6 ways to improve your sleep hygiene
Maintaining a good sleep routine is the best way to ensure you get a good night’s rest. Here’s how to improve your sleep hygiene
1. Wind down before bed
According to a U.S. National Sleep Foundation poll, during the hour before bed, around 60 per cent of us do household chores, 37 percent take care of children, 36 percent do activities with other family members, 36 per cent are on the Internet, and 21 per cent do work related to their jobs. Working right up until bedtime doesn't give you a chance to wind down and prepare your body for sleep. Take the hour before bed to transition from the person-who-can-do-everything into the person-who-can-sleep. Read a book, take a bath-whatever will make you feel most relaxed.
2. Take a walk
Or run. Or bike. Or skate. Or skip rope with some kids on the neighbourhood playground. You get the idea. "Exercise improves sleep as effectively as benzodiazepines in some studies," reports Dr. Kalyanakrishnan Ramakrishnan, an associate professor at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. On average it reduces the time it takes to get to sleep by 12 minutes, and it increases total sleep time by 42 minutes. And it doesn't take much. Studies at the University of Arizona show that walking six blocks at a normal pace during the day significantly improves sleep at night for women.
3. Keep a worry journal
Keep a worry journal beside your bed. When you wake and start worrying, jot down everything you're worrying about and any strategies you've thought of that will solve the problems to which they're related. Then close the journal, put it on your nightstand, turn out the light, and go back to sleep. Your worries will be waiting for you in the morning.
4. Admit the importance of sleep
Sometimes it seems as though our culture has begun to view the need for sleep as a sign of weakness. It's the new macho - and women are buying into it big-time.
But your body was genetically programmed to spend one-third of its life asleep and to sleep in specific cycles of light sleep, deep sleep, and active-brain sleep. Each cycle takes 90 minutes, and each has a specific assignment that affects thinking, memory, growth, your immune system, and even your weight. Trying to tuck anything that important into an hour here and an hour there just won't get the job done.
5. Turn off your technology
Although each new, more multifaceted electronic device that appears in the marketplace promises to make the logistics of our lives a snap, they may actually tie us into too many never-ending webs. Being able to keep in touch with the kids is a boon to working parents. Allowing the office to track you down after hours is not. We need to keep the two things separate, save discrete times in the day to receive and answer business e-mails, and learn to screen the after 6:00 p.m. cell phone calls. And under no circumstances should you check your e-mail right before bed.
6. Darken your bedroom
You sleep better in the dark. If your eyelids flutter open as you move from one stage of sleep to another, even streetlights or a full moon can wake you up.
You can also get rid of the clock radios with lighted displays. It turns out your brain can misinterpret even such dim lights and wonder if it should wake you up. "Dark inhibits the brain's biological clock," says Frisca L. Yan-Go, medical director of the UCLA Sleep Disorders Center. It tells your brain it's time to sleep.