Sleep hygiene refers to the habits and practices that one has to have in order to have good quality sleep at night, and energy as well as alertness during the day time. For the body and the mind, a good night’s sleep is absolutely essential. From cardio vascular health to memory retention, sleep affects almost all areas of mental and physical health. Here are practical tips to observe sleep hygiene in your day-to-day life.
Going to bed at the same time and waking up at the same time every single day, whether weekday or weekend, is the number one habit one has to cultivate for sleep hygiene. There are recommended hours of sleep for different age groups. Observing these lengths of sleep and fixing a time to fall asleep and wake up does wonders for the quantity and quality of your sleep.
The human body needs to lower its core temperature by approximately two to three degrees Fahrenheit to begin to sleep and to stay asleep. That is why it is easier to fall asleep in a room that is too cool, rather than too hot. As night approaches, our body temperature drops naturally, which is a sign that it is time to rest. By lowering the room temperature, you are reinforcing the body’s natural inclination to sleep. For the same reason, it takes longer for you to fall asleep in a hot room.
No amount of napping during the day can make up for a good night’s sleep, but a short nap of 20-30 minutes can help refresh yourself and improve alertness. The best time for most people to nap is between 2 pm and 3 pm in the afternoon, since the body clock is programmed for most people to feel a little sleepy after lunch.
Not good news for coffee addicts and smokers, but it has been established beyond doubt that drinking coffee and smoking can interfere with the quantity and quality of your sleep. Alcohol has been traditionally associated with a good night’s sleep, too much of it too close to sleep affects the latter half of your sleep, as the body starts processing it.
Ever wonder why people read before sleep? Or take a warm shower? Or change into sleep wear? All these little actions are relaxing, and are signaling to the body that it is time to rest and it is bedtime. It is important not to engage in emotionally upsetting or stimulating conversations or activities too close to bedtime. Equally important is to turn off all electronic equipment in the room, including mobile phones.
Invest in a good mattress and pillow. A cool bed side lamp that gives out a warm shine is better than bright lights in the room. Make the bedroom completely dark by using blackout curtains if need be. Some people use eye shades, ear plugs, ‘white noise’ machines, fans and humidifiers to make the bed room more amenable to sleep. It is a good idea to experiment with one or more of these if you have trouble with sleep.
Just like complete darkness at night, exposure to sunlight during the day time is also important to ensure that one gets quality sleep at night. This is particularly important for individuals who stay indoors most of the time. A healthy sleep-wake cycle – the circadian rhythm – is maintained by exposure to sunlight, especially early in the morning.
What kind of food items disrupt a good night’s sleep? Spicy dishes, heavy and rich foods, fatty or fried food, citrus fruits and carbonated drinks may disrupt sleep by triggering indigestion. When such food is eaten just before sleep, it can lead to painful heartburn, causing one to lose sleep. Chamomile tea (without caffeine) is commonly accepted as a soothing drink before sleep. Another good choice is a warm drink of milk.
Using your bed as a place to do work, or to watch TV is not a practice conducive to good sleep. Use the bed only for sleep, so that the body and mind come to associate the bed with sleep. Similarly, avoid clutter of any kind on your bed. It should be an inviting, soothing place of rest.