Something that we all love dearly, but most of us cannot get enough of. Sleep is one of our body’s delicate processes that is important for physical and mental health. Sleep hygiene refers to behavioral practices that will lead to a good night’s rest. Following these behaviors can decrease the need for prescriptions and boost your daily energy.
“It takes me forever”
“I never get enough”
“I can’t seem to get comfortable
These are common phrases that are uttered when someone is asked about their sleeping patterns. Although people are quick to realize the symptoms of lack of sleep including lack of concentration, heightened emotions, and malaise, what most fail to do is change their bad sleep habits. Bad sleep hygiene includes taking too many naps during the day, eating or drinking excessively too close to bedtime, and bringing stress to the bed. If you are someone who has difficulty falling asleep incorporating the following habits:
- Exercise: Exercising for even just ten minutes may improve sleep. However, exercising too close to bedtime or taking stimulating supplements will produce the opposite effect.
- Avoid stimulants such as caffeine or nicotine near bedtime.
- Avoid alcohol. Although some claim that alcohol leads to relaxation, it actually interrupts your sleep pattern.
- Decrease food/drink 4-6 hours before going to bed. Eating near bedtime may have indigestion or cause you to wake up in the middle of the night to use the restroom.
- Create a comfortable environment. This includes keeping a cool and dark bedroom. Once in bed, it is important to stay away from bright lights including cell phones, laptops, or the tv screen.
- If you cannot fall asleep after 20 minutes of being in bed and trying, do not watch the clock, get up, move to another room, and do a quiet activity
- Establish and maintain a regular routine of when you go to bed and when you wake up. This helps your body’s internal alarm clock, otherwise known as circadian rhythms, to get in tune. You cannot catch up on sleep simply because you sleep 12 hours for one night. It is best to develop a regular sleep pattern.
- Try to avoid stressful tasks while in bed. Avoid doing work or bills while in bed, so your body can associate bed with sleep and relaxation.
- Everyone is different and may have a different response to food, coffee, or aromatherapy. Because of this, it is best to keep a sleep diary to note what is effective and what is not.
If these changes in your routine do not quite work there are other measures to be taken.
- Relaxation techniques
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
- Sleep study
Melatonin is hormone that is naturally produced the body when it is time for bed. Melatonin supplements (5mg/day at bedtime for adults) can be taken to help in creating a normal sleep pattern. The controlled release formulation should be used if the trouble is night-time waking rather than falling asleep. No matter what the reason is, melatonin should not be used as a long term treatment for insomnia.
Aromatherapy essential oils have recently become very popular. When tested in patients with previous heart disorders, essential oils such as lavender and chamomile have showed lower anxiety and improved sleep quality in controlled trials. The same benefit was shown when lavender aroma therapy was used in elderly female patients above the age of 65 with osteoarthritis.
If natural remedies and a detailed sleep log do not seem to be helping, it may be time to seek professional help. A sleep study may detect if you have more complicated issues or cognitive behavioral therapy can detect the the cause of restlessness.
- Mi-Yeon Cho et al. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 381381, 6 pages http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2013/381381
- Choi IR. Effects of aromatherapy massage on pain,physical function,sleep disturbance and depression, in elderly women with osteoarthritis. Korean J Women Health Nurs. 2006 Jun;12(2):168-176. Korean.