Have you ever thought about how your sleep hygiene habits could be affecting your quality of sleep? Sleep hygiene, part of cognitive behavioral therapy to treat mild to moderate insomnia, involves adjusting sleep schedules, timing activities, limiting exposure to bright lights in the evening and making other adjustments to promote healthy sleep patterns. By following these simple sleep hygiene practices, you can be on your way to a better night’s sleep.
Keeping a regular sleep schedule is an important part of good sleep hygiene. Adults need seven to eight hours of sleep each night, and ideally should awaken at about the same time each morning. Napping is not ideal, as it can disrupt sleep patterns, although a half-hour late-afternoon nap can be helpful as long as it doesn’t disrupt regular sleep. Following a regular schedule will ensure you wake up refreshed.
Physical, Mental Activity
While people who engage in regular fitness tend to sleep better than those who don’t, vigorous exercise should be avoided later in the day because it can inhibit sleepiness at bedtime. Light yoga, meditation or other relaxing activities before bedtime helps prepare a person for sleep. Work activities or other activities that involve complex thought can delay onset of sleep.
Limiting in-bed activity to sleep and sex helps to discourage wakefulness and “train” the body to know it’s time to sleep. Watching TV, listening to the radio or reading in bed are pastimes that can interfere with the onset of sleep.
If a person cannot sleep, it might be helpful to get out of bed and do something relaxing for a short time, and then return to bed. Specifically trying to sleep may be frustrating and fruitless; relaxation is a less stressful pursuit.
Increased exposure to natural, bright light during daytime hours and dimmer, warmer light in the hours before bedtime can help manage a healthy sleep schedule by bringing one’s circadian rhythm in line with the lighting of nature. Light therapy can help approximate natural light for people who cannot get outside or be near large open windows.
Food and Drink
While a light snack before bedtime might be helpful to avoid sensations of hunger interrupting deep sleep, a large meal will also disrupt sleep through the body’s metabolism of the food. Anything with caffeine, such as coffee, chocolate and some soft drinks, should be avoided at bedtime, and liquids should be limited to avoid sleep disruptions from getting up to go to the bathroom. Avoid alcohol at bedtime, too. Even though it can help bring on sleep, it can also disrupt sleep later as the body metabolizes the alcohol.
Comfortable Setting & Healthy Habits
A comfortable mattress, pillows and bedding in a quiet, dark room that is comfortable, but not too warm, encourage continuous sleep. Light, sounds, and temperatures that are too warm or cold can disrupt sleep or make it difficult to fall asleep.
Good sleep hygiene can not only address problems with sleep, it can also prevent them from developing in people who already sleep well at night. These healthy habits, for people of any age, promote good sleep and productive wakefulness.