Sleep hygiene is a set of rules that you follow each night to ensure you get a good night’s rest. Sleep hygiene practices can help you get to sleep earlier, sleep longer, and get a full night of uninterrupted sleep. While you are sleeping, your body is busy making repairs to itself. Your cells are being replenished, your energy is being restored, and your tissues are being rebuilt. If you are not getting enough sleep, your circadian rhythm can get out of balance.
In order to understand why sleep hygiene is so important, you must understand what your circadian rhythm is and how it works. Your circadian rhythm is a 24-hour internal clock that is responsible for carrying out essential processes, including your sleep-wake cycle. Your circadian rhythm is influenced primarily by light, which is why it is connected to the sleep-wake cycle. If your circadian rhythm becomes imbalanced, you can experience a host of sleep issues, including insomnia.
Getting the recommended amount of sleep each night is one of the best things you can do for your health. If you are experiencing sleep difficulties, talk with one of the functional doctors at Rose Wellness Center for Integrative Medicine.
What is sleep deprivation?
Sleep deprivation occurs when you do not get enough sleep due to frequent waking. Experts recommend that healthy adults get around eight hours of sleep each night. When you do not get enough sleep, it can cause a plethora of symptoms and even lead to a variety of health conditions.
The symptoms of a sleep deficit include forgetfulness, inattentiveness, and fatigue. Reduced sleep can also impact your immune system, which decreases the body’s ability to fight off infections. Lack of sleep can also impact your mental health. You can experience depression, anxiety, and mood swings.
Sleep deprivation is becoming more and more common as individuals try to pack more into their schedules. Between holding down a job, caring for a family, and caring for oneself. Furthermore, as individuals begin to age, the risk of sleep deprivation increases even further. Elderly individuals sleep lighter and may experience sleep disorders.
What causes sleep deprivation?
Sleep deprivation can be caused by several things:
- Sleep disorders – including sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, insomnia, and narcolepsy
- Age – those older than 65 with certain medical conditions or taking medications like diuretics, beta-blockers, and thyroid hormones that can interfere with the sleep cycle.
- Illness – chronic pain syndrome, cancer, schizophrenia, depression, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, Parkinson disease, and stroke
- Changes in sleep schedule such as having a new baby or a new work schedule
Sleep deprivation symptoms include:
- Decreased immunity
- Decreased strength
- Increased drowsiness
- Concentration difficulties
As sleep deprivation continues, your symptoms may become more severe and include:
- Increased risk of heart disease and stroke
- Increased risk of mental illness, depression, and anxiety
- Increased risk of asthma
- Increased risk of accidents
- Severe mood swings and hallucinations
Tips to improve your sleep
Here are some tips to do throughout the day to help reset your internal clock so you can improve your sleep.
The first thing that you must understand is that in order to reset your sleep-wake cycle, you must wake up at the same time each morning, including weekends. Within a couple of weeks, you will automatically wake up at that time, and often before your alarm clock ever goes off.
When you are sleep deprived, it can be difficult to get going in the morning, which is why many people have a cup of coffee first thing in the morning. Drinking caffeine later in the day can interfere with your sleep. Once you have woken up, grab a cup of coffee and get your day started.
If you are experiencing sleep issues, by afternoon, you are probably ready for a nap. Taking a nap in the afternoon can be beneficial if you have a major sleep deficiency; however, you should limit your nap to no longer than 30 minutes. Any longer than that and you run the risk of being unable to fall asleep at night.
One of the best times to get your daily exercise is in the early afternoon. Many people find that exercising right after lunch works best for them. If you wait and exercise after mid-afternoon, it can interfere with your sleep-wake cycle.
In the evening you should be relaxing. Unfortunately, many people spend their evenings thinking about what they need to do at work the next day. Taking some proactive steps to avoid thinking of work can help you relax in the evening. Focusing on money troubles, stressful situations, and work can cause your body to release cortisol, which will wake you up.
Choose quiet activities like reading a book, watching some television programmes, doing a crossword, or working a puzzle to help you unwind and relax. After sunset, it is time to dim your lights and turn off your electronics. Electronics, including computers, televisions, tablets, and mobile phones emit blue light that can interfere with your circadian rhythm.
Avoid eating a late-night snack. Late-night snacking can increase your energy levels, which is the opposite of what you want. Also, late-night snacking may cause indigestion, upset stomach, or heartburn.
Finally, draw a warm bath to help you relax and prepare for bed. The warm water will relax you and get your body ready for sleep. Add a handful of lavender buds or lavender essential oil to your bath to help melt away your stress.
When it comes to sleep, it is extremely important that you go to bed every night at the same time. Seek to be in bed and asleep within 20 minutes of your designated bedtime. Determine your bedtime by taking the time that you need to wake up and counting back seven to nine hours.
The temperature of your room should be cool. Most people find that turning the thermostat to a comfortable temperature, typically between 65 and 70 degrees, can help you get a better night’s sleep. Choose comfortable bed linens that breathe yet provide the warmth you need.
Your bedroom should be a sleep sanctuary. Use room darkening curtains or blinds to block out outside light. A noise machine can help mask noises that may wake you up through the night. Finally, face your alarm clock toward the wall to ensure your room is completely dark.
At times, it is also helpful to take sleep supplements to help you get a better nights sleep. You can get these from reputable online companies like Vita Living.
Dennis Relojo-Howell is the founder of Psychreg.