What is Sleep Hygiene?
Sleep hygiene is a set of rules that you follow each night to ensure you get a good night’s rest. Sleep hygiene practices can help you get to sleep earlier, sleep longer, and get a full night of uninterrupted sleep. While you are sleeping, your body is busy repairing itself. Your cells are being replenished, your energy is being restored, and your tissues are being rebuilt. If you are not getting ample amount of sleep, your circadian rhythm can get out of balance.
In order to understand why sleep hygiene is so important, you must understand your circadian rhythm and how it works. Your circadian rhythm is a 24 hour internal clock that is responsible for carrying out essential processes, including your sleep-wake cycle. Your circadian rhythm is influenced primarily by light. If your circadian becomes imbalanced, you can experience a host of sleep issues, including insomnia.
What is Sleep Deprivation?
Sleep deprivation occurs when you do not get enough sleep. Experts recommend that healthy adults get around eight hours of sleep each night. Lack of sleep can cause a plethora of symptoms and even lead to a variety of health conditions. Common symptoms of sleep deprivation include-
- Increased drowsiness and fatigue
- Concentration difficulties, forgetfulness, inattentiveness
- Decreased strength
- Decreased immunity which decreases the body’s ability to fight off infections
- Impact to your mental health and you may experience depression, anxiety, and mood swings
As sleep deprivation continues, your symptoms may become more severe and include:
- Increased risk of heart disease and stroke
- Increased risk of mental illness, depression, and anxiety
- Increased risk of asthma
- Increased risk of accidents
- Severe mood swings and hallucinations
Sleep deprivation is becoming more common as you try to pack more into your schedules – managing your job, caring for family, and caring for oneself. Furthermore, as you begin to age, the risk of sleep deprivation increases. Elderly individuals sleep lighter and may experience sleep disorders.
Causes of Sleep Disorders
Sleep disorders can be caused by several things:
- Sleep disorders – including sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, insomnia, and narcolepsy
- Age – Those older than 65 with certain medical conditions or take medications like diuretics, beta blockers, and thyroid hormones that can interfere with the sleep cycle
- Illness – chronic pain syndrome, cancer, schizophrenia, depression, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, Parkinson disease, and stroke
- Changes in sleep schedule – such as a new baby or a new work schedule
Tips To Improve Sleep Hygiene
Below are some tips for sleep hygiene that you can do throughout the day to help reset your internal clock and improve your sleep.
In order to reset your sleep-wake cycle, you must wake up at the same time each morning, including weekends. Within a couple of weeks, you will automatically wake up at that time, and often before your alarm clock ever goes off.
When you are sleep deprived, it can be difficult to get going in the morning, which is why many people have a cup of coffee first thing in the morning. Once you have woken up, grab a cup of joe and get your day started.
If you are experiencing sleep issues, by afternoon, you are probably ready for a nap. Taking a short nap in the afternoon can be beneficial if you have a major sleep deficiency; however, it is advisable to limit your nap to no longer than 30 minutes to avoid the risk of being unable to fall asleep at night. One of the best times to get your daily exercise is in the early afternoon. If you wait and exercise after midafternoon, it can interfere with your sleep-wake cycle.
Evenings are a time for relaxation. Taking some proactive steps to avoid thinking of work, money troubles, and stressful situations can help you relax. Choose quiet activities like reading a book, watching some television, or working a puzzle to help you unwind and relax. After sunset, it is time to dim your lights and turn off your electronics. Electronics, including computers, televisions, tablets, and mobile phones emit blue light that can interfere with your circadian rhythm.
Avoid eating a late night snack since it may increase your energy levels, which the opposite of what you want. It may also cause indigestion, upset stomach, or heartburn. Finally, a warm bath can help you relax and prepare for bed. The warm water will relax you and get your body ready for sleep. Add a handful of lavender buds or lavender essential oil to your bath to help melt away your stress.
When it comes to sleep, it is extremely important that you go to bed every night at the same time. Seek to be in bed and asleep within 20 minutes of your designated bedtime. Determine your bedtime by taking the time that you need to wake up and counting back seven to nine hours.
The temperature of your room should be cool. Most people find that turning the thermostat to a comfortable temperature, typically between 65 and 70 degrees, can help you get a better night’s sleep. Choose comfortable bed linens that breathe yet provide the warmth you need.
Your bedroom should be a sleep sanctuary. Use room darkening curtains or blinds to block out outside light. A noise machine can help mask noises that may wake you up through the night. Finally, face your alarm clock toward the wall to ensure your room is completely dark.
How Can We Help
Maintaining a good sleep hygiene and getting the recommended amount of sleep each night is one of the best things you can do for your health. If you are experiencing insomnia or other sleep difficulties, talk with one of the functional doctors specializing in sleep disorders.