Sleep isn't just "time out" from daily life. It is an active state important for renewing our mental and physical health each day. More than 100 million Americans of all ages, however, regularly fail to get a good night's sleep.
At least 84 disorders of sleeping and waking 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 – know 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 guidelines and practices are helpful in promoting healthy sleep:
- Try to sleep only when you are drowsy.
- If you are unable to fall asleep or stay asleep, leave your bedroom and engage in a quiet activity elsewhere. Do not permit yourself to fall asleep outside the bedroom. Return to bed when – and only when – you are sleepy. Repeat this process as often as necessary throughout the night.
- Maintain a regular arise time, even on days off work and on weekends.
- Use your bedroom only for sleep and sex.
- Avoid napping during the daytime. If daytime sleepiness becomes overwhelming, limit naptime to a single nap of less than one hour no later than 3:00 pm.
- Distract your mind. Lying in bed unable to sleep and frustrated needs to be avoided. Try reading or watching a videotape or listening to books on tape. It may be necessary to go into another room to do these.
- Avoid caffeine within four to six hours of bedtime.
- Avoid the use of nicotine close to bedtime or during the night.
- Do not drink alcoholic beverages within four to six hours of bedtime.
- While a light snack before bedtime can help promote sound sleep, avoid large meals.
- Avoid strenuous exercise within six hours of bedtime.
- Minimize light, noise, and extremes in temperature in the bedroom.