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Sleep hygiene helps us get a good night sleep. It is a set of behaviors that improve the quality of sleep, like turning off all lights or eating certain foods before bed. Sleep hygiene is especially important for those with tight schedules and sleep problems.
Sleep hygiene practices that will improve its quality:
Turn off the Lights
Light, whether from daylight or electronics interfere with the onset of sleep. This is because light stops the production of the hormone melatonin, which promotes the onset of sleep. Melatonin levels naturally rise at night to prepare for sleep episode and drop in the morning time to promote wakefulness.
Turning off the lights and avoiding light stimuli (from TV, computers, and cell phones) will help induce sleep as well as maintain it. Melatonin supplements will help you fall asleep and regulate the sleep/wake cycle, but effects can vary from person to person.
Set a Bedtime
Having a set bedtime is underrated. A lot of people alternate between bedtimes and don’t really have a sleep schedule. But having a set time for bed helps regulate the sleep/wake cycles and makes it easier to onset sleep. Regulating the sleep/wake cycle will result in greater energy levels during the day and increased alertness.
Create a Sleep Environment
Nowadays, our bedrooms are used for a lot more than just sleeping. Many engage in activities such as tv watching, eating, reading, talking on the phone, and hanging out in the bedroom. All such activities interfere with sleep and will make it harder.
It is better to set-up the bedroom (if possible) as a place only for sleep and intimacy. This will help the body associate the space with sleep and rest, instead of a place to work, eat, and hang out. It also helps to make the sleep environment is relaxing and comfortable- at a nice temperature, no noise, lights off, and without distractions.
Ease into Sleep
Problems with the onset of sleep are common amongst those with sleep disorders. This is partly due to an abundance of alert neurotransmitters (adrenaline, cortisol, histamine) as a result of stress and anxiety. To counteract this, it is a good idea to drift away from stressful situations/activities as we approach bedtime. For example, if you are used to working up until bedtime, try switching to something less stressful for a few hours before. Maybe read a book, do a word puzzle or something else that doesn’t elicit stress.
Exercise during the Day
Exercise stimulates the sympathetic nervous system which is associated with the stress response. This means that the body will undergo physiological changes that will promote alertness, like increased blood flow to the brain and an elevated heart rate.
Exercising too close to bedtime may interfere with the ability to onset sleep and may delay it for several hours. Exercising during the day will help get you tired for the night. It is better to exercise during the day (especially morning time), when it will boost energy and alertness.
What to Avoid
There are several practices, like exercise, that may interfere with our ability to sleep when done close to bedtime. This includes consuming alcohol, smoking, drinking caffeine, and eating large meals. Nicotine and caffeine are both stimulants of the nervous system and will, therefore, increase nerve activity, making it harder to sleep.
Alcohol may help induce sleep because it is a central nervous system depressant, but it does not help maintain it. Alcohol is also a diuretic (it dehydrates) and can disrupt sleep for trips to the bathroom. Similarly, eating large meals before bed may help induce sleep by shunting blood flow away from the limbs and towards the digestive tract. But this is short-lived, once major digestion has taken place, blood sugar levels rise promoting wakefulness and disrupting sleep. Falling asleep afterward may be more difficult than before.
At Santa Cruz CORE, as sleep experts, we have studied not only sleep cycles but many facets, internal and external, that can improve one’s sleep. Visit us today to find out more about using our RapidEZ Approach to cater to sleep performance.