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Sleep Hygience Advice

Sleep hygiene is a term used to describe good sleep habits to give yourself the best chance of a refreshing sleep. Here are some “Dos” and “Don'ts” to help you get a proper night's sleep.

Go to bed at the same time each day

Go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time each day. Ideally, your schedule will remain the same (+/- 20 minutes) every night of the week.

Avoid naps if possible

Naps decrease the ‘Sleep Debt’ that is so necessary for easy sleep onset. When you take naps it decreases the amount of sleep that you need the next night- which may cause sleep fragmentation and difficulty initiating sleep, which may lead to insomnia.

Get up from bed at the same time each day

Getting up at the same time helps to keep your body clock synchronised with what is going on outside. If you can stick to a fairly regular waking and sleeping time, your body will become accustomed to it. Avoid the temptation to try to make up for a poor night's sleep by sleeping in.

Have a comfortable pre-bedtime routine

Have a warm bath, shower, meditation or quiet time.

Exercise regularly

There is good evidence that regular exercise promotes continuous sleep. Avoid exercise immediately before bed. Rigorous exercise circulates endorphins into the body which may cause difficulty initiating sleep.

Try to spend some daytime outdoors or in natural light.

Light is important for the body to produce melatonin which is a sleep promoting substance. Sunlight early in the day is particularly helpful in synchronizing your body clock.

Don't have drinks containing caffeine in the evening

The effects of caffeine may last for several hours after ingestion. Caffeine can fragment sleep and cause difficulty initiating sleep. If you drink caffeine preferably use it only before noon. Remember that energy drinks, some sodas and tea contain caffeine as well.

Don't stay in bed if you are awake

If you find your mind racing, or worrying about not being able to get to sleep during the middle of the night, get out of bed, and sit in a chair in the dark. Do your mind racing in the chair until you are sleepy, and then return to bed. No TV or internet during these periods. That will just stimulate you more than desired.

Don't look at the clock all the time

If you are a ‘clock watcher’ at night, hide the clock.

Don't use alcohol to help you sleep

Alcohol may help you to get to sleep but it has a number of bad effects. It causes you to have fragmented sleep, take more trips to the toilet, wake up early and it worsens snoring & sleep apnoea.

Don't smoke

Quitting smoking not only brings many health benefits to any smoker, it eliminates the stimulant effects of nicotine that contributes to sleep loss.

Make the bedroom as restful as possible

This means keeping the temperature cool, keeping noises and outside light to a minimum and leaving distracting things such as beeping watches or clocks outside.

Use your bed only for sleep and sex

Some people use the bed as a lounge room by knitting, studying, watching television, telephoning, texting etc. You need to try to avoid this and ensure that the bed is associated with sleeping. The brain makes connections between places (the bedroom) and events (sleeping) and you need to reinforce these. Make sure the bed is for sleeping and sleeping happens in the bed.

Take medication as directed

Prescription medications may cause you to be alert or sleepy and the instructions that come with them should be followed. Don't vary the time of day that you take your medication.

Don't go to bed too hungry or full

If you are in the habit of taking a light supper, you should keep doing this but don't eat too much.

Don't share your bed with children or pets

Research has shown that parents sleeping with young children sleep less and have more disturbed sleep.

Understand your sleep need

Most people need between seven and nine hours sleep each day but this includes naps and time spent dozing in front of television. Don't build up unrealistic expectations of your sleep needs.