How to Improve Your Sleep Hygiene

Sleep deprivation is one of the most common and understated issues facing North Americans today. Most of us don’t get enough sleep and are missing the quality of sleep needed to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Yet many of our sleep problems can be alleviated with some basic changes in lifestyle habits.

Lack of sleep over a prolonged period of time can destroy your health and quality of life.

A lack of sleep causes:

  • Decreased performance and Alertness
  • Memory and Cognitive Impairment
  • Moodiness and irritability causing stress on relationships
  • Disruption of partners sleep
  • Inability to focus on tasks at work or leisure activities
  • Occupational Injury
  • Automobile Injury caused by drowsy driving

Long Term Health Risks:

  • High Blood pressure
  • Heart Attack
  • Stoke
  • Obesity
  • Psychiatric problems (depression or other mood disorders)

Sleep and Beauty

They call it beauty sleep for a good reason. While we sleep, our bodies are rejuvenating our minds and bodies, including muscle tone and skin.

The human growth hormone increases to heal the cells and tissues throughout our bodies, affecting the appearance of our skin. Lack of sleep limits this repair time, resulting in fine lines or wrinkles, dark circles under your eyes, and a pale, dull complexion.

Sleep deprivation also causes a weakened skin barrier and immune system resulting in a decrease of collagen production. Your skin ends up sagging prematurely and facial muscles tense up, causing more wrinkles over time.

One of the major factors affecting sleep is stress, as well as certain lifestyle habits that are easily changeable. Other sleep disturbances caused by disorders such as sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome and narcolepsy can be very harmful if left untreated. For further facts about these disorders read this.

How to get a better night’s sleep:

1) Set up your bedroom as a sleep sanctuary

Your bedroom should be your sanctuary, reserved for sleep and relaxation. You should keep your bedroom clean and tidy. Clutter can cause stress on the mind, which is not ideal for relaxation.

Decorate your room with soft neutrals or soothing cool shades of blue or green. Adding some greenery or plant life is also recommended because plants can help clean the air and absorb toxins from furniture and carpets.

Comfortable bedding is key. There is nothing like falling into soft sheets and plush, comfy pillows to ease you into slumber.

Block out as much light as possible. Consider thick curtains or shades for your windows. You should also turn off or unplug all electronics that may give off a disruptive light.

Turn the clock away from you as you sleep. There is nothing worse than watching the minutes on the clock roll by as you are trying to fall asleep.

Keep the room temperature slightly cool (65 degrees Fahrenheit or 18 Degrees Celsius) and with good ventilation. A ceiling fan or portable fan can help for a soothing breeze. A fan also acts as white noise in blocking disruptive noises from outside that may keep you awake.

It is better to remove all disruptive electronics from your bedroom. This includes televisions, computers and PDA’s. These distractions cause an overactive mind. Your bedroom needs to be reserved for sleep and relaxation ONLY.

2) Watch your eating habits:

Avoid consuming alcohol, caffeine or nicotine 4-6 hours before bed. Alcohol may help you fall asleep but interferes with the quality of sleep and will wake you up in the middle of the night.

To prevent going to bed hungry you can have a light snack before bed but a heavy meal is not recommended.

The following five foods may help with your quality of sleep:

1. Cottage Cheese
2. Oatmeal
3. Peanuts or peanut butter
4. Warm Milk
5. Grapes

Warm liquids such as herbal tea before bed can also help. Make sure to limit this to one cup so you don’t keep waking up to use the bathroom. I know this is common sense but we tend to forget these simple things.

3) Relaxation:

Insomnia is one of the most common sleep issues. According to a NSF 2005 sleep poll, more than half of Americans experience it from time to time and it is usually caused by stress. It can help tremendously to spend some time relaxing your body and mind before bed.

We need to be able to control our stress by winding down at the end of the day. Here are some ways to do this:

Exercise can be a huge stress reducer. Get some cardio early in the morning or after work to stay healthy and reduce stress. This will also prevent restlessness and make your body tired enough before bed. Avoid exercising too late at night, however, or right before bed. This will cause you to be overstimulated instead of relaxed.

Deep breathing and muscle relaxation are common techniques,as well as visualization. You know when you are told to concentrate on your happy place? Alternatively, try some relaxation stretches or yoga positions before bed and make this a routine.

4) Use technology to track your sleep cycle:

You can actually get a sleep tracking app on your smartphone or iPhone. The app will track your movement while asleep. It figures out your state of sleep and strategically wakes you up during a light sleep phase, which makes you feel less tired and more rejuvenated.

5) Smart napping:

It’s ok to take a afternoon nap, but be smart about it. Limit your naps to half an hour.

6) Keep a sleep regimen.

Try to wake up and go to sleep around the same time everyday.

7) Avoid doing work, using computers or watching television before bed.

Any kind of screen, such as a computer, iPad or television projects a light that is stimulating. It is better to read for a few minutes instead.

Hopefully these tips will help you feel more rested, relaxed and get the sleep you need. 


typical blog commenter at 25 Aug 2011

I just don't understand how having a military unit around is going to help me sleep.

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