In my recent posts, I’ve shared with you the dangers of obstructive sleep apnea and its role in my depressive episodes, and shared with you my thoughts on the importance of proper sleep. Today I will conclude this series by talking about sleep hygiene.
The National Sleep Foundation tells us that sleep hygiene is the “variety of different practices and habits that are necessary to have good nighttime sleep quality and full daytime alertness.” In my case, the use of my CPAP device is a necessary component of my sleep hygiene because it maintains the open airways essential for me to breath at night. The CPAP reduces the number of sleep interruptions I undergo thereby promoting improved sleep. However, I have learned that the CPAP is not enough by itself. There are additional steps I can take, that we all can take, to improve our quality of sleep.
The most obvious is to establish consistency in when we go to bed and when we awaken. Consistency in these areas allows the body to establish its sleep rhythm to maximize the benefits of your sleep. Follow this routine even on weekends. Begin with creating a consistent wake-up time and allow the body to guide you on a proper bed-time. Your body will let you know when it is tired.
Limit your daytime napping. I know that fatigue is a constant due to my sleep apnea. This, in combination with medications I take, often requires me to have a daytime nap. I try to limit the length of my nap to minimize any disruptions to my sleep cycle. If you must nap, limit it to about 30 minutes and nap no more than once. This “power-nap” will recharge you and ensure your routine sleep schedule can be followed.
Your bed and bedroom are primarily for sleep. Limit your distractions – no television, reading, web surfing, or texting. These activities promote wakefulness. Similarly, if you find you cannot sleep after 10 – 20 minutes, get out of bed and sit in a chair in a dark room until sleep beckons. Do not turn on the lights, television, or use the internet as this will only promote wakefulness. The idea is to associate your bed with sleep and nothing more (sex excepted) so wakefulness should be experienced away from your bed.
Make your room an inviting place for sleep. Limit the clutter. Lower the room temperature, dim the lighting. I keep my room temperature low, at about 18 – 19 degrees (65 – 67 degrees for our U.S. readers), and I use secondary lighting to create a relaxing environment. Moreover, I allow as much natural light as possible into my room in the morning to promote my sleep rhythm. By exposing my body to light during the day and dark at night, I reinforce the bodies natural cues for sleep. The best cue of all is natural light or dark.
Exercise is important to sleep but exercise at the wrong time can interfere with it. If you regularly exercise at night, try to end your exercise about 90 minutes before your normal bed-time. This will allow the body time to relax. Similarly, you can promote relaxation by having a warm bath or shower, meditating or listening to calming music before your bed-time. Again, try to limit the end time of these activities so that they do not interfere with your bed-time and sleep.
Monitor your caffeine intake. I know that having a coffee after the noon hour interferes with my sleep so I do not drink coffee after noon. Similarly, I avoid energy drinks, pop or like beverages that promote wakefulness. This may be self-evident, but we often overlook the obvious when it comes to our sleep. For example, while alcohol may seem to promote drowsiness, it actually interferes with your sleep as your body works to break down the alcohol.
If you snack at night, avoid a heavy snack like pizza. Opt instead for a light snack like light cheese and crackers, or drink a warm glass of milk. Avoid heavy, oil-laden, spicy, or sugary foods.
To help you learn what works or does not work for you in promoting more consistent sleep, consider using a sleep diary to track your progress.
So there you have it, tried and true tips to promote a healthier sleep. I hope you will find these tips useful in gaining a healthier sleep.
Sources: National Sleep Foundation; American Sleep Association
About John Dickson
A lifelong battle with Major Depressive Disorder resulted in a suicide attempt. That attempt taught me the danger of being silent about my personal struggles with mental health. I've had to learn to be more open about my struggle. I now choose to reach out with the hope that someone will be inspired and end his/her own silence. I'm a dad, a blogger and a new convert to the power of social media.