According to American Sleep Association (ASA) statistics, between 50 and 70 million people have a sleep disorder. This could mean anything from not being able to fall asleep, to waking up throughout the night, or even suffering from sleep apnea. This also means people are falling asleep during the day, drowsy driving, and possibly dozing behind the wheel.
Getting too little sleep is dangerous and can create physical and mental health problems.
Sleep hygiene involves the practices or habits a person must develop to help them get a good night’s rest. If a person has unhealthy sleeping habits, they will not benefit from sleep. Instead, they may notice their concentration is declining, their blood pressure may rise, and their diet may become less healthy.
There are practices you can do to ensure your sleeping habits are optimal and beneficial. Below are eight tips you can start implementing today.
PREPARE YOUR SLEEP ENVIRONMENT
Whether you sleep on a water bed or a mattress on the floor, the way you prepare the room for sleep is what really matters.
Sleeping with the television or radio on is not a good idea. The light from any type of technology can send signals to your brain to wake up – the darker the room, the better. Also, make sure it is quiet and free of distractions. Make your room as comfortable as possible. This includes ensuring the temperature is not too hot or cold.
ESTABLISH A HEALTHY SLEEP ROUTINE
Our bodies operate on an internal clock, a circadian rhythm. The more you can maintain a positive routine, the more you can benefit from sleep. Choose a specific time to start getting ready for sleep each night. Then go through the normal activities of brushing your teeth, turning off the lights, laying down, falling asleep and waking up.
Your body will turn your routine into a habit and eventually begin preparing itself for sleep.
DESIGNATE YOUR SLEEP AREA
Due to an increase in the use of technology, its easy to take our computers or phones to bed with us. This is not good sleep hygiene, however. Technology is temptation and temptations can lead to being distracted and prolonging the time we fall asleep.
It is important to use your sleep area only for sleeping. To promote good sleep hygiene, avoid doing the following activities in bed: eating, playing games, talking on the phone or working. Your brain can become confused as to which activity it is supposed to do, and you may find yourself lying awake in the middle of the night or falling asleep when trying complete work.
DON’T EAT OR DRINK RIGHT BEFORE BED
Food and drinks can provide the body with energy, defeating your efforts to fall asleep. Good sleep hygiene means that you need to stop eating a couple of hours before you go to sleep. Also, don’t drink a lot of caffeine right before bed. It can take caffeine four or more hours to leave your body, so try to stop drinking caffeine several hours before bed.
In addition, eating before bed can interfere with healthy digestion. Muscles relax during sleep, including the muscles that move food through the stomach and intestines.
EXERCISE, BUT NOT TOO LATE
Exercise gives you energy; it releases endorphins and chemicals that make you feel happy and awake. Exercising earlier in the day, especially first thing in the morning, is considered best for proper sleep hygiene.
Exercise links people to getting better sleep. According to a recent poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, individuals who engage in vigorous exercise have the best sleep, while non-exercisers were found to be much sleepier than those who exercised, they were also found to have a higher probability of sleep apnea.
AVOID ALCOHOL OR DRUGS
Alcohol and drugs prevent quality sleep. Both are dehydrating, waking you throughout the night for something to drink. You will also likely wake up feeling groggy and have an inability to function properly.
Alcohol and other substances disrupt the sleep cycles our bodies need to repair and heal. Going through all stages of sleep is key. While alcohol and some drugs act as a sedative, they do not help you get a restful sleep. They have been associated with sleep apnea, snoring and even sleep walking.
ASSESS YOUR SLEEP HYGIENE NEEDS
Every person is different when it comes to how many hours are needed for “enough” sleep. Some people function well on just four hours of sleep each night, while others need nine or more. Through trial and error, and listening to your body’s needs, you will be able to compare the number of hours you slept the night before with how you feel and function the next day.
Keeping a sleep journal is a great way to determine how you feel before and after sleeping each night. Then you can turn the actions you took when you got your best night’s sleep into a sleep hygiene routine.
WHEN TO SEEK HELP
Sometimes you cannot come up with a solution on your own on how to get the best sleep. You need the help of a professional who can recommend strategies for sleeping. They can also evaluate your physical and mental conditions to make sure there are no other reasons that make it hard for you to sleep.
A medical doctor is the best person to reach out to for help. The following are qualities your doctor should have: they understand that sleep is one part of a continuum for optimal health; they recognize sleep needs can be different for all people; they do not try to prescribe narcotics or other heavy medications right away; and they check for other issues such as hormones that may be the culprits of poor sleep hygiene.
Furthermore, a good doctor will work with you to address lifestyle issues that can be stress-inducing. He or she will develop a treatment plan with you that encompasses both your physical and mental health, your relationships, and even your short and long-term goals.
You deserve to experience the best sleep hygiene of your life.