Monday, August 1, 2011

Good Sleep Habits & Hygiene 101

Now before we talk about good sleep hygiene, we need to talk about religion. And you don't have to be religious to appreciate the relevancy. Most belief systems do NOT believe that religion IS the faith. Faith is the actual personal connection a believer has with their deity. The religion is the body of rituals that humans do to help guide our faith (not replace it) or to provide a conduit for transendance to take place as a manifestation of our faith. For instance, prayer to Allah, the God of Moses, or Jesus is NOT faith.... but it is a ritual communication that leaves one open to experiencing a deeper connection/faithfulness. Now, I realize that is a big introduction for a blog entry about sleep. But what is true for one aspect of our lives is often true for other aspects of our lives and our health as human beings as well.

What I'm trying to argue is that we are beings of ritual; the importance of this fact, that we often neglect as busy people.

We seek ritual and our comforted by it. It is ingrained in us to seek it out in our daily routines, the way we approach our faith, and what we try to do with our loved ones as a mean to express our affection, even though it doesn't replace that affection.

So there are habits which can help sleep but really, most of the these habits should also be a constellation of habits at night before bed to create a sleep ritual... which is not a replacement of sleep, but acts as a conduit psychologically to prepare us for a better night's sleep.And study after study support the truth that the pre-bedtime ritual, if done... "religiously," WORKS WELL.

Keep a diary of your ritual and sleep schedule. See if you don't notice a difference after one month.

1. Regular nighttime pre-bedtime ritual to promote good sleep:
--Take the television out of you bedroom. Do not watch television, use your ipad or computer 45 minutes before bedtime. Block other sources of excessive light as well.
--Turn the lights low (but not so low that you strain your eyes), and have a comfortable chair available in another room to sit in. Read a bit of the following before bed: 1 short story from a book of short stories, or 1 magazine article, or 1 newspaper article... but do not read a fantastic novel in your bed.
--Have your sheets washed in a fragrant detergent, such as one that smells like lavender that will help you associate that smell with bedtime each night.
--Turn your clock around when you get into bed so you don't let your eyes linger on the time as a source of frustration if you are taking a few minutes loner to fall asleep
--When you first start laying there to fall asleep, practice deep, slow breathing for about 3 to 4 minutes.
--Finally, only get into bed when you are sleepy. If you are not sleepy, then get back out of bed and do something (non-stimulating) until you are tired again.

2. Keep a regular sleep and wake schedule each night, including weekends when possible.

3. Exercise 30 minutes 3 times a week at least. It reduces stress which inhibits the ability to fall asleep. It improves circulation and oxygenation to the brain to help promote sleep. Now, some say you should avoid it 2 hours before bed because it can be stimulating. While this is true for most people, I cannot argue that this is universally true and for some people it tires them out in a way that helps them fall asleep actually, so this is something you'll have to find out for yourself. BUT I do believe you should be exercising (at least taking some walking laps around your block for 30 minutes each day to every other day) to find out.

4. Do not take naps during the day. Taking a nap during the day and then difficulty sleeping at night, is analogous to having a snack before dinner and then wondering why you're appetite is ruined. If you DO take a nap in the afternoon. It should be a "power nap" only, no more than 30 minutes.

5. Use your bed only for sleep and intimacy with your partner. If you associate your bed with your "home office" or "craft table," then you will be less likely to associate it subconsciously with sleep.

6. Clean your room. A bedroom that is clean reduces the feeling of things being "out of order," reducing a subconscious stress.

7. Do not drink alcohol as a sleep aid. When alcohol wears off, it actually causes rebound stimulation, waking you up at 2 to 4 am usually and making it difficult to fall back to sleep at that time.

8. Don't drink caffeine (tea/colas/coffee/even "decaf" coffee) after 2pm. Some people are extra sensitive to caffeine and it's effects can last 8 hours or more in those people.

9. Turn down your thermostat and shave off a layer of sheet. Those who sleep in a room that is hotter-than-normal slept LESS well than those who slept in a slightly cooler room. A temperature of 70 to 71 degrees is better than 75 to 76 degrees as a sleep-promoting temperature.

10. Be sure to look up the side effects of each one of your medications to make sure you're taking the medications at the right time of day. For instance, HCTZ, a common antihypertensive medication should always be taken in the morning because it can cause a person to urinate frequently during the night. Some antidepressants such as Effexor have mild stimulating effects and should be taken in the morning as well. If you are not sure after looking them up, write them down and quickly ask your doctor.

11. Keep track of later water intake. Even if your bladder can hold the extra water, sometimes a full bladder will subconsciously make your sleep more fitful in the early morning hours before you finally awaken for the day.

12. An hour before bed, write down your "To Do List" on a sheet of paper, so you don't have to worry about forgetting something important. Once you make the list, you can realize that there's nothing that can be done about the list that night, and that the list will be there for you in the morning... after your good night's rest.

13. Avoid spicy or heavy food before bed. They can increase symptoms of reflux more than others. And avoid excessively sugary food as well. It can cause abrupt changes in blood sugar that stimulate the mind. Some foods as a light snack may help promote sleep, such as foods higher in tryptophan:
Baked potatoes with their skin, Bananas, Beans, Cheddar, Cottage Cheese , Eggs, Fish, Gruyere (a type of Swiss cheese), Hazelnuts, Heated milk, Hummus, Lentils, Kelp, Meat (including red meats), Peanuts, Rice, Roasted Pumpkin Seeds, Sesame Seeds, Shellfish, Soy Milk, Soybean Nuts, Sunflower Seeds, Tofu, Tuna, Turkey,Yogurt
Now, that being said, a high-calorie snack habit will eventually be bad for your sleep if it causes you to gain weight and worsen apnea over time.