know if you have bad sleep hygiene?
Problems staying asleep, daytime sleepiness, and failure to wake up feeling refreshed, are the most telling signs of poor sleep hygiene. If you are experiencing a sleep problem, evaluate your hygiene. Discuss needed changes with your sleep partner, family, and doctor. Also know that it takes time for changes in behavior to have an effect.
For more details about sleep hygiene, visit HelpGuide.org.