In our previous post, we discussed the different types of sleep disorders in order to aid those affected identify which one they are dealing with. But it’s not all gloom and doom. Many sleeping disorders can be managed, and overall quality of sleep can be improved.
Granted, some sleep disorders may require a see a doctor, however, there are many others that can be improved without medical help.
So, What To Do?
The first step to overcoming a sleep problem is to identify and carefully track your symptoms and sleep patterns. After this, you should work towards improving your hygiene or practising good sleep habits. Poor sleep hygiene can lead to excessive sleepiness and insomnia. It can also worsen other causes of sleep disorders, resulting in poor sleep quality.
To give it more context, below are some tips that can better your sleep hygiene.
- Maintain a regular bedtime and waking time, even on weekends and vacations.
- Develop a ‘going to bed’ routine. This pre-bedtime routine should include relaxation and soothing activities that prepare your mind and body for sleep.
- Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing.
- Avoid taking long naps during the day. Taking a nap in the late afternoon or early evening can disturb nighttime sleep. If you must nap, limit the nap to 15-20 minutes.
- Avoid alcohol within three to four hours of bedtime as alcohol can interfere with sleep. Alcohol can lead to repeated awakenings during the latter part of the night.
- Caffeine and nicotine can also interfere with sleep, so it is best not to take them close to bedtime. Drinks containing caffeine (coffee, tea and soda) have a long-lasting effect and should be avoided after 2 p.m.
Wait, There’s More!
Some common medicines can cause excessive sleepiness or insomnia. Ask your doctor which medicines to avoid if you are having sleep problems.
- Avoid stimulating activities late in the evening. Strenuous exercise and mental activities can keep you awake. It is okay to exercise after work/school but try to make it at least two hours before bed.
- Avoid electronic screens that emit blue light (computer, tablet, phone, television etc.). These are particularly bad at bedtime — as the blue light suppresses melatonin which is essential for good sleep.
- Get adequate exposure to bright light during the day. Go outside and enjoy the day.
- Lose weight if you are overweight. This may sound unnecessary, but people who are overweight are more likely to develop sleep apnea and people with sleep apnea experience better sleep when they lose weight.
- Eat a balanced diet with regular mealtimes. Avoid heavy meals at bedtime.
Lifestyle and Habits
Worrying can lead to insomnia. Taking out time to plan and schedule your activities for the following day can help ease your worrying and allow you to sleep better.
- Avoid watching TV in bed. Activities in bed should be restricted to those that promote sleep.
- The bedroom environment may also be a cause of sleep disturbance. Although many people feel they fall asleep quickly while watching television, the bright lights may disrupt sleep. Other sources of light such as hallway fixtures or street lamps may have a similar effect. The bedroom should also be kept quiet. If bright light or noise cannot be avoided, earplugs and eye masks may be helpful. The temperature in the bedroom should be comfortable, as well.
Don’t just lie there if you can’t fall asleep. If still awake after 30 minutes, get out of bed and perform a soothing activity in soft lighting (reading, soft music, deep breathing).
All these sleep hygiene tips listed above, when practised regularly can help improve anyone’s quality of sleep. Some disorders may require further medical management if symptoms do not improve after implementing good sleep hygiene practices. In cases where a sleep disorder is a direct result of a medical problem such as depression or hormonal imbalance, treating the medical problem can help improve quality of sleep.