Last week I discussed children and sleep and mentioned something called sleep hygiene. I promised I would give a list of sleep hygiene rules. When speaking about it at the office this week, someone looked at me like I was crazy when I said "sleep hygiene." So, let me explain: Sleep hygiene is anything that helps you maintain a restful sleep pattern. Sleep is as important as eating and exercise in staying healthy, and many people have developed bad habits over the years that lead to poor sleep. Sleep hygiene "rules" are just guidelines. They are mostly common sense, but like most things in life, we forget or ignore what our mother used to tell us.
12 RULES TO BETTER SLEEP HYGIENE
Sleep hygiene is a way to develop healthy sleep habits
that lead to consistent, restful, restorative sleep.
- Sleep as much–at night–as needed to feel refreshed and healthy during the following day. Aim for a standard number of hours of sleep every single night. Excessively long times in bed seem related to fragmented and shallow sleep.
- Avoid daytime napping. If needed, nap for less than an hour and before 3 p.m.
- Have a regular wake-up time in the morning. This seems to strengthen circadian cycling and leads to waking up in the morning on your own without the use of an alarm.
- A steady daily amount of exercise helps deepen sleep in the long run, but occasional one-shot exercise does not directly influence sleep during the following night.
- Give yourself a wind-down time each day. Use this time to tie up the day's loose ends and organize tomorrow. It is better to do this when you are awake and alert than to wait until the lights are out and your head has hit the pillow! Anxiety about things you can do nothing about at night interferes with sleep. Give yourself a scheduled, routine 30-60 minutes to do this end-of-the-day.
- Create a structure to your day (even weekends) that requires you to do certain things at certain times. Eating and taking medication at the same time helps to maintain your body’s internal clock.
- You should associate your bed with sleep. Avoid using your bed to watch TV, eat, talk on the phone or work on a laptop.
- Avoid sleeping pills or use them sparingly. They may be of some benefit, when properly prescribed by your physician, but the constant use of sleeping pills is ineffective at most and detrimental in some insomniacs. It is better to understand why your body is not sleeping, and to correct the root cause.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed. Be aware of the many hidden sources of caffeine–examples: Mountain Dew, chocolate. Alcohol does help tense people fall asleep fast, but the ensuing sleep is then fragmented. Alcohol also suppresses REM (dreaming) sleep.
- If you’re not asleep in 20-30 minutes, get up and do something that will relax you, but definitely with very dim light.
- Your bedroom should encourage sleep. Everyone has their own image of comfortable–just be sure your bedroom is ideal for you. Regarding temperature, don’t have the room too hot or too cold.
- Think about light and dark: Get as much exposure to light as you can during the daytime and as much darkness you can during the nighttime. Look at the amount of “extra” light in your bedroom from things like alarm clocks and consider wearing an eye mask to block out all light.
Adapted from the 2012 American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine Annual Meeting