Remember when you were a kid and your mother made you go to bed even though you wanted to stay up all night? You said, “But Mom, I’m not tired!” What she was trying to do was help you establish good sleep hygiene.
The National Sleep Foundation describes sleep hygiene as “ a variety of different practices necessary to have normal, quality night-time sleep and full daytime alertness.”
If you are experiencing trouble falling asleep, sleep disturbances and daytime sleepiness, your sleep hygiene is probably poor. It may be beneficial for you to keep a sleep diary for a short period of time, two weeks at most, to obtain a factual record of your sleep habits and routines.
A good deal of research has gone into establishing information and tips to help you practice good sleep hygiene. Most experts put the importance of a routine at the top of their list of recommendations.
The Importance of a Routine:
Your body thrives on consistency and routine. When we’re stressed, we tend to go off of our routine: eat foods that are high in fat, starch and sugar, eat at irregular times and not sleep enough due to whatever is weighing on our mind. It is this inconsistency that is a factor in increasing your risk of sleep disorders and health issues. So, it is very important to go to bed and get up at the same time every day, even on weekends, holidays and days off.
Being consistent reinforces your body’s rhythm and helps promote better sleep at night and better overall health. You might even want to establish a pre-sleep ritual.
- A glass of warm milk with even a sprinkling of nutmeg (which is rich in amino acid and tryptophan) has a calming effect on the mind. If you are lactose intolerant then try a tea rich in chamomile.
- A warm bath with lavender, other soothing herbs or Epsom salts, which relax the nervous system and soothe aching limbs, can help put your body in a more relaxed state.
- Soothing music, relaxation CDs or meditation can help you to unplug your mind from its’ worries. If you’re not interested in meditation then there are some easy relaxation breathing practices such as counting your breaths that you can try.
- A regular yoga practice has been proven to increase circulation and blood flow, as well as helping the mind digest the day. Try a few simple poses like Downward Dog and Child’s Pose right before bed.
- Establishing a routine of reading before bed will also signify to your brain and body that it is time to go to sleep.
- Writing down your worries from the day in a journal helps clear your mind.
In general, make sure to set aside 30 minutes to an hour for your pre-sleep ritual. Think of it as an investment in your sleep and health.