Sleep hygiene is a term used to describe good sleep habits. These are things you can do to give yourself the best chance of good refreshing sleep. Most of these are common sense, but in the hustle and bustle of modern life are often neglected. Here are some “Do’s” and “Don’ts” to help you get a good night’s sleep. If you’re having trouble sleeping, these simple things may help.
The body has a natural clock which will make you sleepy when you’re ready for bed. Try not to ignore this. Going to bed too early may also result in disturbed sleep.
Getting up at the same time helps to keep your body clock synchronised with what is going on outside. If you can stick to a fairly regular waking and sleeping time, your body will become accustomed to it. Avoid the temptation to try to make up for a poor night’s sleep by sleeping in. However, this doesn’t mean that you should be obsessive about it, an occasional night out or sleep in is not going to hurt.
There is good evidence that regular exercise improves restful sleep. Ideally this should be taken before dinner or in the morning.
Light is important for the body to produce melatonin which is a sleep promoting substance. Sunlight early in the day is particularly helpful in synchronising your body clock.
This means keeping the temperature cool, keeping noises and outside light (darken curtains) to a minimum and leaving distracting things such as beeping watches or clocks outside.
Some people use the bed as a lounge room, by knitting, studying, watching television, telephoning etc. You need to try and avoid this and make sure that the bed is associated with sleeping. The brain makes connections between places (the bedroom) and events (sleeping) and you need to reinforce these. Make sure the bed is for sleeping and sleeping happens in the bed.
Prescription medications may cause you to be alert or sleepy and the instructions that come with them should be followed. Don’t vary the time of day that you take your medication.
If you are cold in bed, warm the room or wear warm pyjamas. Warm hands and feet are particularly important. If you have uncomfortable pillows, mattress or bedclothes, get them fixed. You will spend the next eight hours in bed and you don’t want to be uncomfortable. A warm bath about an hour before bedtime causes the body’s temperature to rise and then fall which may promote sleep.
Most people need between seven and nine hours sleep each day but this includes naps and time spent dozing in front of television. Don’t build up unrealistic expectations of your sleep needs.