Sleep Hygiene (for Adults)

Like Dental Hygiene For Sleep: Introduction to Sleep Hygiene

Sleep hygiene is for your sleep what dental hygiene is for your teeth.

There is much you can do to keep your teeth healthy and strong. You can brush after every meal, floss twice a day, avoid sugary foods and sodas, and visit the dentist at least twice a year. The totally of these practices is considered good dental hygiene. And neglecting any of these practices, by turn, is considered poor dental hygiene and could be damaging to both your teeth and have adverse affects that ripple outward to other aspects of your health. In the case of poor dental hygiene, that could mean digestive difficulties or gum disease, to name just two of the possibilities. So it is with sleep hygiene.

You can improve your sleep as much as you can improve your teeth. All it takes is the right set of practices and understandings, coupled of course with the diligence to follow through on them.

In this article you will learn the basic precepts of good sleep hygiene—that is, how to establish the patterns, habits, and routines to help you sleep better at night.

You can, of course, use the AudioMagic therapeutic audio programs along with these suggestions in order to create the most effective treatment possible to meet your individual needs.

Benefits of Sleep Hygiene

To take it a step further now—sleep hygiene refers to the set of habits and guidelines that promote consistently restful and sufficient sleep at night and complete alertness during the day. It is what you can do (and in some cases, not do) to help you sleep easily and well.

In examining the benefits of sleep hygiene it is value to observe both the short-term and long-term negative affects that improper amounts of sleep and poor sleep quality can have. Sleep deprivation has been shown in several studies to impair mental, adversely impact mental and physical alertness and performance, and can promote on-the-job injury.

Sleep hygiene, by contrast, can help people avoid a bevy of sleep-related disorders, such as frequent nighttime awakenings, nightmares, and of course insomnia.

Some long term health affects that have been associated with sleep impairment from sleep disorders (like sleep apnea) include high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke.

Even people dealing with anxiety can experience transformative improvements through adjustments in their bedtime habits and routines—so much that it can leave them better prepared on a mental, emotional, and physical level to handle their future anxieties in a positive and healthful manner.

Signs & Symptoms of Poor Sleep Hygiene

The clearest signs of poor sleep hygiene (or at least that improvement in this area could be useful) are:

  • troubles falling asleep at night
  • nocturnal awakenings
  • disturbing dreams
  • sluggishness during the day

So, it’s almost time to get down to the nitty-gritty details of sleep hygiene. But first, an important note…

Knowing Good Sleep Hygiene & Practicing It Are Two Different Things

As you review the following guidelines and suggestions, many of them may already be familiar to you. In fact, most of them may be.

That is because many, if not most, of these are the same habits and behaviors your parents tried to instill in you as a child or those you as a parent have tried to instill in your child. But sleep hygiene isn’t just for children. And whether you’ve heard these ideas before or not, the question to be asking yourself as you read through them now is this: Am I practicing these in my life? And if I’m having trouble sleeping at night, might I be able to remedy that by adopting one or more of these habits and behaviors that I’ve been lacking?

Factors Affecting Sleep Hygiene

Circadian Rhythms: Your body has an internal clock. Throughout the day and night your body goes through a series of patterns, in sequence, in a 24-hour cycle called your circadian rhythms. Your body temperature, metabolism, dietary schedule, and hormonal activity —all of these are factors and many more are influenced by your circadian rhythms. When your circadian rhythms are in sync they can produce a myriad of synergies (or cooperative interactions) in these areas. In other words, when your internal clock is working well, all the various systems of your body tend to work better too. (Like clockwork, you might say!)

Our bodies are designed to naturally seek out what’s known as a state of homeostasis—that is the condition wherein all bodily systems find balance. In order to achieve that homeostasis, all these circadian rhythms, must synchronize smoothly with one another. You can help that to happen with a few simple adjustments in your bedtime habits and behaviors.

As you might imagine, a system that works like a clock works well in similarly precise habits and behaviors. This is where your bedtime routine comes in. By establishing a set of bedtime practices that you engage in with somewhat routine precision, you can better help your body’s circadian rhythms to sync up with your natural cycles of sleeping and waking.

Perhaps the best bedtime routine for doing this is going to sleep at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning. Admittedly, this is not always practical for a modern lifestyle. Never the less, it is one of the most helpful things you can do to sync up your body’s circadian rhythms and help them to help you more frequently enjoy a more complete and restful night’s sleep.

Whether or not a consistent bedtime schedule is practical for you, there are numerous other ways you can help sync up your body’s circadian rhythms and in doing so, steer yourself toward a better night’s sleep. Simply find consistency wherever you can in your daily life. Find it in the flow of activities you routinely engage in throughout your entire day, including schedules of eating, working, bathing, exposure to light and dark, etc.

Start with the events that already typically occur at the same time each day, and work from there. Perceiving your sleeping schedule as part and parcel of this larger set of circadian rhythms empowers you to create synergy in your body and promote that optimum state of homeostasis that supports regular, restful sleep.

Anxiety & Stress: You don’t have to suffer from a diagnosable anxiety problem to have anxiety impact your sleep. The common stressors of everyday life—from exams to deadlines to finances to relationship conflicts to parental responsibilities—are enough to keep our heads buzzing at night with unresolved mental activity. Most of us review our day’s events in our heads as we shut out the lights and lie down for the night. And for many people it can be a real challenge to shut off all that internal noise at night and get enough mental quietude to fall asleep and sleep soundly.

