Simple Sleep Hygiene Tips For Better Sleep

Do they really work?

Yes, the simple sleep hygiene tips listed on this page do work when followed diligently.

I am proof and walk my talk because…

Once upon a time there was a young woman who had three children. And, as most babies do, they prevented their mom from getting a good night’s rest.

You may say “So what! It’s part of motherhood.”

And you are absolutely right.

But in this young woman’s case things never returned to normal after the children got older. As a matter of fact, getting up several times a night to turn her oldest son who had muscular dystrophy became the new normal. Sure, her husband helped her as much as he could, but due to his job he was gone a lot.

But in this young woman’s case things never returned to normal after the children got older. Yes, getting up several times a night to turn her oldest son who had muscular dystrophy became the new normal. Sure, her husband helped her as much as he could, but due to his job he was gone a lot.

To add salt to the fire, her husband passed away after 16 years of marriage.

But she plugged along as good as she could.

Now, four to five hours of sleep became the norm for the next 16 years — up to the time her son passed away.

Fast forward.

Imagine, 32 years of messed up sleep. Even so relieve was in sight, it didn’t happen over night.

In 2006 she faced another challenge. Her health was at stake. After two years of being treated for stress, insomnia, and a few other maladies, she also was diagnosed with sever fibromyalgia (fibro). The diagnosis for fibromyalgia was, in a sense, a blessing in disguise.  To help alleviate some of the stress and fibro symptoms, she was enrolled in Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT).  After six weeks of following the prescribed sleep hygiene regiment she finally was able to sleep 7 to 9 hours a night.

Yes, after 34 years I, the author, finally got a good night’s sleep.

Therefore, if it worked for me there is hope for you.

Simple Sleep Hygiene Tips: The Does

1. Get regular

Help your body to establish a natural sleep and wake cycle. One of the best ways to train your body to follow this cycle, and sleep well, is to go to bed and get up around the same time. This includes weekends, days off, and even vacations. Once this rhythm is established you will wake up in the mornings without needing an alarm clock.  More importantly, when you wake up naturally — without the annoying sound of the alarm clock — you will feel refreshed to start the day instead of grumpy and groggy.

2. Sleep when sleepy

Going to bed when not sleepy only results in tossing and turning or counting endless sheep.  Go to bed and try to sleep only when you actually feel tired or sleepy.

3. Follow the 20-minute rule

Feeling tired, but having trouble falling asleep? Follow the 20-minute rule.  If you don’t fall asleep within 20-minutes after going to bed it is time to get up and try again. Wait until you feel really sleepy.

4. Establish a sleep ritual

Let your brain know it is time for sleep with a relaxing ritual 15-30-minutes prior to bedtime. To get you started here are a few suggestions: reading something positive and calming, listening to soothing music, and deep breathing exercises.

* Bonus download: coming soon.

5. Use bed only for sleep and sex

Yes, you read right! Your bed is only for sleeping and sex and not for eating, reading, watching TV, working on laptop, and many other things. When done consistently, your brain will associate the bed with sleep (and sex if you have a partner) and makes a lasting healthy connection.

* This is one of the things many people see as a challenge because they retire to the bedroom hours before bedtime to wind down.

6. Ceative a relaxing space

Create a bedroom environment that is calm, relaxing, and inviting. Remove any clutter that does not belong in a bedroom. according to Feng Shui practices, clutter in the bedroom results in poor energy flow, which, in turn, affects our sleep.

Just try it! You’ll be surprised.

7. Keep room quiet and dark

Unless you live in the country you may need to take some steps to create a quiet and dark enough environment to facilitate sleep.

You may ask, “Why is it important to sleep in a dark room?” The answer is quite simple. If your room is not dark, you will not secrete enough melatonin to get a restful sleep.

Further, to start the melatonin process, dim your lights house two hours prior to bedtime to start this hormonal transition. 

If you need to block out outdoor light, like street lamps, install lightblocking blinds, curtains, or window film. Also, if needed, cover up any light from electronics and alarm clocks.

In short, cover up anything that omits light that can prevent deep sleep.

As for the noise, invest in some nose cancelling earblugs designed for sleeping or a white noise machine.

8. Room temperature does matters

Your room should not be to hot, or too cold, but just right. And, what is right for one person may be uncomfortable for another. And, yes, even experts suggest different ranges of degrees. Some say “between 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit (15.6 to 19.4 degrees Celsius),” and others say “between 65 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit (18 to 22 degrees Celsius). To find your sweet spot, I recommend to start with 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18 degrees Celcius) and work your way up or down. 

9. Turn off electronic devices 

For some people breaking up with their cellphone and other electronic devices is hard to. But it is a fact, the blue light from tech devices tricks your mind into thinking it is daytime.  

The science behind it. Numerous studies show that exposure to artificial light at night (fluorescents, LEDs, iPad, cellphone screens, tablets) in the hours before bedtime not only prevents you from falling asleep, it may also affect your alertness the next day.

