Sleep Hygiene Made Simple

Sleep Hygiene Chart From The Huffington Post

“Sleep Hygiene” is a term for a set of habits that promotes sleeping well and that helps ward off insomnia.

If you go see any kind of specialist about sleep issues, the first thing they will ask you about is your sleep hygiene. Better sleep hygiene will be their first prescription.

The chart above is from a Huffington Post article. I like this chart because it is simple. However, the chart does not show all sleep hygiene habits, but that is probably fine for people who do not have persistent sleep issues.

The one sleep hygiene habit not on the chart that I think is the most useful is a regular bed time.

Most of the recommendations on the chart seems to make sense from common experience. One that might not, is stopping the use of electronics an hour before your bed time.  Televisions, computer screens, screens on mobile phones, and artificial lighting all emit blue light. Blue light inhibits the production of melatonin in your body. Melatonin is a hormone that tells your body that it is night time and time to begin preparing to go to sleep. You can get your smart phone to emit less blue light at by installing special software on it to emit less blue light at night.  On your computer you can install the free software f.lux for Windows ( and Linux though it might not work well ) and Redshift for Linux.   You can also wear amber colored goggles to filter out blue light.

The other recommendation that might not make sense is the one to stop consuming alcohol 3 hours before your bed time. Alcohol will relax you and knock you out right? Yes, it will, but at a price. Alcohol disrupts the electrical patterns in your brain, stopping your brain from regulating your sleep rhythms properly. If you have persistent trouble sleeping you might want to think about minimizing your drinking.

I would also encourage people with trouble sleeping to cut off their caffeine intake even earlier in the day. Stop at lunch time/noon. If you are having persistent problems sleeping you might want to consider permanently reducing your caffeine intake or eliminating it altogether until you start sleeping well again. If you have a serious coffee or soda habit, please gradually step down to spare yourself some of the withdrawal symptoms. Green tea can be a great aide, as it has very little caffeine, but it has just enough caffiene to keep caffeine to keep withdrawal headaches away.

Lastly, you might want to read the book “Say Goodnight To Insomnia”. It was written by a Harvard researcher and pulls the best practices, as verified by real clinical research,together into one place. The author tries too hard to make the book friendly to a popular, sleep deprived, audience. You may find that the first few chapters sound like a snake oil pitch, but please soldier through reading those chapters( don’t skip them ). The advice in the book is incredibly good.

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