Tag Archives: Sleep

Sleep Hygiene

Insomnia is a common issue so I wanted to give you a tip sheet on good sleep hygiene.

Sleep hygiene is a combination of your behaviors and environment surrounding sleep.

Lack of quality sleep affects your mood. It also lowers your pain threshold, increases your blood pressure, and interferes with your memory. It harms your immune system, elevating your chances of getting sick. It diminishes your ability to concentrate, and makes you more impulsive. It can also cause weight gain.

How to improve the quality of your sleep?

Here is a summary of 14 suggestions given in Fix Your Sleep Hygiene by Dr Korb.

1. Go to bed at the same time every day.

The reason for going to sleep at the same time is that your brain releases melatonin about 30 minutes before it thinks you want to go to sleep. If it doesn’t know when you’re gonna go to sleep it can’t do that.

2. Avoid bright lights after the sun goes down.

The melatonin that prepares you for sleep is inhibited by bright light so when it’s getting close to bed time turn off most of the lights in your house .

3. During the day stay in a brightly lit environment.

The melatonin cycle is part of a hormonal package collectively called circadian rhythms, controlled by a region of the brain known as the suprachiasmatic nucleus of the hypothalaums , which projects to the pineal gland to release various hormones. These rhythms are synchronized by bright lights during the day. So take a few minutes to go walking in the sunshine. This has the added benefit of boosting your serotonin, which may be why it helps sleep, as melatonin is derived from serotonin.

4. Sleep for 8 hours straight.

Your brain needs to cycle through various stages of sleep (Stages 1 to 4 and then REM sleep). Each cycle takes about 90 minutes, so in about 8 hours you get the appropriate number of cycles. If you wake up in the middle of a cycle you don’t feel rested. Your brain needs to know how much time it has to get everything done it needs to. In general the older you are the less sleep you need. In college you need about 8 hours and 24 minutes (approximately). When you start drawing Social Security you might only need 7.

5.  Use your bed/bedroom for sleeping, not doing work.

That way your brain associates your bed only with sleep, and it will induce sleepiness like Pavlovian conditioning.

6. Make your environment comfortable.

Sleep requires down-regulation of the sympathetic nervous system, which is harder if you’re uncomfortable. If your room is too cold, or too hot, or too noisy, or too smelly, then do something about it. If it’s something you can’t change, then just accept it.

7. Don’t take naps.

Taking a nap will often make it difficult to fall asleep at your bedtime. If you must nap, keep your nap between 20-30 min. This may surprise you, but if you actually consistently get quality sleep, you won’t even feel the need to take a nap.

8. Create a routine for preparing for sleep.

Do it every night. This helps you separate yourself from the hectic nature of the rest of your day. It prepares your brain for sleep.  A bedtime ritual might be brush your teeth, wash your face, go to the bathroom, and then read for a few minutes. These should be non-stressful activities. If you have a really hard time falling asleep, then include some meditation as part of your routine.

9. If you find you’re stressing over all the things you have to do, then write them down.

Your prefrontal cortex is responsible for keeping all these things in your working memory, and worrying about forgetting them is stressful. That stress inhibits sleep. Write it down so you don’t need to keep your prefrontal cortex working overtime.

10. Just chill.

Just relax, and lie still in a comfortable position. If after 20 minutes or so you’re still not asleep, then go to another room. Do something relaxing for a little bit (no more than 20 minutes), then try again.

11. Avoid caffeine near bed time. Duh.

12. Don’t eat a large meal less than 3 hours before bedtime. 

Indigestion can interfere with sleep, and acid reflux is more common once you’re horizontal.

13. Don’t use alcohol as a regular sleep aid.

While it may help you fall asleep, it disrupts the patterns of brain activity while you’re asleep. That means your sleep is not as restful as it could be.

14. Exercise.

Exercise is pretty much good for everything. Make physical activity a regular part of your life. The exact role of exercise in improving sleep though is not well understood. It may be due to increased levels of the neuropeptide orexin, which is essential for appropriate sleep regulation. It may also be due to the effects of exercise synchronizing circadian rhythms, or stress reduction, or some combination of several factors. Regardless of the reason though, it is clear that aerobic exercise helps improve sleep. Exercising too close to bedtime may make it difficult to fall asleep though, so try to do it a few hours before.