Further, researchers also discovered that the light emitted by the electronic devices reset the body’s circadian clock. Hence, people reading e-books took longer to fall asleep and were less alert the next morning than when they read print books instead.(H)

Therefore, it is a good pratice to turn off your gadgets at least 30 minutes before you need to go to sleep.

Tip: some experts recommend minimizing screen time and reducing expose of bright lights to two hours before bedtime. 

10. Get natural light exposure

Have you noticed that you sleep better after spending time outdoors? This is because natural light is a critical ingredient for a good night’s sleep. Not just theory, but fact by studies. “Studies show clearly that without sufficient bright light during the day (which drives day-time melatonin suppression), we don’t sleep well at night.  One of the simplest things we can do to sleep better is to get outside for at least 20-30 minutes in the morning.”(SL2

* Tip: my physicans recommended to get 2 doses a day to help with sleep and collect natural Vitamin D. The first round of exposure was around 10 AM and the secound round around 4 PM. 

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More Simple Sleep Hygiene Tips: The Does

11. Eat right.

A healthy nutritious diet and sleep go hand-in-hand. Because of this watch what you eat.

Here is a list of foods of some foods you may want to avoid if you suffer from frequent acid reflus and heartburn.

Acid foods: onions, tomatoes, garlic, citrus fruits, dark chocolate and peppermint.

High-fat foods: butter, cheese, chocolate, avocados, fatty cuts of meat and anything fried.

Spicy foods: hot and spicy dishes and condiments.

This doesn’t mean you have to cut these foods completely from your diet. All you may need is to change the time you eat these foods.

Tip: start a troublesome food journey.

12. Eat a snack

Going to bed hungry can disrupt your sleep.

Had an early dinner or the meal didn’t completely satiate you?  If you’re truly hungry, have a small snack like a bowl of cereal, nuts, honey, or a glass of milk.

13. Exercise

While researchers don’t completely understand how physical activity improves sleep, they do know that moderate aerobic exercise increases the amount of slow wave sleep you get. 

You may ask, “What is slow wave sleep?” Slow wave sleep is deep sleep, where the brain and body have a chance to rejuvenate.  

Other benefits of exercise:

  1. stabilizes your mood,
  2. improves blood flow to the brain,
  3. stimulates the growth of new brain cells,
  4. helps you decompress — clear — the mind.

One word of caution. Exercise causes the body to release endorphins — one of the four feel-good hormones — into your body. These hormones can create a level of activity in the brain that keeps some people awake. Because of this, individuals should exercise earlier in the day.

14. Keep feet and hands warm

It is difficult to fall and stay asleep when your hands and feet are cold.

Here are a few things you can try:

1. wear warm socks to bed,

2. take a warm foot bath before you go to bed,

3. use old fashioned hot water bottles,

4. invest in a foot warmer/heating pad

5. wear footed pajamas instead of regular sleepwear, and

 6. for cold hands wear soft warm gloves or hand warmers.

15. Keep a sleep journal

A sleep journal is a great way to keep track about your sleep and  bedtime habits.

It lets you keep track of important information and should include:

1. time you went to bed at night

2. any sleep interruptions during the night, and

3. time you got up in the morning.

16. Stick to a daytime routine

An occassional sleepless night is normal. But how we go through the next day makes a difference.

If you had a night of bad sleep get up in the morning as usual and stick to your daily routine and schedule. For example, don’t cancel an activity in favor of an afternoon nap. Similar, don’t go to bed several hours earlier than your regular bedtime. 

Giving in to your sleepiness during the day does not only mess up your sleep routine, but it actually enforces insomnia.

 

17. Take a warm bath/shower

A hot bath (or shower) 1 – 2 hours before bedtime can be helpful for the following reasons:

1. raises your body temperature, causing you to feel sleepy as your body temperature drops

2. relaxes and soothes aching muscles. If needed, consider adding epsom salt to your bath water to reduce swelling.

3. helps relieve stress when combined with epsom salt and essential oils. Basis recipe: 2 cups epsom salt, up to 20 drops essential oils, 1-2 tbsp. carrier oil. Directions: mix essential oils with carrier oil. Add the mixture to the epsom salt. Let sit for a few minutes. Add to running bath water. Distribute the epsom salt well before getting into tub. Caution: always test a few drops of essential oils on the wrist to test for potential allergies. 

18. Try some natural remedies

Before reaching for over the counter sleep aids, consider trying a natural sleep subblement like melatonin, chamomile, and valerian.

1. melatonin, a hormone, is secreted naturally by the body in reaction to darkness. The hormone is among the best- researched and the benefits of this versatile hormone for the sleep-wake rhythm have long been proven. New studies show that it is also responsible for many other physiological processes in the body

2. chamomile tea is another efficient natural sleep remedy according to this study.

3. valerian root extract is also widely used for inducing sleep and improving sleep quality according to this study.

