Many of my patients have issues with insomnia but when we talk about what they do to make sure they have a good sleep environment, most of my patients are not sure what I am talking about and have never heard of “good sleep hygiene.”
Sleep hygiene means the habits you have developed or have in place to create an optimal sleeping environment to ensure restful and rejuvenating sleep. There are many factors that go into creating a healthy sleep hygiene routine. I will go through the basic steps so that you can start setting up the foundation for restful sleep so that you may hopefully never have another night of fitful and restless sleep.
There are several key components for sleep hygiene:
1. Make sure to keep your bed for sleep and sex only. If you read and do other activities or work in your bed, your mind may link that location to other activities hence making it harder for you to stop thinking about work or other things in bed.
2. Avoid caffeine throughout the day and especially after noon if you are caffeine sensitive. Even decaffeinated coffee has some caffeine in it so plan accordingly if you have intermittent issues with insomnia.
3. Turn off the TV and your computer at least an hour before bed so that your mind isn’t being unnecessarily stimulated with stressors before bedtime. If you have a generally stressful life, you cannot expect your body to be stressed right up until bed and be able to shut off quickly to go to bed. I usually use the analogy of landing an airplane…if your life is stressful, it’s as though your body (the plane) is flying high all day. In order to land (go to sleep), it takes time to lower into the sleep zone if you are a “high flyer” during the day because you are generally under a lot of stress. So, give yourself the time to “cool off” or “land the plane” so that your body can naturally get into the sleepy stage.
4. Dim the lights about an hour before bed so that your body’s natural melatonin can rise to help you drift into deeper sleep when your bedtime hour arrives.
5. Do not drink too much water or liquids before bed if you have a problem waking up at night to use the restroom and that disrupts your sleep.
These are five top key components of sleep hygiene and if you establish strong healthy sleep patterns, you can head off your occasional insomnia issues before they even arise. Making sleep a priority in your life is important because after all, your body needs sleep to heal and repair. If you don’t give it the necessary time it needs, your body will surely let you know. So, keep your body and mind healthy by giving sleep the time and attention it deserves. Ultimately, your quality of sleep each night strongly affects your mood and energy the next day…and we all want good mood and energy so keep your sleeping time and environment sacred with some healthy sleep hygiene habits.