Sleep is so essential to our overall well-being that there is a day dedicated to recognize its importance. March 13, 2017 is National Napping Day. The purpose of this day is to provide everyone with the opportunity to have a nap and catch up on the hour of sleep lost due to the spring forward time change. Hence, National Napping Day is recognized annually the Monday following the return of daylight savings time.
However, the truth of the matter is that many people will not be able to take advantage of National Nap Day primarily because they have a hard time sleeping no matter the time of day or time of year. People who experience sleep problems is rampant. In fact, one in four people experience sleep problems sometime in their lifetime. A surprising number of clients who come to me with psychological issues have sleep problems as well.
What are the most common problems robbing people of sleep? It could be due to pain. Maybe even a side effect of a medication. A very common one is racing thoughts. Many people have a hard time silencing the chatter or turning off the thoughts in their mind at night long enough to get to sleep. What we know is that a lack of quality sleep leads to trouble concentrating, irritability, fatigue, and waking up unrefreshed.
THE SOLUTION – SLEEP HYGIENE
According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep hygiene is a variety of different practices and habits that are necessary to have good nighttime sleep quality and full daytime alertness.
Here are ten hygiene tips to improve your sleep:
- Avoid caffeine – Caffeine is a stimulant that can keep you awake. It should be discontinued 4 – 6 hours before bedtime.
- Avoid nicotine – Likewise, nicotine is also a stimulant. Smoking should be avoided near bedtime and do not grab a cigarette when you wake up at night.
- Alcohol – Many will have a glass a wine or two in order to get to sleep. Even though it may help you fall asleep, since it’s a stimulant, it causes you to wake up later in the night. Avoid drinking within three hours of bedtime.
- Bedroom Environment – Keep the room dark and maintain a comfortably cool temperature. This will be hard for some, but turn off the TV. If you pet awakens you, keep it outside the bedroom. Finally, don’t under estimate the value of a comfortable mattress.
- Pre-bedtime Routine – Having a bedtime routine signals to your body that it’s time to sleep. Engage in a number of relaxing activities an hour or so before bed. For example, take a hot bath or shower, brush your teeth, read a book or listen to soft music at a location other than the bed. Avoid mentally stimulating conversations or watching an action movie just before bed.
- Bed is for Sleeping – Reserve the bed only for sleep or sex. Do not read, eat, or watch TV in bed. When you do so, you associate the bed with wakefulness. You must teach your body to associate the bed with sleep.
- Go to Bed When Tired – It doesn’t help to force yourself to go to bed at a particular time if you’re not sleepy. Struggling to fall asleep leads to utter frustration. If, after 20 – 30 minutes of going to bed you can’t sleep, get up and do something relaxing like read a book or listen to music. Or, do something boring like read a manual on how to fix something.
- Time to Wake Up – Try waking up at the same time every day, including the weekends. This will put your body into a regular sleep rhythm.
- What and When to Eat – Eat several hours before bedtime and avoid foods that cause indigestion. However, if you’re in the mood for a late-night snack it’s important that you choose the right foods. According to the National Sleep Foundation, “Proteins from the food we eat are the building blocks of tryptophan, which is why the best bedtime snack is one that contains both a carbohydrate and protein, such as cereal with milk, peanut butter on toast, or cheese and crackers.”
- Get Moving – Exercise regularly. Exercising for at least 30 minutes three times a week can improve your sleep, if done at the right time. Sleep researchers differ about the recommended time for exercising but none doubt the importance of exercise in getting a good night’s sleep.
There is a famous quote by Thomas Dekker that says, “Sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.” Being able to have restful sleep on a regular basis is important to our overall health. If you’re one of the one in four people that experience sleep problems and can’t overcome it on your own, then consider seeing a healthcare professional. Your health depends on it!
If you enjoyed this post, I’d appreciate if you would email it to a friend or share it on Facebook or Twitter. Addie W. Anderson, LCPC, psychotherapist and life coach, Begin Within Counseling & Coaching Services, Inc.