More than 100 million Americans fail to get a good night's sleep on a regular basis. Practicing proper sleep hygiene can play a large role in increasing your quality of sleep.
What Affects Your Sleep
There could be a variety of causes for ongoing sleep problems. Some possibilities include:
- Stress: Concerns about family, work, school or even health can keep your mind busy, not allowing you to fall asleep. Sometimes we develop patterns to cope with the stress such as extra caffeine or sleeping at irregular times. Once the stress is gone, the bad habits remain and continue to cause sleeping problems.
- Caffeine, nicotine and alcohol: Stimulants such as energy drinks, coffee, tea and sodas with caffeine can all cause you to have trouble falling asleep, especially if consumed too close to bed time. Products containing nicotine, such as cigarettes and chewing tobacco, are stimulants and can affect your sleep. Though alcohol is a sedative, it can affect deeper stages of sleep and can cause you to awaken in the middle of the night.
- Exercise: While exercise is beneficial to overall health and sleep hygiene, exercising too close to bed time may keep you awake. Conversely, not exercising can also be detrimental to healthy sleep habits.
- Environment: A comfortable bed in a dark, quiet room is best for good sleep.
- Eating Habits: Healthy eating habits are also important to sleep. Overeating before sleeping can cause individuals to be physically uncomfortable while trying to fall asleep.
What You Can Do to Sleep Better
- Distract Your Mind: Lying in bed trying to fall asleep usually prolongs your period of wakefulness. If you struggle with this issue try distracting yourself by reading a book for a bit.
- Curtail Time in Bed: Many insomniacs stay in bed longer than they should. This makes sleep more shallow and riddled with awakenings. Cutting down on the awake time you spend in bed can often improve your sleep.
- Managing Stress: Stressful life situations can contribute to sleep problems. A relaxing activity around bedtime can encourage sleep and relieve tension.
- Designate Time for Worry: Designating a set time to deal with issues and come up with possible solutions can be a good way to put worries away at other times, such as when it is time to sleep. Try setting aside 30 minutes a day to focus on what is worrying you. Once the time is up, put the problems aside until tomorrow. It is better to do your “time for worry” during the day rather than the evening time or near bed time.
- Avoid Caffeine and Alcohol: Avoiding caffeine and alcohol four to six hours before bed time can improve your sleep a great deal.
- Maintain Healthy Sleep Patterns: Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time, even on days off.
- Eating Habits: A light snack before bed may help sleep, but large meals before bed should be avoided.
- Exercise: Develop a regular exercise routine. Exercise can help keep our body healthy and improve sleep. Just remember to avoid exercise within six hours of bedtime.
- Bedroom Use: Use your bedroom for sleep, illness and intimate times. Other activities should be done elsewhere.
- Avoid Napping: Taking naps during the day can prevent us from being tired when it is time to sleep. If day time sleepiness is overwhelming, stick to a single nap shorter than 30 minutes, no later than 3 p.m.
- Avoid Nicotine: Avoid using nicotine close to bedtime or during the night.
- Sleep Environment: Set up your bedroom in a way that invites sleep. Minimize light and noise. Make sure your bed meets your comfort needs. Also, make sure the temperature is appropriate for you.