What is “sleep hygiene”? According to Michael Thorpy, M.D., of the National Sleep Foundation, it’s a “variety of different practices that are necessary to have normal, quality nighttime sleep and full daytime alertness.” Practicing sleep hygiene can help one avoid developing a sleep problem or disorder. Sleep hygiene is important for children as well as adults, although some of the suggestions may not apply to children. So what practices constitute good sleep hygiene? Although opinions vary, I’ve seen a lot of common themes. Below I’ll share summaries of tips I’ve seen with additional comments from my perspective in parentheses.
10 Sleep Hygiene Practices
* Avoid naps, but if you must nap, take a brief one prior to 5pm. (As a former caregiver, I can tell you that this is one that won’t apply to children at least three years old and younger who do benefit from nap time).
*Avoid caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, spicy or sugary foods, and large meals within 4-6 hours of bedtime.
*If you’re hungry before bed, you might consider warm milk and foods high in tryptophan, such as bananas, to promote sleep.
* Exercise in the morning or late afternoon to promote deepened sleep, but do not do strenuous exercise within two hours of bedtime.
*You can do relaxing exercises before bed to help promote muscle relaxation and reduce anxiety. (Two workouts that might fit your pre-bed workout routine are Ho Ale Ke Kino, which is a yoga workout, and Tai Cheng, which uses moves from Tai Chi).
* Have a comfortable bed that is associated only with physical intimacy and sleep; avoid reading, working, or doing other recreational activities in bed. If necessary, limit the bedroom itself only to these two activities.
* Make your bedroom as quiet as possible, such as with white noise or earplugs, as dark as possible, such as with blackout curtains, and comfortably cool, between about 60-75*F, with good ventilation. (As a former third-shift worker and current night owl who always ends up back on a third shift schedule when I’m not working, blackout curtains are a must. These are the ones I have in my bedroom.)
*Set your internal clock by going to bed and getting up at the same time every day, or at least getting up at the same time everyday because you should…
*…only go to bed when you’re tired. If you don’t fall asleep within 20 minutes of going to bed, get up and do something relaxing, such as reading, until you’re ready to return to bed. If you get out of bed, be sure to keep the lights dim so your body doesn’t get the idea it should be awake.
*Establish a relaxing pre-bed routine, and avoid any stressful activities, to include discussing emotional issues and worrying.
If you’re not sure what to do to establish a relaxing pre-bed routine, stay tuned as I’ll be sharing some of the things that I have found helpful and relaxing prior to bed in a future post. If you haven’t already, please subscribe via email or
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