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Sleep Hygiene

Good sleep hygiene for a better night’s sleep

Sleep only as much as you need to feel rested during the day. Oversleeping leaves you feeling un-refreshed and ‘sluggish’ the next day. You will also have difficulty falling asleep the next night as oversleeping re-sets your natural biological clock.

Keep a regular sleep schedule by going to bed and getting up at the same time during weekdays and weekends. This will help develop a regular sleep-wake rhythm. Avoid napping during the day.

You cannot make yourself fall asleep, so don’t try and force it as this will cause anxiety that will keep you awake. Set your alarm clock for the time you want to get up. If you can’t sleep don’t be tempted to look at the clock as this will cause an emotional reaction. You will worry that it is either earlier or later than you thought.

Increase light exposure during the day but make sure the bedroom is as dark as it can be at night. Blackout blinds can help.

Try to minimise unwanted noise such as traffic, aeroplanes and a snoring partner. Buy some ear plugs. They won’t block all environmental noise but they should dull it enough for you to sleep. If you have a snoring partner seek some professional help.

Keep your bedroom at a temperature that is comfortable for you. The ideal temperature is between 16 and 18 degrees. If you are too hot, wear loose cotton clothing. If you are too cold wear bed socks.

Don’t over eat before bed as indigestion can be painful and keep you awake. Avoid alcohol and drinks that contain caffeine for at least 4 hours before bed. Although alcohol will make you drop off quite quickly, it will disturb your sleep after a couple of hours causing you to wake frequently during the night and un-refreshed in the morning.. Caffeine is a stimulant and will prevent you from going to sleep. Similarly, tobacco is a stimulant and also addictive. Smokers tend to wake several times during the night with cigarette ‘cravings’.

Exercise regularly during the day, and at least 6 hours before bed. Exercise increases metabolism and core body temperature. This is undesirable before sleep because the normal fall of core body temperature during the evening promotes sleep. It has been shown that insomniacs do not decrease their metabolism or core body temperature as much as normal sleepers do.

Anxiety and depression can prevent you from sleeping well. Try to make a conscious effort to think and talk about your worries and concerns during the day.

Avoid sleeping pills and medications as they will not be effective in the long-term. Many drugs carry serious risks of dependency, tolerance and rebound insomnia.

Try relaxation and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) that incorporates a multimodal approach combining a number of behavioural interventions with cognitive therapy.