Good Sleep Hygiene
Consequences Of Sleep Loss
It is important to realize that not getting the proper amount of, and the best quality sleep, may have serious short-term and long-term consequences. Many studies have shown that sleep deprivation adversely affects performance and alertness.
- Reducing sleep by as little as one and a half hours for just one night reduces daytime alertness by about one-third.
- Excessive daytime sleepiness impairs memory and the ability to think and process information, and carries a substantially increased risk of sustaining an occupational injury.
- Long-term sleep deprivation arising from sleep disorders like apnea, have recently been implicated in high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke.
Here are some sleep hygiene tips to help you fall asleep, stay asleep, and get better sleep.
- Avoid watching TV, eating, and discussing emotional issues in bed. The bed should be used for sleep and sex only. If not, we can associate the bed with other activities and it often becomes difficult to fall asleep.
- Minimize noise, light, and temperature extremes during sleep with ear plugs, window blinds, or an electric blanket or air conditioner. If your room is too hot (above 75 degrees) or too cold (below 54 degrees), it can disrupt your sleep.
- Try not to drink fluids after 8 p.m. This may reduce awakenings due to urination.
- Avoid naps, except for a brief 10-15 minutes about eight hours after you awake. But if you have problems falling asleep, then no naps for you.
- Do not expose yourself to bright light if you need to get up at night. Use a small night-light instead.
- Nicotine is a stimulant and should be avoided particularly near bedtime and upon night awakenings. Having a smoke before bed, although it feels relaxing, is actually putting a stimulant into your bloodstream.
- Caffeine is also a stimulant and is present in coffee (100-200 mg), soda (50-75 mg), tea (50-75 mg), chocolate, and various over-the-counter medications. Caffeine should be discontinued at least four to six hours before bedtime. If you consume large amounts of caffeine and you cut your self off too quickly, beware; you may get headaches that could keep you awake.
- Although alcohol is a depressant and may help you fall asleep, the subsequent metabolism that clears it from your body when you are sleeping causes a withdrawal syndrome. This withdrawal causes awakenings and is often associated with nightmares and sweats.
- A light snack may be sleep-inducing, but a heavy meal too close to bedtime interferes with sleep. Stay away from protein and stick to carbohydrates or dairy products. Milk contains the amino acid L-tryptophan, which has been shown in research to help people go to sleep. So milk and cookies or crackers (without chocolate) may be useful and taste good as well.
- Do not exercise vigorously just before bed. If you are not the type of person who is aroused by exercise, it may be best to exercise late in the afternoon (preferably an aerobic workout, like running or walking). Some studies have shown that exercise right before bed is not as bad as once thought, unless you are the type of person who becomes more alert with exercise.
Good sleep hygiene can have a tremendous impact upon getting better sleep. You should wake-up feeling refreshed and alert, and you should generally not feel sleepy during the day. If this is not the case, poor sleep hygiene may be the culprit, but it is very important to consider you may have an unrecognized sleep disorder. Many sleep disorders go unrecognized for years, leading to unnecessary suffering, poor quality of life,accidents, and great expense. Since it is clear how critical sound sleep is to your health and well-being, if you are not sleeping well, see your doctor or a sleep specialist.