Some helpful ways follow to reduce your anxiety and stress enough at night for you to be able to fall asleep and stay asleep (including falling back asleep easily if you wake up during the night).

  • Stretching: loosening the body, relaxing the muscles, and creating openness and flow in your spine and other joint areas can do much to help you fall asleep easier and sleep more restfully once you are asleep.
  • Journaling: keeping a diary/making lists: some people find value in writing down their thoughts last thing before lights out as a way to clear the clutter from their busy minds. This can come in the form of a journal or diary where you muse on your day or as a list of tasks you plan to take on the following day.
  • Therapeutic audio programs like my AudioMagic Natural Sleep program: a heavily researched synthesis of restful nature sounds recorded in 3D Living Sound with gentle suggestions for sleep and other proven relaxation techniques.

Age: Our sleep patterns change as we age, often more significantly after 40 years of age. For one, we may wake up more frequently during the night (nocturnal awakenings), which can leave us feeling poorly rested and energetically (that’s mentally, physically, and emotionally) unprepared for our day.

Substances: This is a broad subject that includes but is not limited to drugs of both the prescription and so-called “recreational” variety—including alcohol. Other substances that are unsupportive of sleep hygiene are, predictably, tobacco, nicotine, sugar, and caffeine.

That last one—caffeine—alone remains in your system for up to 14 hours and can impact your sleep in several ways, including keeping you up later at night, causing more frequent nocturnal awakenings, and decreasing your overall sleep time. Nicotine has a similar affect, which increases in league with the quantity inhaled in a day. Alcohol may be a sedative, true, but because the body metabolizes it at night, that process impedes with and interrupts restful sleep. It can also cause sweating, headaches, and intense dreams. The combination of these three substances—caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol—can cause grogginess in the mornings and sluggishness throughout the day.

On the flip side, substances supportive of sleep hygiene, and therefore of good nights of sleep more of the time, are:

  • water—juices are nice, but in terms of hydration they do not substitute for plain, pure water
  • chemical-free fruits and vegetables

A generally well-balanced diet overall, with at least 3 healthy meals a day and a minimum of less-healthy snack foods, is helpful for improving your sleep on a number of levels. Besides being nutritionally supportive of good sleep, regular mealtimes is a key way to help align your body’s aforementioned circadian rhythms.

Sleep Hygiene Tips

In closing, here are a few additional tips for improving your sleep hygiene, and in so doing improve your sleep.

  • Keep the bed for sleeping (and sex). Watching TV in bed, reading in bed, eating in bed, processing heavily emotional issues in bed, talking on the phone in bed—all of these can negatively affect your sleep. I wrote on article on Sleep Associations for children that has some relevance for adults as well, and it is this: you associate your bed with the activities you engage in while in bed. It sounds obvious (and it is) but the point is that anything you do in bed besides sleeping and sex can get in the way of your future ability to sleep (and have sex) in bed.
  • Be comfortable. Keep the room a comfortable temperature, not too hot and not too cold. Leave yourself some ventilation, and if that’s not possible then at least some air circulation in the room. Choose pillows and bedding that are comfortable to you and don’t cause any bodily aches or cramps. Keep the light as dim as possible, avoiding sudden exposure to bright light as much as possible.
  • Light on the stomach, light on the bladder. Avoid heavy snacking right before bed, and try to get your last meal in a good few hours before bedtime. Forcing your body to digest and metabolize food while you’re sleeping (in essence, making it “work”) can get in the way of a restful night’s sleep, and the reverse is true too—laying down and sleeping promotes poor digestion. By the same token, while staying adequately hydrated is good sleep hygiene, try not to drink too many liquids too close to bedtime. An emptier bladder promotes a more uninterrupted night’s sleep.
  • Don’t nap. Napping is great, if you were born in Europe and grew up used to it. But if you’re not accustomed to napping, and more importantly if you’re having problems sleeping at night, then napping during the day is unwise. If you have trouble sleeping and you already take naps, then they could be contributing to the problem. If you have trouble sleeping and as a result of the subsequent daytime sluggishness then start taking naps, they could exacerbate the problem.
  • Let the pets sleep elsewhere. Sleeping with your pet may be comforting, on one level, but on another it could be causing you unnecessary nighttime arousals, each one potentially increasing the difficulty with which you can get back to sleep.
  • Exercise some other time. Stretching right before bed can be beneficial to your sleep. But vigorous muscle strengthening exercises (like weightlifting or push-ups and sit-ups) and cardiovascular exercises (like exercise bikes and running) can make it more difficult for you to fall asleep when you do finally lie down.

Related Features

  • Children's Sleep Hygiene Sleep hygiene refers to the set of habits and guidelines that promote consistently restful and sufficient sleep at night and complete alertness during the day. It's what you can do (and in some cases, not do) to help your child (and you, as a consequence) sleep easy and well. Like dental hygiene, sleep hygiene isn't just for children; it's for everyone, no matter the age. And like dental hygiene, instilling good sleep hygiene habits early on in life will promote the retention and sustaining of those good habits throughout one's lifetime.


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