Sleep Hygiene 101A

You don’t snore (to your knowledge) and you don’t gasp for breath at night (to your knowledge), but in the daytime you struggle for energy and often feel groggy. What to do?

Let’s assume that your bed partner hasn’t complained of your snoring or gasping for breath (indicative of sleep apnea), or that you don’t have a partner and thus no knowledge of your nighttime “secrets,” how can you get back on track for a good night’s sleep?

Simple: Just listen to nature and its rhythms, but in our modern, hectic world with media bombardments and stresses carried over from work, that recourse isn’t always that easy.

Still, there are steps you can take to ensure a better chance at a better night’s sleep (and if these fail, perhaps you need to seek professional help):

  • Keep your sleeping environment neither too hot nor too cold, which may be difficult if you can’t afford to turn on the AC, but a comfortable environment is essential.
  • Don’t eat large meals or spicy, disturbing meals too close to bedtime. Think four or five hours in advance when you eat dinner.
  • Keep regular hours. Go to bed at the same time and arise at the same time as much as possible, given your perhaps malleable work schedule. Nothing beats monotony when it comes to sleep patterns.
  • Exercise can help with sleep. Take walks, go with the dogs and follow them around, do whatever it takes to exert some energy. It will help you sleep.
  • Get plenty of sunshine. Soaking in the sunshine prepares the body to produce melatonin when it gets dark. Even if you live in cold, wintry climes, go out and enjoy the sun on your face.
  • Avoid stimulants such as caffeine and alcohol hours before bedtime. Caffeine is an obvious culprit, but alcohol in too large a quantity has deleterious effects on your sleep pattern.
  • Turn off the media and the lights. Light and noise sources are going to definitely interfere with your ability to sleep. Light, of course, turns off the production of the sleep hormone melatonin, and noise, well, noise jacks you up to a mood not amenable to beddy-bye.
  • Finally, don’t nap too close to bedtime, if not avoiding naps entirely. If you do nap, the 10-minute power nap is the best. Longer than that and you risk ruining your night’s rest.

These are fairly basic sleep hygiene recommendations, but if you follow them and still suffer fatigue and lack of focus in the daytime, it’s a good idea to seek professional help. But most of all, be honest with yourself and don’t shrug sleep problems off as “normal.”

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