The first step in managing a sleep disorder is good sleep hygiene, or practicing good sleep habits. Poor sleep hygiene can lead to excessive sleepiness and insomnia. It can also interact with other causes of sleep disorders. This results in poor sleep quality.
Tips for Maintaining Good Sleep Habits
Here are some sleep hygiene tips to improve the quality of your sleep:
- Maintain a regular bedtime and arising time. This includes weekends and vacations.
- Develop a ‘going to bed' routine. This pre-bedtime routine should include relaxation and soothing activities.
- Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing.
- Avoid taking long naps during the day. Napping in the late afternoon or early evening can disturb nighttime sleep. If you must, limit the nap to 15-20 minutes.
- Alcohol can interfere with sleep. Avoid alcohol within three to four hours of bedtime. Alcohol can lead to repeated awakenings during the latter part of the night.
- Caffeine and nicotine can interfere with sleep. They are best not taken close to bedtime. Drinks containing caffeine (coffee, tea, and soda) have an arousing effect.
- Common medicines can cause excessive sleepiness or insomnia. Ask you doctor which medicines to avoid if you are having sleep problems.
- Avoid stimulating activities late in the evening. Strenuous exercise and mental activities can keep you awake. Exercise daily, but at least two hours before bed.
- Get adequate exposure to bright light during the day. Go outside and enjoy the day.
- Lose weight if you are overweight. People who are overweight are more likely to develop sleep apnea.
- Ongoing worries can lead to insomnia. Plan a few minutes each evening to write down your concerns. Schedule activities for the following day. This allows one to "put an end" to the extended workday.
- Activities in bed should be restricted to those that promote sleep. Some people find reading or relaxing useful. Do not read or watch TV in bed.
- Eat a balanced diet with regular mealtimes. Avoid heavy meals at bedtime.
- The bedroom environment may be overlooked as a cause of sleep disturbance. Although many people feel they fall asleep quickly while watching television, the bright lights may disrupt sleep. Other sources of light such as hallway fixtures or street lamps may have a similar effect. The level of acceptable bedroom light is different for each individual. The bedroom should also be kept quiet. If bright light or noise cannot be avoided, earplugs and eye masks may be helpful. The temperature in the bedroom should be comfortable, as well. "Clock watchers," who obsess over seconds and minutes ticking away while they remain awake should remove the clock from the bedroom.
- Don't just lay there if you can't fall asleep. If still awake after 30 minutes, get out of bed and perform a soothing activity in soft lighting (reading, soft music, deep breathing)
Women and Sleep
If you are a woman and have difficulty sleeping, you are not alone.
Stress. Worries. Weight. Hormones. Obligations. These are just a few of the factors that keep moms, wives, daughters and sisters counting sheep at night and fighting to function during the day. Learn more.
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