Every one of us knows and believes that sleep is an integral part of our twenty-four cycle of the day. We also believe that it is something that will ensue as soon as we retire to our bed at night. On many occasions, sleep will set in as per our expectations and we get up in the morning to get ready to go to work. However, on some occasions, for known or unknown reasons, we fail to get our expected hours of sleep. When this occurs we either “excuse” our lack of sleep as a stray phenomenon or “grumble” the next day accusing something or somebody.
It is not an uncommon observation that most of us tend to ignore the consequences of the inadequate sleep but we never hesitate to complain about them when we have an opportunity to do so. To some degree people resort to over the counter medications (OTC) or ingestion of alcohol as a means to fight, sleep onset or maintenance difficulties. These strategies might work in the beginning but they ultimately fail to achieve the desire effect, resulting in a visit to a physician for help. On many occasions, we fail to recognize our poor collective habits and practices of everyday living that have been responsible for our problems in sleep.
For example, evening consumption of caffeinated beverages, excessive alcohol and long naps close to the bedtime can adversely affect the quality as well as quantity of out night time sleep. broadly speaking a good quality of sleep will depend upon circadian rhythm of sleep and build-up of propensity of sleep, age related changes in sleep physiology, arousal factors in sleep setting and finally use of recreational drugs like alcohol, nicotine and caffeine. The most widely used caffeine has a half life of 3 to 7 hours and consumption of coffee prior to the bedtime has a significant negative influence on our sleep onset. For better quality of sleep, every one of us can follow some guidelines.
- 1. Keep the bedroom dark, well ventilated, quiet and at a comfortable temperature. Remove the clock from the foot end of the bed. Do not look at the clock at night. A good comfortable mattress and pillow are congenial to a good sleep.
- 2. Avoid unfamiliar sleep environments, use bedtime rituals such as easy reading but never the office chore before shutting off the lights. List problems for the next day and set aside a worry time. Do not keep worrying about the next day while in bed.
Learn simple self-hypnosis if needed and concentrate on pleasant feelings of relaxation.
- 3. Do not try to demand sleep onset, but try to relax as that might lead to sleep.
- 4. Do not eat or drink heavily for 3 hours before bedtime. Avoid too much food and avoid starvation. Keep the head of the bed slightly elevated, especially the ones suffering from gastric reflux.
- 5. Try to take a hot bath to raise body temperature by 2 degrees for 30 minutes within 2 hours before bedtime. A hot drink may help.
- 6. Try to participate in an exercise program for 40 minutes a day that causes sweating and try to avoid exercises at least 6 hours before bedtime. However, avoid strenuous exercises after 6 PM.
- 7. Avoid smoking after 7 PM, preferably give up smoking and do not smoke to get back into sleep. Avoid caffeine if possible, or limit coffee to 3 cups before 10 AM. Since alcohol can fragment sleep during the second half, try to avoid excessive use of alcohol.
- 8. Avoid naps especially close to the bedtime. Since too much time in bed can decrease the quality of sleep, try to restrict the quantity of sleep to average number of hours per night that you have seen beneficial to you.
- 9. Everyone must establish a regular time in and out of bed 7 days a week, avoid exposure to the bright light in the middle of the night and try to get exposed to 30 minutes of sunlight within 30 minutes of getting out of bed.
- 10. Try to delegate some chores such as taking out pets to someone else.
- 11. Finally use bedroom for sleep and sex but not for other activities that will keep you aroused all night.