Insomnia can be described as falling asleep quickly but awakening soon after
to toss and turn for hours. It may also involve lying in bed and reliving the day’s frustrations or else
worrying about tomorrow’s. Another form of insomnia is waking early, sometimes hours before you were
planning to rise. Sometimes it is not the lack of sleep, but your anxiety about sleeplessness that is
responsible for those restless nights. What may be disturbing to some insomniacs is excessive sleepiness
during the day, which is often more of a problem than the sleepless nights.
Sleep hygiene is a non-drug method, which often results in improved sleep for people with mild or moderate insomnia. Hygiene is defined as the science of dealing with the preservation of health. Thus, sleep hygiene is a program you can practice yourself to restore and preserve healthy sleep.
The primary focus of the sleep hygiene program is teaching you to become more aware of your own sleep habits and your daytime habits, which affect your sleep. Your disturbed sleep is not simply a nighttime problem, but it also involves your behavior and stress patterns during the day. Not only does the quality of your night dictate the quality of your day—the quality of your day also dictates the quality of your night.
The following tips can help you develop a sleep hygiene program to prevent insomnia:
Establish and maintain a daily schedule of activities every day of the week. Try to eat at regular times. Keep the same bedtime hours even through the weekend.
Keep a regular wake-up time each morning, no matter what time you go to bed the night before. You should maintain this wake-up time regardless of how poor your previous night’s sleep was. This is the strongest signal you can give your internal clock to set the circadian rhythm. Eventually, the body adjusts to this schedule, which leads to a regular time of sleep onset.
Do not stay in bed in the morning. Staying in bed for an excessively long time can lead to fragmented and shallow sleep. Trying to make up for lost sleep causes the circadian rhythm to be delayed by several hours and you will not be able to sleep at your desired time the next night. Reducing the time spent in bed can be beneficial because you are more likely to become sleepy at the desired time the next night.
Limit naps during the day, particularly if you are a poor sleeper. Naps usually reduce the amount of sleep you need at night, causing difficulties falling asleep or light sleep.
Maintain a regular daily program of exercise at an appropriate time. If you are a particularly poor sleeper, try exercising in the late afternoon or early evening. However, do not exercise vigorously right before going to bed—your system may become too stimulated to relax and you will have difficulty going to sleep.
Approach bedtime as relaxed as possible. Plan to spend your evening winding down from the activities of the day by doing something enjoyable and relaxing. Too many people view their bedtime as a chance to review the day’s problems and tomorrow’s plans. This stimulates your mind and prevents sleep. At the bedtime hour, chances are you cannot take any action to resolve work or other problems, so you are only creating anxiety by thinking about them. Discipline yourself not to think upsetting thoughts in bed—be prepared to consciously replace them with pleasant and relaxing thoughts.
Establish a routine transition period to prepare for your bedtime and do it daily, even when traveling. Set aside some time for gradual unwinding from the stressful events of the day. One sleep center advises that you make a list of things to do for the next day so that you don’t stay awake thinking of unfinished business. Establish regular bedtime rituals such as locking the door, turning down the heat, a warm bath and brushing your teeth. Once in bed, establish a routine for relaxation—closing your eyes, getting comfortable in bed and thinking of calm, mental images.
If you cannot fall asleep easily, get out of bed and do something different. Remember that it should not be an activity that is strenuous or stimulating. Try to select an activity, such as reading which will prepare you for relaxation and sleep. Make your bedroom conducive to sleep. Use a mattress that is comfortable for you and control light and sound if they disturb your sleep. Avoid either excessively warm or cold rooms as they can cause sleep interruptions. The ideal temperature for sleep is thought to be between 64 and 66 degrees Fahrenheit.
Avoid using the bedroom for other activities unrelated to sleep. You want to associate this particular room with relaxation so you must break the conditioned association of sleepiness with the bedroom environment. Watching television, reading, knitting, exercising and similar activities done in the bedroom can trigger “wake” rather than “sleep” signals.
Avoid eating meals prior to bedtime as well as going to bed hungry. Hunger often disturbs sleep so a light snack or glass of milk will make you feel more comfortable. The amino acid in milk (tryptophan) is thought to help induce sleep, and carbohydrates are thought to move it to the brain faster.
Avoid taking any stimulants before bedtime. This includes coffee, tea, alcohol, nicotine, diet drinks containing caffeine and food with caffeine derivatives. As for smoking, nicotine stimulates the central nervous system, and heavy smokers have been found to sleep more poorly than nonsmokers. If used in moderation, alcohol can be a relaxant. But when alcohol is taken prior to bedtime, sleep can be highly disturbed with many awakenings, and total sleep is decreased.
Avoid taking sleeping medications. Sleeping pills are not a long-term solution to poor sleep and their use can aggravate sleeping problems. If you are in poor health for any reason, you should mention your sleep difficulties to your physician since they may be related to other health problems. Do not hesitate to communicate your sleeping problems to your doctor because he or she is the professional most capable of alleviating your problem. A sleep hygiene program is for those who are basically in good health but suffer from some form of insomnia.
If you are in poor health for any reason, you should mention your sleep difficulties to your physician since they may be related to other health problems. Do not hesitate to communicate your sleeping problems to your doctor because he or she is the professional most capable of alleviating your problem. A sleep hygiene program is for those who are basically in good health but suffer from some form of insomnia.