Rest well at night and feel more alert in the day. Here’s how.
Hygiene is crucial to health and there are several aspects to it: personal hygiene, food hygiene, and you guessed it – sleep hygiene.
Sleep hygiene refers to the practice of sensible habits that get you more restful, effective sleep that can promote daytime alertness and help you avoid certain kinds of sleep disorders. Trouble sleeping and daytime sleepiness can indicate poor sleep hygiene. So what makes for good sleep hygiene?
Sleep Hygiene Checklist
- Exercise every day, preferably in the morning. There is good evidence that regular exercise, including meditation, yoga, stretching, and aerobic exercise, promotes restful sleep.
- Get regular exposure to outdoor or bright light during the day. This allows the mind and body to be aware of day and night. Melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep-wake cycles, is produced during the night when the body is exposed to the dark.
- Go to bed at the same time each day as this will allow your mind and body a chance to rest regularly and at a fixed time. The body is sensitive to light exposure and changes in time.
- Use a relaxation exercise just before going to sleep. For instance, do muscle relaxation exercises, view calming imagery, or have a warm bath or massage. This might help promote deeper sleep.
- Keep your feet and hands warm. Wear warm socks and/or mittens or gloves to bed if they help.
- Keep the temperature in your bedroom cool and comfortable. You will get better sleep if you were neither perspiring nor too cold.
- Keep the bedroom quiet during bedtime, as a noisy environment might keep you awake. Your bed partner should preferably not be snoring – research has shown that a person whose bed partner is a snorer sleeps an average of two hours fewer compared to someone whose bed partner does not snore.
- Keep the bedroom dark enough to facilitate sleep. Melatonin levels in the blood start to rise by about 9 to 10 pm and peaks by 1am to 2am. It helps to have a dark environment for sleeping.
- Exercise just before going to bed. The heart rate and adrenaline levels in the blood need some time to normalize, so it’s best to avoid exercise three to four hours before bedtime.
- Engage in a stimulating activity just before bed, such as playing a competitive game, watching an exciting television programme or movie, or having an important or heated discussion with a loved one. One should also avoid surfing the internet just before sleeping.
- Have caffeine in the evening. Found in coffee, chocolate, many teas, and some sodas, this stimulant might keep you awake at night.
- Read or watch television in bed. The bed is meant only for the two S’s – sleep and sex. Avoid doing other activities in bed so as not to “confuse” the mind and body.
- Go to bed too hungry or too full. Gastric pain might keep you awake, while a too full stomach will promote reflux disease and cause chest discomfort.
- Take daytime naps if you have any form of insomnia or sleeplessness. Sleeping in the afternoon might leave you feeling guilty and keep you from sleeping at night.
- Command yourself to go to sleep. Instead of getting better sleep, this just makes your mind and body more alert.