19. Get a better pillow

Waking up with neck and shoulder pain?

Replace your pillow with one that gives you the support you need for your head, neck, shoulder, and sleep position. 

Gone are the days where pillows were offered as soft, medium, and firm. Today, pillows are offered for any type of sleeper.

Therefore, go ahead and find your perfect fit. It’s worth it.

Tip: unless you stay in one sleep position, consider buying more than one pillow.

20. Get a better mattress

Is your mattress failing you instead of supporting you?

A mattress is designed for supporting the body while asleep. But, if you have a hard time getting comfortable in bed or waking up with more aches and pains, then it’s time to invest in a new mattress.

A few other reasons why you need a new mattress:

1. your body changed — significant weight gain/loss

2. back pain, arthritis, and  co. — what worked before may not work now

3. old mattress — most mattresses are designed to last 10 years. If you can’t remember when you bought the mattress it’s time for a new one

Tip: find a mattress retailed where you can test the mattress of a wek weeks before finalizing the purchase. 

Even More Simple Sleep Hygiene Tips: The Don’t

21. Don’t eat a heavy meal before bedtime

For many people supper/dinner is the heaviest meal of the day. And, while this is not necessarily a problem in itself, the meal can rear its nasty head — uncomfortable feeling, heartburn, and even insomnia — if it is consumed to close to bedtime.  Because of this, most nutritionists recommend about 3 hours (I even go as far as 4 hours for some meals) before bedtime. This allows digestion to occur and for your stomach to move the content into the small intestine.

22. Don’t drink alcohol close to bedtime

Let’s debunk the ‘Nightcap’ myth.

While alcohol can have a sedative effect that relaxes the body and makes falling asleep easier, the effects of alcohol on sleep over the course of a night are a different story — this tiger doesn’t sleep at night. It is more like a firebreathing dragon that altering the sleep cycles. The result is restless sleep and reduced sleep time.

If you do need that that glass of wine, beer, or other alcoholic beverage, try having it with earlier in the evening (4-6 hours before bedtime).

23. Don’t drink caffinated beverages close to bedtime

Can’t get by without that afternoon coffee fix? You’re not alone.

But if caffeine is one of your problems try to put 4 – 6 hours between the last fix and bedtime.

Also, don’t forget, coffee isn’t the only thing to avoid. Caffeine is in tea, sodas, chocolate, and some medications.

The same priciple applies for nicotene.

Both substances act as stimulants and can prevent you from falling asleep.

24. Don’t take afternoon naps

Do you you need a nap to get through the day?

Find contradictory information on the internet?

Even if the information is contradictoray, here is some food for thought.

1. we need a certain amount of sleep during a 24 hour period — no more, no less.

2. Naps decrease our ‘sleep debt’ that is necessary for rejuvinating sleep.

3. Napping during the day also decreases the amount of sleep we need at night. The result is often fragmented sleep.

4. If you do need to take a nap, make it a power nap — 20 to 30 minutes only. Actually, as few as 7 minutes will do. Anything longer can make you feel groggy and iritable.

5. Timing of your nap is also important. With this you have to do some trial and error runs. As a general rule nap before 3 PM.  

25. Don’t take over-the-counter sleeping pils

Over-the-counter sleeping pills are marketed as safe, effective, and non-habit forming. At least so they say. But is this really true.

What you need to know.

There are three classes of medications that are notorious for causing cognitive side effects. 

1. Benzodiazepines: Drugs in this class are generally not recommended for long-term use as a sleep aid because they can impair memory and require higher doses over time to achieve the same effect.

2. Narcotic analgesics like hydrocodone or oxycodone. Drugs in this class are very addictive.

3. Antihistamines – Benadryl (diphenhydramine) as sleep aid. Taking an over-the-counter sleep aid with diphenhydramine once in a while is generally not going to cause problems, other than a possible hangover the next day. However, according to Dan Kaufer, MD, a neurologist and director of the UNC Memory Disorders Program, “Older people can get confused when taking diphenhydramine because it also blocks a brain chemical called acetylcholine, which plays a big role in attention and short-term memory. Taking diphenhydramine over a long period of time can actually predispose people to dementia.”

Play it safe! Talk to your doctor about sleep aids that are right for you. 

26. Don’t take another person’s sleeping pills

Warning! First, it is illegal to take another person’s prescription drugs — including sleeping pills.

Second, each person is different, hence, the prescription you take that is writen for the other person may not give you the desired results. On the contracy, you may end up sleepwalking, sleeptalking, sleepdriving, and, yes, even sleepeating. Other possible side effect include bad dreams, dizziness, headaches, and hallucinations.

Third, the dosage may be wrong. For example, if you take the dosage prescripbed for someone who is muscular or overweight/obese and you only weight half that weight you actually can overdose and end up in the hospital. And, no, splitting a dose does not do the trick as some people assume.

If you need a sleep aid talk to your doctor.

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