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Sleep Hygiene
What is Sleep Hygiene?

Sleep hygiene is a variety of different practices that are necessary to have normal, quality nighttime sleep to allow daytime alertness safety, and mental health.

Every living creature needs to sleep, we probably need more sleep than any other animal because our lives are so complicated and our brains so complex.

Humans sleep and awaken in a fairly constant 24-hour rhythm called a circadian rhythm. When the brain is aroused or awake, it is in a state of readiness and able to react consciously to various stimuli.

Many people have experienced insomnia at some point in their lives. Sometimes it’s because of a late night cup of coffee; sometimes it’s because of a job interview the next morning.  And sometimes you just can’t figure out why you’re having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.  Some people suffer so regularly with insomnia that it interferes with their normal functioning.

Examples of Good Sleep Hygiene:

The most important sleep hygiene measure is to maintain a regular sleep and wake pattern seven days a week.  It is also important to spend an appropriate amount of time in bed, not too little, not too much.  This will vary by individual, for example, if someone has a problem with daytime sleepiness, they should spend a minimum of eight hours in bed.  If they have difficulty sleeping at night, they should limit themselves to seven hours in bed in order to keep the sleep pattern consolidated. In addition, good sleep hygiene practice includes:

  • Avoiding napping during the day as it can disturb the normal pattern of sleep and wakefulness.
  • Avoid stimulants such as caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol too close to bedtime as the body begins to metabolize these causing arousal.
  • Make sure the sleep environment is relaxing and pleasant.  The bed should be comfortable, the room should not be too hot or cold, or too bright.
  • Exercise can promote good sleep.  Vigorous exercise should be taken in the morning or late afternoon (like after work) as it can stimulate up to stay awake. A relaxing exercise like yoga or Tai Chi can be done before bed to help initiate a restful night’s sleep.
  • Food can be disruptive right before sleep.  Stay away from heavy meals close to bedtime.  Remember, chocolate has caffeine in it and should be avoided even after dinner.
  • Ensure adequate exposure to natural light as it helps maintain a healthy sleep-wake cycle.
  • Establish a regular bedtime “routine”. Try to avoid emotionally upsetting conversations and activities before trying to go to sleep.
  • Associate your bed with sleep.  Try to avoid using your bed to do work, reading, watching TV, or talking on the phone.

Why is it important to practice good sleep hygiene?

Sleep hygiene is important for every one at every age.  A good sleep hygiene routine is shown to promote daytime alertness, problem solving, sharper memory, and prevents the development of sleep problems and disorders. Healthy sleep enables the body to “refuel” for the following day and helps all of our bodies’ functions to perform at their peak. Daytime sleepiness is a cause of many motor vehicle accidents.

From our immune system to our mental health, sleep clearly plays an enormous role.

How does one know if their sleep hygiene is poor?

Daytime sleepiness and sleep disturbances are the most telling signs of poor sleep hygiene.  If one is experiencing a sleep problem, he or she should evaluate their sleep routine.  It may take some time for the changes to have a positive effect, especially in the case of moving from one residence to another.

If you’re taking too long to fall asleep, or awakening several times during the night then it might be time to revise your bedtime habits.

A sleep FYI: Many species of mammals sleep for a large proportion of each 24-hour period when they are very young.

For Natural prescriptions for insomnia see that article. Have a peaceful night.

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