Anyone who has tossed and turned in bed for hours knows that it is extremely frustrating not to be able to fall asleep. Naturally, your first response to sleep problems may be a search for the best "sleep drug." However, many people do not require a medical sleep aid on a regular basis to obtain a good night of sleep. The good habits that we practice to help us sleep well occur both at night and during the day, when you’re not even thinking about going to sleep. Collectively, these ideas are known as good sleep hygiene. We will start by reviewing the nighttime measures.
1. Maintain a stable bed and wake time. As mentioned in earlier blogs, our sleep/wake cycle is regulated by a circadian rhythm. By sleeping late (even on weekends!), we make it more difficult to follow our normal sleep patterns. Also avoid forcing sleep. Don’t give yourself “Sunday night insomnia” by going to sleep extra early because you know you need to get up early on Monday.
2. Go to bed and remain in bed only when sleepy. Sleep for only as long as you need to feel rested. This amount will vary from person to person but is usually approximately 7-8 hours a day. If you tried and can’t sleep then get out of bed after about 20 minutes, go to a dim area and engage in relaxing (perhaps boring) activity, like reading War and Peace (sorry Tolstoy!). Return to bed only when you feel sleepy.
3. Make your bedroom a comfortable environment. Make sure the bedroom temperature is appropriate (not too hot or cold, but keeping the temperature on the cool side with warm blankets is usually best); keep out light with room darkening shades or eye shades, if necessary; try to limit external noise and disruptions, even if you need to buy a machine that makes white noise; get a cozy, comfortable mattress.
4. Reserve your bed for sleeping and sex. Don’t do stimulating things in the place that you want to reserve as a calming environment. Keep the laptop, TV, video games, bill paying, and other stimulating (and sometimes aggravating) activities outside the bedroom door. Keep your sleep area as a sanctuary of serenity.
5. Read these tips for what you can do during the day to promote sound, healthy sleep at night.