What is sleep hygiene?
Hygiene is the practice of being clean. It involves removing dirt and germs. The ultimate aim is to prevent the spread of disease.
Sleep hygiene is a set of practices aimed at preventing diseases related to sleep because sleep deprivation has negative health impacts.
These negative effects of sleep deprivation can be prevented by having good sleep hygiene.
Do you have difficulty initiating sleep?
Do you wake up recurrently after initiating sleep?
Do you have difficulty returning to sleep after waking up to urinate?
If your answer to any of the above questions is yes then you need to work on your sleep hygiene.
Every individual can adjust their sleep hygiene to suit their needs, by so doing will develop good hygiene practices that will help the person have a good sleep experience.
Sleep hygiene is an ancient behavioural and environmental practice developed in the late 1970s to help individuals with sleep problems initiate and maintain sleep. Good sleep has numerous health benefits.
Good Sleep hygiene practices
The following are behavioural and environmental practices that are known to have a positive impact on sleep.
- Maintain a regular sleep wake schedule
To establish good sleep hygiene, it is important you have a similar bedtime and wake up time. This ensures that our system gets used to a particular sleep schedule for an easier and better sleep experience.
2. Avoid daytime naps
Each individual has their own unique sleep needs. Some people are short sleepers while others may sleep for a longer duration.
Irrespective of the different individual sleep requirements, daytime naps will reduce our daily sleep requirements (sleep debt) and consequently makes sleep initiation difficult for such individuals.
3. Do not go to bed if you are not feeling sleepy.
To maintain good sleep hygiene it is pertinent that one goes to bed only when they are tired or sleepy, that way the time spent on bed awake is reduced. However, if after ten to twenty minutes one is unable to initiate sleep, it is recommended that you get up from bed and return when you are feeling sleepy.
When you get up from bed under the above circumstances, the individual should avoid stimulating activities like social media and television which will make it more difficult for them to sleep.
4. Do not watch TV, use the computer, or read while in bed.
Things like television, computer, loud music, taking long calls, social media chats and bright light should be avoided in the bedroom. Also, the bed should be used only for sleep and intercourse.
5. Avoid caffeinated drinks especially during bedtime.
Drinks that contain caffeine should be avoided during bedtime. Also, tobacco and alcohol have been reported to affect sleep negatively and should be avoided during bedtime.
6. Avoid exercise two hours before bedtime
Exercise is good for general well-being and has a lot of health benefits, however, exercise done close to bedtime leads to the release of some stimulating substances in the blood which may affect sleep.
Thus, to have good sleep hygiene exercise should be done at least two hours before bedtime.
7. Comfortable bedroom
Make your bedroom comfortable for sleeping. Set the temperature to the desired temperature, also, the mattress should be comfortable and the bed sheet should be clean and comfortable.
The light should be turned off or dim lights used. Also, background noise should be removed from the bedroom area.
If your bed partner snores or you have a medical condition which disrupts your sleep such as waking frequently to urinate due to diabetes mellitus, medical attention should be sort immediately.
8. Prioritize Sleep
Good sleep has health benefits, the temptation to reduce sleeping hours for work or study is always there and inevitable sometimes.
However, one cannot cheat nature, because any sleep debt will eventually be paid, secondly, when you don’t get adequate sleep, your concentration, proficiency and productivity is reduced.
9. Follow a regular Night time routine
Having a regular routine can make sleeping easy. Taking a warm bath, having a light dinner, listening to soft music or doing whatever makes your evening comfortable can help.
Some relaxation techniques can also be of help such as meditation, paced breathing, and other relaxation techniques can be practised.
10. Manage stress before going to bed
Stress and worries can keep you awake for the whole night. It is better to keep your mind free of these worries in order to have a good sleep.
Write down your worries before going to bed to help get them out of your head. Also, you can pen down your schedule for the following day for effective planning.
11. Light meals at night
Avoid heavy meals just before bedtime. Dinner should be light and taken at least two hours before bedtime.
12. Balance daily fluid Intake
Drinking enough water is good for the body, however, most of the water should be taken in the morning and afternoon. For good sleep hygiene, it is better to take less water in the evening.
At night it is advisable to drink enough water to prevent thirst. This will prevent waking up recurrently at night to urinate which will fragment sleep.
13. Keep a sleep diary
Keeping a sleep diary might help one to know their sleep pattern and may aid the development of good sleep hygiene.
Also keeping a record of one’s sleep pattern may assist your family doctor to assess you for sleep disorders.
Sleep is good for health and good sleep hygiene is needed for optimal sleep experience.
Although good sleep hygiene may be of help for certain sleep complaints, it may not correct or have an effect on certain sleep disorders.
Individuals who have good sleep hygiene and still have sleep complaints should contact their family doctor for medical intervention.