Written by Timothy Okooboh
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It’s the beginning of another year and we all have plans for our career, business, relationships, studies, etc. But we’ve to stay healthy to achieve our new year expectations and this includes having a sound sleep at night — dozing off with ease and staying asleep long enough without waking up frequently at intervals.
Poor sleep increases the risk of stress, diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular diseases.
You need to have quality nighttime sleep to wake up each morning feeling refreshed. An important way to ensure this happens is for you to apply the principles and tips of sleep hygiene.
This article explains what sleep hygiene is and the importance of implementing its principles to live a healthy life this new year.
What is sleep hygiene?
Sleep hygiene refers to good practices that can enable one have quality sleep at night and wake up in the morning feeling refreshed.
Quality sleep involves REM sleep — where dreaming occurs, and deep sleep or Slow Wave Sleep — where energy is restored so you don’t wake up feeling exhausted.
For people with insomnia (difficulty falling or staying asleep), these practices can in addition to the right medications, help to improve sleep. Therefore, healthcare providers should educate patients with insomnia about the importance of sleep hygiene.
Sleep hygiene tips
Everyone should practice these tips. Sleep hygiene can promote sound sleep both for those who have insomnia and those who don’t have it.
Even people who don’t sleep in a bedroom because of economic issues can apply some of these tips.
1. The bedroom environment should be ideal for a good sleep.
An ideal bedroom should be quiet, cool, and without bright lights. This will shorten the time it takes to fall asleep (sleep onset) and sufficiently prolong the time it takes to remain asleep (sleep maintenance).
The following explains what an ideal bedroom environment should be.
- Sleep on a mattress that makes you feel comfortable.
The choice of the best mattress that supports quality sleep is personal. Some people prefer a softer mattress while others prefer a firmer one. Know the type that best suits you and go for it.
Also, if you’ve been using a mattress for a very long time, you may have to change it; the older a mattress gets, the less comfortable you feel sleeping on it.
- Remove distractions from the bedroom.
Leave out television, radio, computer, working desk, pets, etc, out of the bedroom. This room should be reserved for sleep and sex (for the married ones) only.
- Remove bright lights from the bedroom.
Bright lights shouldn’t be used in the bedroom. Also, you can use heavy, thick, and dark curtains to block out streetlights and noise.
To promote good sleep, the bedroom should be cool. Reducing physical activities in the bedroom by removing distractions and avoiding bright lights, and ensuring the room is well ventilated can help to make the room refreshing.
2. Avoid electronic screen exposure at least 30 minutes before going to bed.
Another sleep hygiene tip that helps to promote good sleep is not to watch TV, not to work on your laptops, and not to use your cell phones at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
Why? you may ask. Those electronic devices have LEDs (Light-emitting-diodes) as their source of light. LEDs emit blue light. And the exposure of the eyes to blue light is known to reduce melatonin production, which can disrupt quality sleep.
3. Minimize daytime sleepiness.
Sleeping during the day (napping) may reduce the duration of nighttime sleep. And when you don’t sleep well at night, the tendency for napping increases which in turn reduces nighttime sleep again. So, the vicious circle continues. Hence, you should minimize daytime sleep as much as possible.
4. Eat a low-calorie evening meal
A high-calorie evening meal can make one feel heavy and unable to have quality sleep. So, it’s best to eat a light meal that is nutritious (balanced diet) for dinner.
5. Don’t drink caffeine or alcohol at least 4 hours before bedtime.
Caffeine consumption close to bedtime can increase alertness and disrupt good sleep. If you take alcohol, avoid it at least 4 hours to bedtime. Though alcohol can make one feel drowsy and fall asleep, it doesn’t promote quality sleep — sleep induced by alcohol doesn’t make one feel refreshed after waking up.
6. Create a relaxing bedtime routine.
Relaxing bedtime routine are activities that you perform daily when it’s close to the time for sleep. Later on, your body will link these activities with sleep and it can help to improve sleep onset and sleep maintenance.
Relaxing bedtime routine include having a warm bath before going to bed, performing light stretches, reading few pages of a novel, listening to cool music, going to bed at a particular time, and waking up at a particular time of the day, etc.
You need to have quality sleep to wake up each morning feeling refreshed, energized, and ready to meet the day’s targets. Therefore, you should begin to apply the principles and tips of sleep hygiene.
The American Geriatrics Society recently stated that the following sleep-aid medicines should be avoided in older adults (adults over 60 years) suffering from insomnia:
- Benzodiazepines such as lorazepam, diazepam, etc. They are associated with an increased risk of cognitive impairment, falls, delirium, and vehicle crashes.
- First-generation antihistamines such as diphenhydramine. They cause confusion, constipation, dry mouth, etc in older adults.
- Eszopiclone, zolpidem, and Zaleplon. Just like benzodiazepines, they cause falls, delirium, cognitive impairment, and increased risk of vehicle crashes in older adults
Consult your healthcare provider If you have an older adult with insomnia, e.g a parent or grandparent, and you’re bothered about treatment options.
And don’t forget to apply and tell someone about the practices of sleep hygiene.