Sleep Hygiene is important for your physical and mental health. It will improve your productivity and overall quality of life.
What is sleep hygiene?
Your health is affected by a set of practices, habits and environmental influences which together are known as hygiene.
Sleep needs vary across ages and are especially impacted by lifestyle and health. Practicing good sleep habits are essential for healthy living. Sleep deprivation results in a slew of chronic health issues and medical conditions. One night of sleep deprivation was found to result in loss of brain tissue! A study reported rapid decline in brain volume due to sleep deprivation, especially for those over sixty years.
Structural changes of the brain due to sleep deprivation impair cognitive functioning and affects our memory processing systems. There is a strong correlation between insomnia and depression. Sleep deprived people feel disoriented, find difficulty in staying alert or concentrating and are tired, often beset with mood swings.
The best practices of sleep hygiene
Both sleep time and quality are important. Don’t indulge in activities that disrupt your sleep hygiene. You need to take care of your personal habits as well as sleep ambience to enjoy a good night’s sleep.
Cultivate healthy personal habits
- Adhere strictly to a regular bedtime routine. Go to bed and rise at the same times every day, even during weekends.
- Regular exercise, especially in the evening, is a must for good quality sleep because it helps reduce stress and relaxes you. Post workout body temperature dips and the body is cool, thereby inviting sleep.
- A healthy diet is important. Foods like proteins that are high in amino acids and foods rich in antioxidants and vitamins promote sleep.
- Avoid foods high in fat, processed carbs, non-nutritive and spicy foods which hamper sleep. Spicy foods eaten nearer bedtime trigger acid reflux that will disrupt sleep.
- Avoid eating closer to bedtime as your stomach acids would be in action and would seep into your throat while you lie down. A cup of warm milk, which has tryptophan and calcium and is rich in minerals, helps promote sleep.
- Avoid coffee, tea, chocolate-based and caffeinated drinks or aerated drinks nearer bedtime. Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants and will keep you awake for long.
- Liquor should be avoided before bedtime. While alcohol makes you feel drowsy, when the body metabolizes the alcohol, it gets aroused and disturbs your sleep.
- Keep your circadian rhythm in harmony with the external world by dousing yourself with natural light during the day and getting lesser light during the night.
- Meditation and the practice of relaxation techniques before bedtime prepare you for good sleep. A good stretch or even a prayer relaxes your body and mind.
- Dwelling on problems, arguments, worrying, planning, watching violent films or reading thrillers during bedtime keep your mind alert.
- Making a journal entry at bedtime works for some as writing out your frustrations and events of the day can be cathartic.
Set up the right sleep ambience
- Bedrooms are for sleep and physical intimacy only. No other activity should be entertained. Do not place the TV in your bedroom. Don’t listen to the radio or talk during bedtime.
- All electronic gadgets such as TVs, iPads, tablets, laptops, mobiles, portable gaming gadgets and e-readers should be out of your bedroom when you go to sleep. Apart from keeping your mind alert, the light emitted by these gadgets will dupe your brain into believing it is still daylight and cause delay in the release of melatonin, the hormone that promotes sleep.
- Your bedroom should be dark without any light. Draw your window shades or wear a sleep mask.
- Ensure your bedroom is silent and noise-free. Use ear-plugs if you live in a noisy ambience. The rhythmic noise from fans is relaxing and induces sleep!
- Your bedroom should be cool. Sleep results when the body temperature drops.
- Ensure your bed is comfortable. Your mattress should support your back well. Use a comfortable pillow with the right height.
- Keep your alarm timepiece away from your bed.
- Keep your mobile away too so that you don’t keep checking it constantly for new texts, emails or the time.
- Limit daytime naps to 30 minutes. A short nap of 20-30 minutes is beneficial though.