The Primary Components of Sleep Hygiene
My name is Martin Reed.
I have been a patient advocate for insomnia for over five years.
I believe insomnia is misunderstood and regularly ignored. Even worse, far too many people are prescribed sleeping pills that do not cure insomnia (and come with a huge number of side-effects).
The best way to cure insomnia is to tackle the root cause of insomnia (something sleeping pills don't do).
This comes from making simple changes to your lifestyle, and changing the thoughts and behaviors you've developed towards sleep. I hope to write regular articles offering advice on how to improve your sleep naturally, safely, effectively and permanently – without sleeping pills.
Today, I want to talk about sleep hygiene.
What is Sleep Hygiene?
Sleep hygiene is a term many insomniacs have never heard of, yet learning about it could make all the difference.
Sleep hygiene refers to sleeping habits. For example, even small changes in your sleep habits could mean the difference between a sleepless night and a full-nights rest.
Sleep Hygiene Tips
1. Set Your Sleep Schedule
Proper sleep hygiene includes having a set bedtime and wake-up time. Life does happen and there will be times that you are unable to keep to your schedule. However, don’t be someone who lets their bedtime and wake-up time change from day-to-day. Have a relatively fixed sleep schedule, even on weekends and vacation. If you do not, your body clock will not know when it is time to sleep.
2. Avoid Naps
If you suffer from insomnia, you will tend to need naps. Once you start a sleep schedule, try to avoid naps. If you must nap, try not to nap for longer than 30 minutes. If you nap longer, your body clock will be thrown off. This means you will generally not be able to go to sleep on time at night.
3. Avoid Caffeine and Alcohol
Caffeine is a stimulant. Avoid consuming things that contain caffeine for at least four hours prior to bedtime. Besides coffee and soda, caffeine can be found in chocolate, candies, cakes, cereals, and more. While it may seem that a piece of cake and a cup of hot cocoa, or a bowl of cereal, is a great night-time snack, it could keep you awake.
New research, however, suggests that there might not be as strong of a link between caffiene consumption and poor sleep as previously believed. Neverthless, it's still important to examine what you are eating and drinking carefully. If it has caffeine, avoid it for more health reasons than just your sleep.
It is a myth that alcohol will help you rest better. Alcohol does have an immediate calming effect that can help you go to sleep. However, when the alcohol levels in your bloodstream start to fall, there is a stimulant effect. This mean you may sleep for a few hours, but you may then wake and be unable to go back to sleep. Avoid alcohol at least four hours before bedtime.
Exercising can help you rest better at night. However, do not exercise in the two hours prior to bedtime, unless it is some form of yoga and meditation. Your body is on a high after exercise and sleep will generally be hard to obtain.
5. Your Bed and Your Sleeping Environment
Your bed should only be used for two things – resting/sleeping and sex. It should not be used as a mini-office, the place where you sit and do your family budget and pay bills, or where your family comes to sit when they want to talk.
Protect your bed and its purpose. Move activities that are not related to your bed’s purpose to other areas of the home. Doing so can train your brain to know that when you are in bed it is time to relax and sleep.
The temperature of your sleeping environment is important. Adjust the temperature so you are comfortable. A cool room generally brings about the best sleep. The ideal temperature for sleep is 60°-65°F.
These are the primary components of proper sleep hygiene. Implementing these good sleep habits is the first step towards combating insomnia.
If you only suffer from mild insomnia, you may even find proper sleep hygiene is all that’s needed to combat insomnia once and for all.
You can read more about sleep hygiene over on my insomnia blog.
Here's to improving your sleep naturally and permanently!
Martin is the creator of Insomnia Land’s free sleep training for insomnia. His online course uses CBT techniques to teach participants how to sleep without relying on sleeping pills. More than 4,000 insomniacs have completed his course and 97 percent of graduates say they would recommend it to a friend.
Updated on February 24, 2017