Despite all the hype about obstructive sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome and snoring, the most common cause of insomnia (trouble sleeping at night) is poor sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene is a term used to describe good sleeping habits. Getting a good night’s sleep not only makes you feel better during the day, but it also helps you learn and retain information, concentrate, stabilizes your mood, and helps fight infection. Studies have also found that children need sleep to help them grow. Here are some common Do’s and Don’ts to help you get plenty of rest:
- Establish a regular sleep-wake schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time (even on weekends). Your body loves to be on a schedule.
- Use your bedroom only for sleep and intimacy. Avoid using your room to watch TV or do work.
- Establish a regular, routine ritual before bed. This can be as simple as brushing your teeth and setting out clothes for the next day. Engaging in quiet activities such as drinking non-caffeinated tea, taking a bath, reading a book, meditating or listening to relaxing music can calm you and get you ready to sleep.
- Tell your doctor about any over the counter sleep aids you are taking. Some medications will lead to tolerance or have side effects.
- Keep your bedroom dark and at a good temperature. Make sure your bed is comfortable. Use white noise such as a fan to block distractions.
- If you continue to have trouble sleeping, keep a sleep diary every day. Write down when you sleep and wake up, what you did before you went to bed, and if you woke up, what occurred at those times. You may notice trends that will give you helpful insight on your sleep hygiene (or lack of!).
- Don’t engage in stimulating activities in bed, such as watching television, checking your email, playing video games or have an important conversation in bed. These activities can make your insomnia worse.
- Don’t drink caffeine before bedtime. Drinking caffeine less than 6 hours before bed can increase wakefulness. Remember, some sodas can have just as much caffeine as coffee!
- Don’t drink a large amount of fluids before bed, which may require you to wake up more than once to use the restroom.
- Don’t drink alcohol for at least 4-6 hours before bedtime. Despite its sometimes relaxing effect, alcohol actually can cause periodic limb movements, which disturb sleep, and alcohol also causes a stimulant effect. Alcohol can also exacerbate sleep apnea.
- Avoid smoking or quit completely. Nicotine is a stimulant and keeps you from sleeping.
- Don’t eat a large meal right before bed. Give yourself at least 3-4 hours to digest. Also avoid going to bed hungry.
- Don’t exercise before going to bed. A vigorous workout will wake your body and mind up. Do this during the day! Getting regular exercise helps you get a good night’s sleep.
- Don’t take naps in the late afternoon or evening.
- Don’t force yourself to sleep. If you cannot sleep after 20 to 30 minutes, go to another room and engage in a relaxing, non-stimulating activity until you feel sleepy enough to go to bed again.