Building good sleep habits

Building good sleep habits

Lots of people have trouble getting a good night’s rest, including me. While the causes of sleep troubles are varied, I believe there are some good sleep practices anyone can follow and turn into some good habits for better sleep.

If you are having frequent problems sleeping, please do talk to your doctor. I’m simply sharing my experiences, I’m not a medical expert. Lack of sleep isn’t just an inconvenience, it can seriously affect your quality of life. Like any such stress placed on your body, I believe it can lead to other health problems. The human body is like a chain – you put stress on it, and the weakest link breaks. Learning to lessen stress in your life just makes for a better life.

Beyond having a good bed, here’s what I’ve found works for me. These practices all fall into the category of what those in the medical profession call “sleep hygiene”. Just like “oral hygiene” means brushing and flossing your teeth to help prevent issues, sleep hygiene means undertaking healthy actions to improve your odds for a good night’s sleep.

Warm bath before bed. More than anything else, the warm bath helps me to fall asleep.  While bathing, I keep the lights low, cuing my body that it’s nighttime. I take deep slow breaths, letting go of any stress and worry. I find it relaxes me and raises my body temperature a bit for comfort.

Low lights and no television / computer / other screens 30 minutes before bedtime. This just makes sense to me. Over hundreds of thousands of years, bodies got used to the sun setting and darkness as a sign that it’s time for bed. Enter modern society with television, computer, tablet and mobile phone all glowing with bright light directly into our eyes. I try to avoid screens right before bed, since it’s got to be sending confusing signals to your body.

White noise maker. Some sort of low, steady noise in the room helps mask other noises that may keep you awake. I have a HEPA air filter in my bedroom, which not only makes white noise but keeps the air clean as well.

Notepad and pen on nightstand. It never fails – just as I’m starting to fall asleep I remember something I forgot to do that day. Instead of stressing about it, now I don’t even have to get out of bed – I simply write it down to deal with tomorrow, knowing that paper will remember better than my brain does.

Stretching and yoga poses. If I do wake up during the night and find myself unable to fall back asleep. I’ll crawl out of bed and do some slow, simple stretching and yoga poses. While I’m doing these, I take slow, deep breaths. After about ten minutes,  I crawl back to bed and it often does the trick.

Awhile ago, I did talk with my doctor about the frequent difficulties I had falling and staying asleep. I also felt that upon waking, I often didn’t feel fully refreshed. I ended up going to a sleep clinic, where you sleep in a laboratory disguised as a cheap motel room, hooked up to a machine with a bazillion wires and watched via infrared camera all night long. Afterwards the sleep doctor told me I had Periodic Limb Movement Disorder. It’s not known what causes it, but basically during sleep your legs twitch far more often that most people, resulting in minor disturbances all night long to your sleep. I’m told there’s drugs I can take if it gets too bad, but since these drugs don’t really help cure the condition (they just help with the symptoms), they would be for the rest of my life, and I’m not too keen on that unless really necessary. We did rule out sleep apnea as a problem, for which I am grateful. My point here is that if sleep is a real issue for you, I recommend you do seek out whatever help medical science might have to offer you today. May you sleep well.

Image courtesy goingslo.