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Got Insomnia? Try these sleep hygiene tips

Sleep Hygiene Guide

The term "hygiene" is often misunderstood as strictly being synonymous with

"cleanliness." The true meaning of hygiene has to do with sets of practices,

habits, and environmental influences that impact one's health. Hygiene of all

kinds are important to your health and well-being as most are aimed at

reducing your chances of coming into contact with diseases, getting infections,

spreading germs and viruses, or preventing oral cavities and gingivitis.

If all of these other types of hygienic practices are aimed at preserving your

health, exactly what is sleep hygiene and how can it help you in your everyday


The Importance of Quality Sleep

Getting a full night's sleep every night is important to people's overall health and

happiness. Most of us are aware that when we lose a few hours of sleep, we are

often tired and cranky the next day and have difficulty concentrating, staying

alert, and being in a positive mood. And all of these things can occur after just

one day of lost sleep.

If you're regularly losing sleep, you're putting yourself at risk to a whole slew of

health issues and medical conditions including:

• heart disease

• heart attacks

• stroke

• diabetes

• obesity

• cognitive impairment

• memory loss

• chronic stress

• heart arrhythmia

• increased likelihood of accidents

• depression

• mood disorders

It's mind blowing to think that all of these problems can occur simply from losing

a few hours of sleep a night. In today's 24/7 world where our time is in high

demand, many people feel that their sleep comes second to societal needs.

With our professional, social, academic, and family lives requiring so much of our

time, it's no wonder that so many people experience sleep deprivation.

How To Practice Sleep Hygiene

Many people may realize the impact that poor sleep quality is having on their

daily lives, but may be unsure of what types of activities are contributing to their

sleep loss, or simple practices they could be doing to ensure they get not only

more sleep, but better sleep.

Many people believe that because they slept between the 7-9 hours of

recommended nightly sleep, that they're doing things right. However, while

getting enough hours of sleep is very important, getting quality sleep is more

important. If you're doing things that are disruptive to your sleep, your body and

mind are not truly resting enough to repair and prepare themselves for the next


Getting (or not getting) great sleep every night is often due to two important

factors: your personal habits and your sleeping environment. The things you do

during the day and leading up to sleeping at night can impact your sleep just as

much as the environment you choose to sleep in. Optimizing both your personal

habits and your sleep environment is paramount to successful sleep.

Personal Habits

Establish a regular bedtime routine. Getting into a regular routine of going

to bed and rising at the same times everyday is one of the most important

practices you can perform for better sleep. Part of keeping a healthy

bedtime routine is to keep it up even on the weekends by avoiding

staying up late and sleeping in. Depriving yourself of sleep during the

midweek and binge-sleeping on the weekends does more harm to your

sleep cycles than good.

Exercise regularly. Exercise breeds energy and also helps reduce stress,

anxiety, and depression. Exercise in the late afternoon is best for sleep

because the physical activity helps wear us out, and the post-workout

body temperature drop helps cool the body, making sleep come more

readily. However, exercise too close to bedtime can make sleep difficult

to come, as your body doesn't have enough time to cool itself off.

• Eating healthy. It's no secret that some foods are great for sleep, and

others can help keep us awake at night. Fatty foods, processed carbs,

and spicy foods are the worst for sleep. Foods high in fat and processed

carbs don't have the nutrients and vitamins your body needs to produce

energy, leaving you feeling sluggish during the day. Spicy foods, eaten

too close to bedtime, can disrupt your sleep by causing acid reflux, which

can disturb your sleep. Foods that help promote sleep are those that are

high in amino acids, proteins, antioxidants, and vitamins.

Don't eat too close to bedtime. Eating too close to bedtime can disrupt

your sleep, mostly because it gets your stomach acids going, and lying

down can cause those acids to creep up into your throat. If you're really

craving a late night snack, try a bowl of cereal with milk or cheese and

crackers. These types of foods are rich in minerals, such as tryptophan and

calcium, which help promote sleep.

