Sleep Hygiene: Behaviors That Promote Sound Sleep
Sleep isn't just "time out" from daily life. It is important for renewing our mental and physical health each day. However, more than 100 million Americans of all ages regularly fail to get a good night's sleep.

At least 84 disorders of sleeping and walking lead to a lowered quality of life and reduced personal health. They endanger public safety by contributing to traffic and industrial accidents. These disorders can lead to problems falling asleep and staying asleep, difficulties staying awake or staying with a regular sleep/wake cycle, sleepwalking, bedwetting, nightmares and other problems that interfere with sleep. Some sleep disorders can be life-threatening.

For most people, falling asleep and staying asleep are parts of a natural process. Good sleepers are likely to have developed certain lifestyle and dietary habits that promote sound sleep. These habits or behaviors, known as sleep hygiene, can have positive effects on sleep before, during and after time spent in bed. Sleep hygiene is mostly a matter of common sense, the following techniques may help you sleep better, on a regular basis.

Certain diets may affect sleep.

Caffeine
Stimulates the brain and interferes with sleep. Coffee, tea, colas, cocoa, chocolate, and some prescription drugs contain caffeine. Although moderate daytime use of caffeine usually does not interfere with sleep at night, heavy or regular use during the day can lead to withdrawal symptoms and sleep problems at night. If you suffer from insomnia, you should not drink more than two caffeinated beverages a day and, you should not have any caffeinated substances after noon.

Nicotine
This is another stimulating drug that interferes with sleep, and nicotine withdrawal can also disrupt sleep throughout the night. Cigarettes, cigars, snuff and some drugs contain substantial quantities of nicotine. Smokers who break the habit, once they overcome the withdrawal effects of the drug, can expect to fall asleep faster and wake up less during the night.

Alcohol
One of the effects of alcohol is a slowing of brain activity. When taken at bedtime, alcohol may help induce sleep at first, but will disrupt sleep later in the night. If you have a "nightcap" before bed, you may fall asleep quickly, but you may have awakenings during the night, nightmares, and suffer early morning headaches. For more sound sleep, you should avoid alcoholic beverages within four to six hours of your bedtime.

Meals
Eating a full meal shortly before bedtime can interfere with the ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. A light snack at bedtime, however, can presumed with carbohydrates like crackers, are especially good as bedtime snacks.


Other factors that may affect sleep.

Environment
A comfortable bed in a dark, cool, quiet room is the best setting for a good night’s sleep. Some people seem to adjust easily to changes in sleep environment, but others (such as insomniacs and the elderly) can be easily disturbed by small changes in sleep surroundings. If you find light a problem, try using blackout curtain or an eye mask. If noise keeps you awake, try using background sound ("white noise") or earplugs.

The Bedroom Clock Can Keep You From Sleeping
The more you focus on what time it is and how much time you have spent "trying to sleep" or how much time you have left til morning the worst you will sleep. Many people have found it is better to set an alarm clock in a dresser drawer across the room. Sleeping without time pressure is much easier than counting the minutes lost or those you have left.

Exercise
Regular exercise helps people sleep better. The benefits of exercise on sleep, however, depend on the time of day you exercise and on your overall fitness level. If you have are physically fit, you should avoid exercising within six hours of your bedtime. Exercise in the morning is not likely to affect your sleep at night, but the same amount of exercise—if done too close to your bedtime—can disrupt your sleep. On the other hand, too little exercise and limited daytime activities can also lead to sleeplessness at night. Boredom during the day (for example, after retirement) seems to be as detrimental to sound sleep as excessive stress. If you have a tendency toward insomnia, exercise and other types of daytime activity may help you sleep better. Consult your healthcare professional before beginning an exercise program.

Things that can be done to sleep better.

Distract Your Mind
Lying in bed frustrated because you cannot fall asleep, and trying harder and harder to fall asleep will never help you sleep. If you have trouble sleeping, try distracting your mind by reading, watching a videotape (not television, because that gives you the time) or listening to do this in bed. Other people find a different room better.

Curtail Time In Bed
Most insomniacs stay in bed longer than they should. This makes sleep much more shallow and interrupted with many awakenings. Many people find that consistently reducing time spent in bed helps them sleep more soundly and causes a more refreshing sleep.

Managing Stress
The stress that stems from common life situations often contributes to sleep problems. If you have trouble sleeping sometimes because of stress you may start to develop certain strategies, like regular napping, excessive use of caffeine, use of alcoholic beverages at bedtime, working at night, or sleeping at irregular times to help you cope with a disturbed sleep schedule. You may have yourself in a cycle of repeated difficulty falling asleep and tension and a fear of sleeplessness can result.

A relaxing activity around bedtime can help relieve tension and encourage sleep. Taking some time to think clearly about your problems and purpose a few solutions can have a positive effect on your sleep quality. Talking with a trusted friend or colleague to "air out" troubling issues also can be helpful. Relaxation exercises, meditation, biofeedback, and hypnosis are sometimes good methods for controlling sleep problems. These techniques should be learned from a psychologist, physician, or other healthcare professional.

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