Sleep seems to be a simple activity, but it really isn’t. Getting adequate sleep is known to improve your quality of life_. Most adults need about 8 hours of sleep each night. Both too much more and too much less than this average amount of nightly sleep are harmful to your health.
Many factors can lead to poor quality or inadequate amounts of sleep, and that can lead to health problems. However, you don’t need to resign yourself to poor sleep. Good sleep habits, also known as sleep hygiene, are steps you can take to improve your rest. Here are some helpful tips for establishing good sleep hygiene.
- Wake up and go to sleep at the same time every day of the week, whether you are going to work or not. Having a consistent sleep schedule will get your body clock regulated.
- Use light levels to aid your body clock to establish a consistent circadian rhythm. Try to be in sunlight in the morning, user brighter lights for daytime tasks, and avoid bright light in the evening before bedtime.
- Avoid naps, especially within 8 hours of your bedtime. If you routinely nap because you get tired during the day, try power naps earlier in the day. But you may have to forego napping entirely.
- Optimize your bedroom to sleep. It should be a little cool, ideally between 60-67 degrees F (15-19 degrees C) and free from noise and light that may inhibit sleep. You may need eyeshades, earplugs, dark curtains, or a white noise generator. Be sure your mattress and pillows are in good shape, clean, and allergen-free.
- Create a bedtime ritual to help you relax. You can use meditation, prayer, progressive relaxation, or other activities to wind down. Reading is a good way to relax, but not online. The blue light from the screens of our electronic devices, including televisions and phones, actually makes it more difficult to fall asleep.
- Use the bed only for sleeping and sex. If you can’t sleep after a reasonable attempt to relax, get out of bed, go into another room, and do something relaxing until you feel ready to try going to sleep.
- Don’t rely on over-the-counter sleep medications. Frequent use of chemical sleep aids can result in a variety of health issues.
- Some lifestyle choices can affect your sleep. Regular exercise will help you sleep. Some people find exercising in the evening to be too energizing; if so, schedule your activity for morning or lunchtime. Alcohol and nicotine can both disrupt sleep. Avoid eating heavy or spicy meals at least 3 hours before bedtime, to prevent indigestion that can keep you awake.
A useful resource for information about sleep is the National Sleep Foundation.
If these self-management strategies aren’t enough to help you get the sleep you need, consider asking for a medical evaluation. To find a sleep clinician in your area, consult the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. These medical professionals can diagnose the cause of your sleep problems, often by doing a sleep study, and then can explain the best ways for you to get a better night’s sleep.