Quality, restful sleep is critical for good health. It is the time during the day when the body physically and mentally heals, repairs, and restores itself. When restorative sleep is interrupted, alertness and performance are negatively affected and diminished. When this disruption is ongoing over a long period it can lead to serious health effects such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and stroke. Unfortunately, today restorative sleep is not always easy to come by for many people. Poor sleep hygiene has been found to contribute to diminished restorative sleep. What is sleep hygiene?
Sleep hygiene refers to the behavioral and environmental practices followed that influence sleep. Poor sleep hygiene impedes quality and restorative sleep while proactive sleep hygiene practices encourage it. It is important to note that sleep hygiene practices don’t replace sleep disorder treatment modalities, but they are usually used as part of the care plan. How do you know if you have poor sleep hygiene? If you have difficulty falling asleep, wake often during your sleep, and fight with awake time sleepiness, you could improve these issues by developing an individual sleep hygiene program.
Since we are each an experiment of one, the sleep hygiene practices that will encourage restorative sleep and positively influence our physical, mental, and emotional well-being will be unique to each of us. That means we each have to develop our own individual sleep hygiene processes that bring about the quality, restful, and restorative sleep we need depending on the lifestyle influences we face. Here are some tips that can help you develop an individual sleep hygiene strategy.
Limit how much you eat – A full stomach causes the body to continue to work instead of allowing it to rest. It can also cause discomfort due to gas, bloating or acid reflux that can disrupt sleep. It is best not to eat within several hours of reclining for sleep.
Limit electronics and bright lights – Light from cell phones, laptops, tablets, and other electronic devices such as TV, DVD, etc. can disrupt sleep. Silence the devices and turn them face down to limit lighting that could disrupt sleep. Stop using them 30 minutes prior to turning in for the night to help calm the mind and help support the body’s natural circadian rhythms.
Skip the evening nightcap – Alcohol can help people fall asleep, but unfortunately, it can lead to less restful sleep. Alcohol can worsen existing sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea.
Maintain a sleep routine – While most people find it difficult to keep a strict sleep schedule, keeping a set routine before bed regardless of the time of day can be helpful.
Temperature matters – The ideal room temperature for sleep is between 60 and 68 degrees, so be sure the room is not too chilly or too hot to promote restful sleep.
Exercise timing matters – While exercise is important and can help the body be ready to rest, working out too close to bedtime can make it difficult for you to fall asleep. It is best not to exercise no sooner than two hours before the expected bedtime.
Sleep position matters – Finding the right position for sleep matters, especially if managing sleep apnea. Avoid lying flat on the back which can cause the jaw and soft tissue to fall to the back of the throat, limiting or cutting off the airway. If staying on your back at night is a problem, try sewing a pocket on the back of pajamas to hold a tennis ball to help avoid back sleeping. Using body pillows or sleeping wedges can also help limit back sleeping as well.
Get the right number of hours – Although everyone needs a different amount of restful sleep, the average adult needs seven to nine hours per day. To get that many hours, be sure to allow enough time to wind down and become ready for sleep so that you can enter the deep and reparative stages of sleep quickly.
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