The Importance & How-To’s of Sleep Hygiene
Our goal is to help you get between 7-9 hours of sleep per night. This is the amount of sleep that experts agree is optimal to heal and repair.
Many people believe they function well with less sleep than 7-9 hours, but this is a fallacy. Sleep deprivation will catch up with you eventually.
What is sleep hygiene?
Sleep hygiene is a variety of different practices that are necessary to have a quality night-time sleep and full daytime alertness.
What is the function of sleep?
Scientists have many hypotheses as to why we sleep. They know that humans must sleep to heal and repair. In fact, people can survive longer without food than without sleep.
Humans require sleep for many reasons:
- The brain has a chance to exercise important neuronal connections that might otherwise deteriorate due to lack of activity.
- Sleep gives the brain an opportunity to reorganize data to help find solutions to problems and, process newly learned information and organize and archive memories.
- Sleep is a time for serious rest. Sleep lowers a person’s metabolic rate and energy consumption so it may repair and heal.
- The cardiovascular system also gets a break during sleep. Researchers have found that people with normal or high blood pressure experience a 20 to 30% reduction in blood pressure and 10 to 20% reduction in heart rate.
- During sleep, the body has a chance to replace chemicals and repair muscles, other tissues and aging or dead cells. Growth hormones are released during deep sleep.
- The body is able to heal emotionally and physically.
The times that a person falls asleep and wakes up is largely determined by his or her circadian rhythm, a day-night cycle of about 24 hours. Circadian rhythms greatly influence the timing, amount and quality of sleep. While a person’s circadian rhythm cannot be ignored or reprogrammed, the cycle can be altered by the timing of things such as naps, exercise, bedtime, travel to a different time zone and exposure to light. The more stable and consistent the cycle is, the better the person sleeps.
The Difference between Fatigue and Sleepiness
Fatigue, sometimes called tiredness, can result from overworking, excess stress, as well as inactivity and unhealthy eating. There are also people who have fatigue from a variety of medical situations (diseases, chemotherapy treatment, etc.) Sleepiness often accompanies fatigue, but they are not the same. The way to recover from fatigue is to rest. The way to recover from sleepiness is to sleep. You can rest without sleeping.
Ergonomics experts worry about both fatigue and sleepiness on the job as they often occur together and can both contribute to risk of accident, injury and also a loss of productivity.
One problem that can occur if you don’t distinguish between fatigue and sleepiness: responding to the wrong signals. People with a history of insomnia might find themselves fatigued and go to bed. They lie awake in frustration, but they aren’t really sleepy, they are fatigued. If you have insomnia, you want to go to bed only when sleepy, so be sure you are clear on the difference between sleepiness and fatigue.
What are some examples of good sleep hygiene?
The most important sleep hygiene measure is to maintain a regular wake and sleep pattern seven days a week. It is also important to spend an appropriate amount of time in bed, not too little, or too much. This may vary by individual; for example, if someone has a problem with daytime sleepiness, they should spend a minimum of eight hours in bed, if they have difficulty sleeping at night, they should limit themselves to a maximum of 7 hours in bed in order to keep the sleep pattern consolidated.
Good sleep hygiene practices include:
- Limit daytime naps
Long daytime naps can interfere with night-time sleep — especially if you’re struggling with insomnia or poor sleep quality at night. If you choose to nap during the day, limit yourself to about 10 to 30 minutes and make it during the mid-afternoon.
If you work nights, you’ll need to make an exception to the rules about daytime sleeping. In this case, keep your window coverings closed so that sunlight — which adjusts your internal clock — doesn’t interrupt your daytime sleep.
- Avoid stimulants such as caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol too close to bedtime. While alcohol is well known to speed the onset of sleep, it disrupts sleep in the second half as the body begins to metabolize the alcohol, causing wakefulness.
- Ensure adequate exposure to natural light. This is particularly important for older people who may not venture outside as frequently as children and adults. Light exposure helps maintain a healthy sleep-wake cycle.
- Associate your bed with sleep. It’s not a good idea to use your bed to watch TV, listen to the radio, or read.
- Stick to a sleep schedule.
Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, even on weekends, holidays and days off. Being consistent reinforces your body’s sleep-wake cycle and helps promote better sleep at night. There’s a caveat, though. If you don’t fall asleep within about 15 minutes, get up and do something relaxing. Go back to bed when you’re tired. If you lie in bed agonizing over falling asleep, you might find it even tougher to nod off. Reading, restorative yoga, meditation or writing for a few minutes may help you wind down so you can get sleepy.
- Pay attention to what you eat and drink.
Don’t go to bed either hungry or stuffed. Your discomfort might keep you up. Limit how much you drink before bed, to prevent disruptive middle-of-the-night trips to the toilet.
Dietary changes can cause sleep problems. If someone is struggling with a sleep problem, it’s not a good time to start experimenting with spicy dishes. And, remember, chocolate has caffeine.
- Create a bedtime ritual.
Do the same things each night to tell your body it’s time to wind down. This might include taking a warm bath or shower, reading a book, or listening to soothing music — preferably with the lights dimmed. Relaxing activities can promote better sleep by easing the transition between wakefulness and drowsiness.
Be wary of using the TV or other electronic devices as part of your bedtime ritual. Research suggests that screen time or other media use before bedtime interferes with sleep.
- Get comfortable.
Create a room that’s ideal for sleeping. Often, this means cool, dark and quiet. Consider using room-darkening shades, earplugs, a fan or other devices to create an environment that suits your needs.
Your mattress and pillow can definitely contribute to better sleep. Since the features of good bedding are subjective, choose what feels most comfortable to you. If you share your bed, make sure there’s enough room for two. If you have children or pets, try to set limits on how often they sleep with you — or insist on separate sleeping quarters.
- Include physical activity in your daily routine.
Regular physical activity can promote better sleep, helping you to fall asleep faster and to enjoy deeper sleep. Timing is important, though. If you exercise too close to bedtime, you might be too energized to fall asleep. If this seems to be an issue for you, exercise earlier in the day. A relaxing exercise, like restorative yoga, can be done before bed to help initiate a restful night’s sleep.
- Manage stress.
When you have too much to do — and too much to think about — your sleep is likely to suffer. To help restore peace, consider healthy ways to manage stress.
Start with the basics, such as getting organized, setting priorities and delegating tasks. Give yourself permission to take a break when you need one. Spend time with friends and loved ones.
Try meditation, Heart Math, The Work of Byron Katie or any other stress-reducing modalities that interest you.
Before bed, jot down what’s on your mind and then set it aside for tomorrow.
- Most Important- Get Regular Chiropractic Adjustments.
Regular spinal check-ups will keep your nervous system calm, regulated and functioning optimally. Ask Dr. Darren about your specific care plan if you are unsure how often you should get adjusted.
Now that you understand the importance of sleep and some of the habits that can help you get a better sleep, what changes are you willing to make?
We have two more resources to help you get a more restful, better quality of sleep:
Chiro Flow Pillows- A water-based pillow that forms to your neck as you sleep. No more waking up to re-adjust! This pillow is filled to the proper height and firmness by you, based on your body and comfort preferences. Get 10% off your first pillow when you mention the Sleep Well Promotion!