• Avoid caffeine and nicotine close to bedtime. Caffeine and nicotine are

stimulants that, when taken within 3 hours of bedtime, can make it difficult

to go to sleep or stay asleep until the chemicals wear off. Many people

may recognize that drinks such as soda, tea, and coffee contain caffeine,

but may not realize that foods such as chocolate also contain caffeine.

Avoid alcohol before bedtime. Many people falsely believe that alcohol

help promotes sleep as it makes them drowsy and more likely to fall

asleep quicker. However, once your body begins to metabolize the

alcohol there is a period of arousal, which disturbs one's sleep.

Get light when possible. Your circadian rhythm, the internal clock that

regulates periods of sleep and wakefulness, is triggered by light and

darkness. Getting ample amounts of natural light during the day and less

light at night helps keep your circadian rhythm in harmony with the

external world.

• Practice relaxation techniques before bedtime. To help get your body

and mind prepared for sleep, try some relaxing activities to prepare

yourself for sleep. Dwelling on problems or bringing arguments to bed can

keep you awake and worrying. Activities such as meditating, praying, and

stretching can help ease the stresses in the body and mind before

bedtime. Writing your frustrations out in a journal can also be therapeutic

and stress relieving.

Meditation to Quiet the Mind

Your Sleep Environment

• Associate your bedroom with sleep only. These are really the only activities

that your bedroom should be designed for. Doing any other activities in

your bedroom can cause your mind to associate it with other stimulating

endeavors. Don't watch TV, listen to the radio, or talk with your partner

about important life occurrences or problems in bed. Bringing stimulating

content or conversation to bed can keep you awake engaging in it or

worrying about it.

• Keep electronics out of the room! All electronic devices including TV's,

tablets, laptops, cellphones, portable gaming systems, and e-readers

should be ditched before bedtime. For starters, the content may be

stimulating and keeping you awake as you play "just one more game" or

read "just one more post." Furthermore, the light emitting from these

devices is similar in wave-length to daylight and can trick your circadian

rhythm into believing it's daylight and delay the release of melatonin, a

hormone that promotes sleep.

• Keep your room dark. Light is bad for sleep as it can disrupt your circadian

rhythm. Keep your room dark by using heavy window shades, wearing a

sleep mask, and avoiding staring at glowing electronics.

• Keep your room quiet. Noise can keep you awake so make sure your

room is as free of unnecessary sounds as possible. If you're still having

trouble sleeping because of noisy neighbors or others in the house

consider using earplugs to block out sound or try "white noise." Fans and

sound machines that make continuous rhythmic sounds can be both

relaxing and aid in drowning out distracting or sudden noises.

• Keep your room cool. As you go to sleep your body temperature begins

to drop as it prepares itself for slumber. Keeping your room a cool

temperature (between 60-67 degrees) can help aid the process of

cooling your body.

• Make your bed as comfy as possible. Most mattresses are good for about

9 years. If your mattress is out of date or uncomfortable, getting a new

mattress can go a long way towards great sleep. Having an

uncomfortable pillow or bedding can keep you from sleep as well. If

you're constantly readjusting your pillow before bedtime, it may be time

to get a new one.

Set your alarm and keep it away from your bed. Too often people get

used to using their phone as their wake-up device. Having your phone

close to your bed makes it too easy to continuously check it for new texts,

emails, or just looking at the time. Constantly reminding yourself of the

time can create anxiety, making sleep more difficult. Also, keeping your

alarm away from your bed reduces the chances of hitting the snooze

button over and over, and it makes you get up out of bed to shut it off.

By following these best sleep hygiene practices on a nightly basis, you're almost

guaranteed to get more fulfilling sleep at night and be more awake and alert

during the day. If however, you're practicing these hygiene tips and still finding

yourself feeling tired and sluggish during the day, it could be a sign of a sleep


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