Studies have shown that approximately 27% of the population experience insomnia, and in other studies over 20% of those are on some type of over the counter or prescription sleep aid. Many don’t know that poor sleep habits can contribute to ongoing insomnia. This is because the brain signals when it’s time to go to sleep by releasing a substance called Melatonin in the brain. This hormone produced by the Pineal gland, signals the brain that it’s time for rest and rejuvenation. There are a few simple sleep hygiene steps that people can take to regulate their body’s sleep cycle.
Develop sleep rituals
It is important to give your body signals that it is time to slow down and rest. Listen to relaxing music, read something soothing for 15 minutes, have a cup of caffeine free tea, or do an evening meditation. As well, getting up and going to bed the same time every day will help your body develop it’s own internal rhythm. By incorporating this ritual you develop a sleep rhythm for your body that cues it for rest and awakening.
Avoid taking naps
Sometimes napping can throw the body’s rhythm off by confusing it. When you frequently take long naps during the day, it sends mixed signals to the brain about when to rest and when to wake up. Also, resisting the urge to nap even if you are tired during the day will ensure you are tired at bedtime. If you just can't make it through the day without a nap, make sure sleep less than one hour, and take that nap before 3 pm.
Create a quiet and comfortable sleep environment
A room kept at extreme temperatures can be uncomfortable and make it hard for the body to rest. A cooler room along with enough blankets to stay warm is recommended. Similarly, varying light patterns in the night can be disruptive to the sleep. Create a lighting and sound environment that is relaxing and works for you. If light in the early morning bothers you, get a blackout shade or wear a slumber mask. If noise bothers you, wear earplugs or get a "white noise" machine. Conversely, if silence bothers you, try a little light relaxing music before bedtime, and if you are not able to sleep in pitch black, try a night light.
Use your bed only for sleeping and sex
When we use our bed for things other than what they are mad for, it gives the brain mixed signals of what to do when we lay down at night to sleep. You should refrain from watching television, eating, or working in the bed. If you need to journal or read to relax you before bedtime, have a special place in the room outside of the bed to do this, so that when you get in the bed your body knows it is time to sleep. Of course, sex is the exception to this rule.
Refrain from exercise at least 4 hours before bedtime
While regular exercise helps to promote sleep, the timing of the workout is important. Exercise in the morning or early afternoon to ensure your sleep will not be interrupted by the residual catecholemines (fight or flight chemicals) that are released during exercise.
Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol at least 4-6 hours before bedtime
Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants that interfere with your ability to fall and stay asleep. Coffee, tea, soda, cocoa, chocolate, some prescription and non-prescription drugs contain caffeine. Cigarettes and some drugs contain nicotine. While alcohol may seem to help you sleep at first because it depresses brain activity, it can cause restless sleep which will end up leaving your less rested in the long run. So avoid these compounds close to your sleep time to ensure uninterrupted rest at night.
Have some warm milk
If your stomach is too empty, that can interfere with sleep. Dairy products contain tryptophan, which acts as a natural sleep inducer. Try a warm glass of milk to help give your body it’s cue that it’s time to rest. But be cautious, having to full of a stomach can also inhibit sound sleep so don’t super size it.
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