9 Habits for good sleep hygiene

Talk about the “Wellness Circle” has become our new “Round Table” at MirrorPond.net.

Everyone at some point in their lives is likely to have suffered some sleep loss due to any number of reasons, whether it is stress, lifestyle factors, or just “one of those nights”. It’s sweet dreams or  Lions and Tigers and Bears – Oh My!… Lions and Tigers and Bears – Oh My!

Heck, burning the midnight oil is what got us here to making this post!
Sleep Hygiene is a term that refers to having good sleep habits in order to facilitate sleep quality. It is recognized that the performance of daily living has an impact on sleep quality, and using good sleep hygiene is a method that addresses this type of insomnia.

As you read this, take inventory of your own routine. If you are concerned that your sleep issues may stem from behaviours such as staying up late or other distractions, then it only makes sense to treat the condition with behaviour modification methods.

These are 9 simple habits that you can adopt for the promotion of better sleep.

1)   Keep a regular sleep schedule.

Get out of bed and go to bed at the same time every night. Even if your sleep is poor, you are training your body to develop a routine. We have natural circadian rhythms that dictate our sleep and wakefulness throughout the day but somehow, life interfered with that ability to take advantage of it. Take that back by showing who is boss!

2)   Exercise regularly (especially aerobic exercise) and no later than 3-4 hours before bedtime.

Exercise is known to increase endorphins, which gives you a bit of a feel good jolt. This has an effect on physical and mental health, making it more likely that you will be able to wind down properly and get some sleep without having the energy to dwell on the things you can’t change anyways. A word of caution though: that elevation in endorphins can last a few hours so working out too close to bedtime means you are still too wired to actually sleep.

3)   Develop a relaxing routine that leads up to bedtime.

Programming yourself for bedtime includes having a good look at the things that keep you wired and therefore thinking when you should be giving in to the sweet escape of sleep. Think about the things you can do to induce relaxation and therefore sleepiness. Your boss’ opinions, your bills, and your kid’s schedule can wait until tomorrow. Before sleep, you can think about meditation, belly breathing, light reading and tea.

4)   Keep your bedroom quiet, cool and dark.

Light and noise promote wakefulness because your mind is alerted to pay attention. If you are a city dweller, you are plenty used to noise and light from the street. One tip for blocking out the light is using blackout drapes and as for the noise, earplugs may help to block out your noisy neighbors.

5)   The bedroom should be reserved for sleep and sex only.

“Conditioned Place Preference”

I don’t mind making you look that one up yourselves.

6)   Avoid heavy meals and liquids 2-3 hours before bedtime.

Quite often the cause of sleeplessness is heartburn or other gastrointestinal upset. Heavy meals and liquids can take several hours to digest and any kind of compromise in gut health in itself is distressing enough to cause sleeplessness.

7)    Avoid napping during the day.

This comes back to establishing a proper sleep routine. By napping during the day, you are removing a part of the picture that has your body saying that it is ready to go to sleep at a specific time of the day. Making your body ready to go to sleep for real involves having that specific time to go to sleep.

8)   Avoid caffeine and nicotine before bedtime.

These are both stimulants. Aka: they were meant to be alert inducing agents. You can’t be alert and ready for bed at the same time.

9)   Avoid watching the clock. Move it away from the bedside if necessary.

If you can see your clock, you are likely actively thinking about it….

Short term, skipping on sleep is just an annoyance that many can simply bounce back from at a later date. Unfortunately, there are those who suffer sleeplessness on a chronic level and at its worst, it impairs physical, cognitive, and emotional function.

However, people with a long term challenge may rely on pharmaceuticals that may alleviate their symptoms for a short time, but then end up experiencing tolerance to their medications or the pill popping routine fails to deliver a reliable benefit, the meds may simply stop working completely.

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Information can be empowering, but we all have unique health profiles and needs. The health-related information contained in this post is intended to be general in nature and should not be used as a substitute for a visit with a Naturopathic Doctor. The information is intended as a basis for individuals to discuss their medical condition with their health care provider. Always consult your licensed Naturopathic Physician, or visit the Boucher Naturopathic Medical Clinic for individual care.

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National Sleep Foundation. Electronics in the Bedroom: Why it’s Necessary to Turn Off Before You Tuck In. Retrieved December 1, 2016 from: https://sleepfoundation.org/ask-the-expert/electronics-the-bedroom

Web MD. Exercise Helps You Sleep. Retrieved November 30, 2016 from: http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/news/20100917/exercise-helps-you-sleep#1

Mastin, D.F., Bryson, J., Corwyn, R., (2006) Assessment of Sleep Hygiene Using the Sleep Hygiene Index. Journal of Behavioural Medicine. Vol 29(3)

Reeve, K, Bailes, B., (2010). Insomnia in Adults: Etiology and Management. The Journal for Nurse Practitioners. Vol6 (1). 53-60.