Likely, you've had times when sleep has been elusive or absent altogether. The loss of even a few hours of sleep, let alone a whole night, can significantly effect our day-to-day functioning, sense of well-being, and ability to cope with details in our lives.
Sleeping difficulties show up in different ways for different people. Perhaps it's challenging for you to fall asleep, or you may wake up at different times throughout the night. Both of these experiences can leave one feeling drained, unable to cope, and frustrated. Telltale signs of sleeping difficulties include feeling less able to focus during the day, frequent headaches, irritability, daytime fatigue, waking up earlier than you would like to, waking up several times during the night, or taking one or more hours to fall asleep.
Sleep hygiene is doing what you can to create an environment where negative effects of sleep difficulties are reduced, or removed altogether. Here are a few ideas to try:
Dim the lights
According to research at ScienceDaily, there is a connection between the intensity of electrical light one is exposed to before bedtime and how much melatonin the body produces. Melatonin helps the body to know when it is time to sleep.
Nap like a cat
A short nap of 20-30 minutes can recharge your batteries and help to improve mood, alertness, motivation, and performance. Experts at the Mayo Clinic say to limit naps to 30 minutes to prevent challenges in getting a full night of sleep.
Develop a sleep schedule
Go to bed and get up at the same time every day. On weekends, try to limit differences in your weekday sleep schedule to no more than one hour. Being consistent reinforces your body's sleep-wake cycle. Find out about sleep needs.
Set the scene for a great night of sleep
Critical components of an environment that promotes a full night of sleep include:
Darkness (darker is better, think bat cave)
Make a routine and stick to it
Create your own consistent nightly routine. Your body will learn to recognize your approaching bedtime. Treat yourself to a warm shower or bath, do some light stretching, grab a favourite book, skip the late night news.
Don't try too hard
If you get into bed and cannot fall asleep within 20-30 minutes, get up and go to different room or space. Do something relaxing, like reading a book or listening to music. When you start to feel drowsy, return to your sleeping room and try to sleep again.
It's important to be aware of on-going sleeping difficulties and consulting with your physician or other healthcare professionals for support.