What is sleep hygiene?08.04.21
Dr. Param Jit Singh
Don’t you think it is an odd combination of words - sleep and hygiene?
There are many synonyms for the word hygiene, but the popular and well-known ones are cleanliness, sanitation and disinfection.
So, sleep hygiene is about taking all the steps you need to remove the clutter in your life which might be affecting the right amount and quality of sleep you should get.
In simple terms it is about doing things which help and not doing the things which interfere. This is what is known as working on sleep hygiene.
There is an Irish proverb which is feel is very apt, ‘A good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures for anything’.
The way I look at it, there are 3 steps for improving your sleep, a kind of ABC of Sleep.
- A) Mental effort- Look at the way you think.
- B) Daily effort- Look at the routine you have.
- C) Environmental effort- Look at the environment you have to see if it is conducive to sleep.
The most important and the hardest thing to change is your mental approach to improving your sleep. One of the first things to get affected if you are not feeling mentally well is your sleep. Stress, conflict, worry, anxiety and depression all affect your sleep.
You are closing your eyes hoping to fall asleep, but your mind gets stuck in a loop going over and over the same things and never letting go.
The problem is that mentally you are not going to bed alone, instead you are taking the whole world with you. You can’t seem to switch your mind off, it races from one thought to the next, sometimes thinking about past misfortunes and then worry about what the future holds for you.
Night has fallen but the mind is still struggling with the day. It keeps jumping from one thing to the other and not letting you slip into slumber
This is where practicing- letting go, being here and now, meditation, mindfulness, looking at things objectively during the day than taking them to bed would help.
If you’re still struggling, in your mind go the places you love, go where you always wanted to go and sit there, close your eyes and let yourself go. It is a practice, perhaps hard in the beginning but becomes a routine once you practice it often.
Routines are the things which you should do which are good and help to improve your sleep and also the things you shouldn’t which are destroying your sleep.
Developing a good routine will help such as going to bed at the same time, getting up around the same time, not taking a nap during the day, or taking a very short one (no more than 10-15 minutes long) would help.
Not exercising during the last couple hours before bedtime, being active during the day but winding down before bedtime, eating at least 2 hours before going to bed, and avoiding a large meal in the evening, avoiding drinking excessive tea and coffee from late afternoon onwards, no bedtime nightcaps and keeping alcohol drinking within the recommended amount are conducive to good sleep.
Listening to music, reading a book to wind down, switching the TV/phone off at least an hour before going to bed, getting up and doing something if you haven’t fallen asleep in the first 30 minutes or so are useful things make a habit of.
The list is as long as you want to make it but do what works for you.
Reducing the environmental impact which can interfere with your sleep.
Having a peaceful, comfortable, dark sleep environment and a good clean mattress will certainly help. Heavy blinds or curtains to keep the sunlight away goes a long way to help sleep particularly during the summer months. Switch off everything which can stop the room getting dark and using a dimmer switch if need to get up in the night.
The room temperature should be what is comfortable for you - not too cold and not too hot.
Dalai Lama says,” Sleep is the best meditation” and I am sure it will be worth your while to work on it seriously.
About the Author: Dr. Param Jit Singh
"I am a retired medical doctor who worked as a General Practitioner in England for over 40 years. My practise has always been to pass on the best advice to my patients that will improve their wellbeing, often in a written format so they can keep and refer back to it.
Sometimes this advice is based on previous medical experiences but it can also come from medical books, current government approved medical guidelines and protocols or as advice articulated by other doctors.
I do not claim that every line of this article is my original work but it is put together here by me in this format so that it is concise, easier to understand and follow and can help you improve your knowledge and wellbeing too."