8 Simple steps for good sleep hygiene

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This blog post was written by Pooja Shah, PsyD. 

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Sleep is extremely important for physical and psychological health. Sleep plays a greater role than most of us realize. Poor sleep hygiene can lead to difficulty with focusing, concentrating, anxiety, stress, agitation, irritability, exhaustion and poor physical health.

Follow these simple steps to create good sleep hygiene.

1.  Make an effort to go to sleep every night and wake up every morning at the same time. You should do this despite how you slept or the time you fell asleep. The human body needs consistency in its cycle. The more inconsistent we are the more confused it becomes.

2.  Create a routine around bedtime (ie: brushing teeth, taking a warm bath, stretching, etc.).  By having a routine, your body knows what to expect and naturally begins to adjust it self.

3.  Avoid eating a heavy meal close to bedtime, if you feel hungry eat a light snack or drink milk. Many foods can lead to difficulties with indigestion and bloating. These feelings of discomfort can lead to difficulty falling asleep, repeated waking during sleep or even nightmares.

4.  Avoid caffeine in the late afternoon or evening. Caffeine impacts the body for an extended period of time, even though you may not feel like the caffeine is still energizing you, the body may still be processing it and therefore is still impacted by it.

5.  Avoid alcohol and caffeine before bedtime. A common misperception is that alcohol helps with sleep. In fact just the opposite is true. Although excessive alcohol use may lead to sleep, the sleep will be short and there may be repeated waking. Often the use of alcohol or sleeping pills to aid in sleep can also lead to dependence and increased tolerance.

6.  Engage in relaxing activities prior to bedtime. Watching television is more activating than it is relaxing. Meditation, guided imagery, stretching and a warm bath are all relaxing activities.

7.  Take time to address any unresolved issues from the day and schedule and plan out your activities and goals for the following day. Often the reason you may toss and turn at night is due to unresolved issues from the day or stress related to tasks for the following day.

8.  Avoid napping during the day. Although it may feel like you need a nap to get you through, the napping is what will lead to a cycle of poor sleep hygiene. There are other activities you can do through out the day to re-energize yourself such as: exercise, take a brisk walk, wash your face, etc.