Sleep hygiene is a term that refers to a set of healthy, sleep-promoting habits that you’ll incorporate into your life – everything from avoiding stimuli that will make it hard for you to fall asleep … to creating a restful environment in your bedroom … to setting yourself up with soothing physical and mental routines that help bring on sleep when it’s time.
Your goal is to get eight hours of sleep each night. Some people may need a bit less, others may need a bit more. You’ll know when you are getting sufficient sleep – you’ll feel rested and energetic. Here are some suggestions on how to achieve that.
In the hours before bedtime …
- Avoid large meals; caffeinated foods (chocolate) and beverages (coffee, tea, soda); nicotine products (including e-cigarettes and chewing tobacco) and intense exercise in the three or so hours before bedtime. If you have a sensitive digestive system, add spicy foods and anything else that triggers stomach upset to the to-be-avoided list.
- If you’re sensitive (and many people with addictions are) consider avoiding news programs, television shows and movies that may upset you. Similarly, if you tend to fret over finances, don’t pay bills at night; if you have stressful relationships, make a special effort to keep the peace during the evening hours.
- Don’t engage in any vigorous physical activity (except sex – which is a good thing to do!)
Make your bedroom conducive to good sleep by …
- Creating a restful environment. Make your bed in the morning, keep surfaces clear of clutter and don’t toss clothing on the floor.
- Adding small touches to make your room “special” to you. If you can afford to do so, this would be a good time to indulge yourself with new linens and a fresh, comfortable pillow. Place a few photos or knick-knacks that remind you of loved ones or happy moments where you can see them. Set up a system that allows you to enjoy soft music.
- Adjusting the environment to promote sleep. Aim to keep the room dark (light-blocking curtains or shades aren’t necessarily expensive); cool (slightly chilly is much better than too warm) and quiet. If you don’t find silence conducive to relaxation, download soothing music or even some meditations to which you can listen while you drift off to sleep.
- Keeping a notebook and pen (and a small light) at your bedside where you can jot down thoughts or worries that awaken you at night – this allows you to “dock the thought,” knowing you can deal with it in the morning.
As bedtime approaches …
- Establish a routine of doing a few relaxing things that make you feel good. This is a good time to use your trackers to capture the way you’ve dealt with the day. Mark its end by taking a warm bath, meditating, doing some simple yoga poses and deep breathing or writing in your journal.
- Consider creating a ritual to “let go” of negative experiences and associations from the day. Research studies show that writing things down on a piece of paper, tearing it into pieces and tossing it into the trash helps provide closure to upsetting incidents and angry feelings.
- Stop using electronic devices (including the television and computer or tablet), especially those that give off “blue light,” which the brain associates with alertness.
Other Steps You Can Take to Support Good Sleep
- Restrict your bed from all activities except sleep and sex. Do not watch television, eat, use your computer, talk on the phone or even play games in or on your bed.
- Do not allow yourself to fall asleep anywhere except in your bed. Your goal is to train your body and brain to associate “bed” with “sleep.” It’s okay to take short naps elsewhere.
- Don’t take long naps, no matter how tired you feel.
- Avoid going to bed hungry. Herbal tea, milk and/or some carbohydrates (a fiber-rich muffin, a banana or some popcorn are good choices) may help you feel full and sleepy.
- Take supplements that promote good sleep. B vitamins, magnesium and potassium are good choices.
· Incorporate vigorous exercise into your day – it will help tire you out.