If you have mastered the technique of sleep hygiene or how to go to sleep, you belong to the fortunate group because falling asleep is easy for some of us, but can be a nightmare for others.
About 30% to 50% of the general population suffers from insomnia and they have difficulty either falling and/or staying asleep.
You can tackle this sleeplessness by adopting simple ideas and in most cases, medication is not necessary.
Adopting good sleeping habits and some easy-to-follow tips will help you overcome your sleep deprivation and help you go into your slumber with relative ease.
These tips carry great value because the importance and benefits of good sleep on the health of our body cannot be overstressed.
Tips to sleep better
The following are some lifestyle habits and measures you should adopt, which will act as natural sleeping aids. They constitute good sleeping hygiene.
- Avoid caffeine, tobacco, and stimulants at least about 8 hours before bedtime, as these will not allow you to sleep. Nicotine, which is present in tobacco is a stimulant. Caffeine and other stimulants provide a boost to your energy and heighten alertness. They last in the blood for more than 8 hours and you should avoid them.
- Certain medicines taken over the counter such as nasal decongestants, painkillers, appetite suppressants, and diet pills can deprive you of sleep.
- Avoid drinking alcohol about 6 hours before going to bed. Alcohol causes dehydration, which makes you drink more water making you get up in the night to pass urine. Drinking alcohol changes the natural duration of the sleep stages and alters the total sleep time and sleep latency. Though alcohol is a muscle relaxant, it worsens sleep apnea and increases snoring. Alcohol also reduces levels of melatonin, which is a hormone needed to sleep better.
- Do not have heavy, spicy, oily, and sugary meals for dinner. This will disrupt the ability to stay asleep, as these foods are difficult to digest.
- Eat an hour or two before going to bed as it takes an hour for the serotonin levels to rise after you have eaten.
- Avoid that afternoon siesta. Sleeping during the day will make it more difficult to fall asleep at night. If you have to take a nap, have it in the early afternoon before 3 pm and do not let it be more than 20 minutes.
- Exercise is necessary but not at night before sleep. Regular exercise of moderate intensity will help you get your deep sleep but exercise only in the morning or afternoon. Strenuous physical activity before bedtime will cause problems when you go to bed. Refrain from doing exercise at least 4 hours before bedtime. One study concluded that exercise is as effective as benzodiazepines (sleeping pills) in inducing sleep.
- Avoid watching the television or working at the computer at night before bedtime. This disturbs your ability to fall asleep. This is because watching television suppresses melatonin production and stimulates the mind instead of relaxing it.
- A few minutes of light-reading with a soft reading lamp or listening to light soothing music is definitely a better alternative.
- Avoid heavy discussions or arguments before bedtime, because this can be mentally stressful.
- Lying in the bathtub filled with luke-warm water will help soothen your nerves and will help you fall asleep easily. Do it about 60 minutes to 90 minutes before going to bed. This will raise your body temperature but it is the later drop in body temperature, which induces sleep.
- A light massage before bedtime too will help in the same manner.
- Do not go to bed on an empty stomach. Have a light dinner or a bedtime snack containing more of carbohydrates, tryptophan and calcium and little to medium of proteins.
- Wear loose and comfortable clothing. Choose the type of clothing, which is relevant to the climate – woolens in winter and cotton in summer.
- Choose the position you find most comfortable and it will induce sleep more quickly.
- If you cannot go to sleep in twenty minutes, do not stay in bed. Similarly, if you get up in the middle of the night for some reason and cannot go back to sleep, do not lie in bed. Get up and do some reading or have a light snack or a warm water bath.
- Then there is the age-old trick of inducing sleep by counting sleeping sheep. Imagine a peaceful green meadow with sheep sleeping in it. Start moving from one sheep to another and counting the sheep as you pass each of them. Two Harvard researchers concluded that this practice prevented disturbing brain activity, which disturbs the sleeping process.
- When you get up in the morning, expose your face to the sun for about ten minutes. This is to set and regulate your biological clock.
Sleep restriction forms a part of stimulus control therapy and involves improving the bedroom environment for a night of better sleep.
Sleep restriction therapy involves restricting yourself to bed only for your sleeping hours. Go to bed when feeling sleepy only and you should also program your rising time. Make it a rigid routine.
This will support your circadian rhythm (your biological clock) and as your body is adjusted to this routine, it will make it easier to fall asleep every night.
Sleep restriction will help your mind to associate the bed with sleeping only. Do not watch the television or read while in the bed and as mentioned, restrict your bed for sleep and sex only.
The sleepstation website provides a range of articles that provide useful resources.
If you are still having problems sleeping for a couple of weeks, then you must consult your specialist.