Sleep Hygiene Tips, to Help those with Insomnia

Updated: Nov 18, 2020

We have described in a few earlier posts that, Getting good sleep is important to your health. There are several things that you can do to Promote Good Sleep. Sleep Hygiene is a great place to start to Improve Everyone's Sleep, but particularly for those with Insomnia.


Do you have Insomnia ?

Insomnia is a common sleep disorder that can make it hard to fall asleep, hard to stay asleep, or cause you to wake up too early and not be able to get back to sleep. You may still feel tired when you wake up.

Insomnia generally means you need to step back and re-evaluate something in your life ie how you approach things. I always tell my patients with Insomnia that, Getting to Sleep is a Skill, and you will need to put work in to learn how to master it. That means it starts from the second you wake up, till when you fall asleep that night.


So, What is Sleep Hygiene?

Sleep hygiene is a collection of behaviors that help promote good sleep habits.


"Your Sleep Hygiene Bible"


Maintain a regular sleep routine

  • try to make a consistent sleep time, ie go to bed and wake at the same time each day. Pay attention to Weekends here as they can disturb your pattern.

Turn down Brightness On Devices and use Light to your advantage.

  • Brightness on your Mobile, TV, PC and Laptop all need to come down. Brightness can interfere with the gradual build up of Sleep inducing substances released by your brain throughout the day.

  • Secondly, when you wake in the morning, Go outside and get direct sunlight to correctly set up your Sleep / Wake Patterns.

  • Reduce your total "Screen time", particularly in the 1-2 hours before bed.

  • Add a Blue light filter to your devices or Blue light filter glasses.

Avoid daytime naps

  • Naps decrease the ‘Sleep Debt’ that is necessary for sleep onset.

  • When we take naps, it decreases the amount of sleep that we need at night

  • Especially when you are trying to set up a schedule, avoid napping

Don’t stay in bed awake for more than 10 minutes.

  • If you find your "mind racing", or worrying about not being able to sleep, get out of bed

  • Sit in a chair in the dark. Do your "mind racing" in the chair until you are sleepy, then return to bed. No TV , No phone , No WORK, No internet during these periods!

  • Practise meditation. Use this time as an opportunity to practice controlling "the monkey mind".

Don’t watch TV, use the computer, or read in bed.

  • When you watch TV or read in bed, you associate the bed with wakefulness.

  • The bed is for 2 things only – sleep and sex.

  • You need to train your mind to understand the Bed is for Sleeping.

  • The bright light from your PC, TV, Laptop will disturb your Melatonin Cycle.

Drink caffeinated drinks in the morning only

  • The effects of caffeine may last for several hours so no caffeine after 12.

  • Caffeine can fragment sleep, and cause difficulty initiating sleep.

  • Don't go overboard on caffeine during the day.

Avoid Alcohol, Cigarettes, Sleeping Pills that interfere with Sleep

  • Sleeping Pills such as Benzodiazipines are terrible and should be avoided at all costs. They are addictive and will produce poor quality sleep.

  • DO NOT have a Night Cap. Alcohol fragments your Sleep.

Clean fresh air is nice and soothing

  • An open window can help some people. Make sure you have plenty of fresh air

  • If you want to avoid a draft, use an Air Purifier that removes Allergens and Odors.  

Exercise daily. Exercise promotes sleep.

  • Exercise will help you burn some energy : decreasing arousal as well as symptoms of anxiety and depression which affect sleep.[1]

  • However, Avoid rigorous Exercise before bedtime. Rigorous exercise circulates endorphins into the body which will make it difficult to sleep. After late Basketball games, I found it very difficult to go to sleep. This is a big problem for Professional Athletes as well.

  • to help kickstart your day, some quick exercise or stretching routine is a great way to get the day going and you on track.

Fortify your Room as a Sleep Fortress

  • Make your bedroom a comfortable temperature. Generally, a little cooler is better. Avoid electric blankets.

  • Turn off the TV and reduce other noise that may disrupt sleep. Background ‘white noise’ is OK or a Meditation App that aids sleep.

  • USE EAR PLUGS if you cant control the noise. If your bed partner snores, this could be fragmenting your sleep. Consider having them treated by a Sleep Doctor.

  • If your pets are trouble, keep them outside the bedroom. Door Shut

  • Your bedroom should be dark. Turn off bright lights. USE AN EYE MASK if required.

  • Have a comfortable mattress.

Develop a Pre-Bedtime Routine / Ritual

  • Having a hot bath 1-2 hours before bedtime can be useful, as it will raise your body temperature, causing you to feel sleepy as body temperature drops again. Research shows that sleepiness is associated with a drop in body temperature.

  • Meditation, or quiet time { Sam Harris : Waking Up App }

  • in your WIND DOWN ZONE: Stop Work, , Avoid Arguments, Don't check your phone, or emails.

  • The day is finished, leave it for tomorrow. Learn to detach and unwind.

Use a Sleep Diary, or Sleep App to Improve Your Sleep

  • Sleep apps are a new tool we can use to help those with Insomnia

  • There are many Sleep Apps that can record when you fall asleep, thereby automatically recording when you fall asleep, for how long you slept, if your sleep was disrupted / why and if you snore.

  • its hard for us to look at our sleep especially if we are not happy with it or feel frustrated and tired. An app provides a different observational point to evaluate our sleep and see where we are going wrong, or right.

  • its best to show this information to your Doctor or a Sleep Physician.

Following these Sleep Hygiene recommendations, will help promote good sleep opportunities. You will slowly build an array of tools to combat Insomnia, so that you dont feel helpless. This guide will help you feel more confident in approaching times when you are having difficulty sleeping. If you need more help, talk to your Doctor.


This is not the complete story on how to Treat Insomnia. But, it provides a solid base, to address issues that limit your Sleep. Your Sleep Quality and Quantity is important and both are vital to your health and wellbeing.


References:

1.AMAKline CE. The bidirectional relationship between exercise and sleep: Implications for exercise adherence and sleep improvement. Am J Lifestyle Med. 2014;8(6):375-379.

2.Chehri A, et al. Validation of the Farsi version of the revised Adolescent Sleep Hygiene Scale (ASHSr): a cross-sectional study. BMC Psychiatry. 2017;17(1):408. Published 2017 Dec 28.

3.Storfer-Isser A, etal, Psychometric properties of the Adolescent Sleep Hygiene Scale. J Sleep Res. 2013 Dec;22(6):707-16.