Phoenix Life Coaching


Sleep Hygiene

With today’s busy lifestyles, many of us feel compelled to squeeze more time from a day than it was ever meant to give. To often we choose to trim a little time off one or both ends of our bedtime schedules in a effort to fit everything in. Ironically, the same stress that compels many of us to trim our sleep time increases our need for its recuperative effects. Also, problems getting or staying asleep have become common. In either case, the end result is usually a state of sleep deprivation.

Beyond the unpleasantness of feeling fatigued and muddle headed, sleep deprivation has a more serious side-effect. Recent studies have shown that it mimics the aging process. Feelings of fatigue, reduced reaction times, performance declines, mental dullness, and a general malaise are common symptoms. Although most of these "aging" effects are likely reversible, it is unclear what the long term effects of chronic sleep deprivation are.

Attempts to compensate for the effects of sleep deprivation with caffeine or other stimulants can further detract from restful sleep the next night. Similarly, using relaxants, such as alcohol or medications to induce sleep, can interfere with the natural rhythms of its four stages, further worsening the effects of the deprivation. Getting enough high quality sleep at night is a wise priority for people wanting to get the most from themselves and from life. Practicing good sleep hygiene is a key element of ensuring this. This simply means taking steps to ensure that the conditions are right for a restful night.

Try the following. If after a week or so you are still having trouble getting enough sleep, consult your physician or an alternate health care provider with expertise in sleep disorders.

  1. Avoid all stimulants during the last half of the day. Coffee, tea, chocolate, and tobacco are the usual culprits here.
  2. Avoid heavy meals a few hours before bedtime as a large meal can delay sleep onset. Some find that a light snack before bedtime helps though.
  3. Create a pre-sleep ritual for yourself. Anything that begins to slow your day down, and helps you relax could work. A warm bath two hours before bed, reading, relaxing with an herbal tea, or stretching are often helpful.
  4. Go to bed at the same time each night and awaken at the same time each day. Your body has an internal clock and it responds best to a regular sleep schedule.
  5. Ensure the room you sleep in is quiet. Noise from streets, radios, TV, or neighbors, especially if it is episodic and unpredictable, can make it difficult to get to sleep and can make sleep unrestful. Often the low, constant "white noise" from a fan or untuned radio can help mask street noise.
  6. Ensure the room you sleep in is dark. The body is very sensitive to light and sets it’s internal clocks by it. If you sleep in a room that is bathed in light from streets, you may be playing havoc with your biological clock. Darken your room or wear a sleeping mask.
  7. Don’t "try" to get to sleep, just lay back and let be what will be. Trying to sleep is a major cause of insomnia. Keep clocks out of sight to prevent clock watching.
  8. If you have a poor night’s sleep, get out of bed at your normal time anyway and stay active until your normal sleep time the next evening.

Naps can be very beneficial for most of us. For people who have trouble getting to sleep at night, however, napping can be part of the problem. If you suffer from insomnia, try forgoing naps for a week to see if that makes a difference for you.


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G. Stephen Renfrey, Ph.D






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