What is good sleep?

Sleep health factors to consider:

  • Quantity (Are you getting optimal hours?)
  • Quality (Are you getting the right amounts of restorative NREM & REM sleep?)
  • Timing (Is your sleep schedule in sync with your body’s circadian clock’s rhythm?)

How to treat sleep disorders (What are some simple sleep health hygiene tips?)

Your bedroom should be quiet, dark, and cool for sleep, just like a cave!  Lower the volume of outside noise with earplugs or a “white noise” appliance. Use heavy curtains, blackout shades, or an eye mask to block light. The room should be kept comfortably cool – around 65°F – and well ventilated. Also make sure your bedroom is equipped with a comfortable mattress and pillows.

Avoid television, computers, tablets and smart phones before bed. Ease the transition from wake time to sleep time with a period of relaxing activities an hour or so before bed. Take a bath (the rise, then fall in body temperature promotes drowsiness), read a book or practice relaxation exercises. Avoid stressful, stimulating activities—doing work, checking social media or discussing emotional issues.

Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day helps keep the body’s “internal clock” in rhythm. Setting an alarm clock to remind oneself that it’s time to begin your pre-sleep shut down routine will help you stick to your routine.  Try staying on the same schedule on weekends to avoid a Monday morning sleep inertia.

Avoid caffeine (found in coffee, tea, chocolate, cola, and some pain relievers) for four to six hours before bedtime. Similarly, smokers should refrain from using tobacco products too close to bedtime. Although alcohol may help us fall asleep, after a few hours it acts as a stimulant, decreasing the quality of sleep later in the night. Limit your alcohol consumption. It is best to limit it to three drinks or less per day as well as avoid drinking within three hours of bedtime.

Eating a sirloin steak or fast food at 10 p.m. may cause insomnia. Finish dinner several hours before bedtime and avoid foods that cause indigestion. If you get hungry at night, snack on simple foods like carbohydrates.

Struggling to fall sleep just leads to frustration. If you’re not asleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed, go to another room, and do something relaxing, like reading or listening to music until you are tired enough to sleep.

Natural light keeps your internal clock on a healthy sleep-wake cycle. Let light in first thing in the morning and get out of the office for a sun break during the day.

If your sleep difficulties don’t improve through good sleep hygiene, consult your physician or a sleep specialist. Not all sleep problems are improved with healthy sleep habits. Your excessive sleepiness could be a sign of a sleep disorder.

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