Just like brushing your teeth is called oral hygiene, techniques to ensure that you get a more restful sleep are called sleep hygiene. Here are tips on how to awaken refreshed, when you want to get up.
1. Depending on the time of day, light can either be the enemy or the friend of sleep. For bedtime hours, make sure you have curtains or drapes covering your bedroom windows, if you are going to bed when it is still light outside. On the other hand, make sure to get some exposure to natural light during non-bedtime hours.
2. Don’t use your bedroom for any other purpose than sleep. Avoid converting a corner of your bedroom into an office area where you do homework, or pay bills, or vote for public health innovations. Your brain is smart enough to continue to associate an area of your home or apartment with those possibly stressful tasks.
3. Establish a regular routine. Try to go to bed at the same hour each time, and get up at the same time. Making a healthy habit depends on consistency over time. Avoid having a completely different weekend than weekday routine, if at all possible. It is hard for your body yo switch from one pattern to another.
4. Taking a siesta after lunch might seem like a pleasurable idea. Although that will take the edge off of your sleepiness, any nap might make it more difficult for you to fall asleep when your head hits the pillow.
5. Avoid ingesting substances that have a negative effect on smooth sleeping. Watch the sugar content in your food. The stimulant effects of both nicotine and caffeine are well established, so it is easy to understand why they do not promote restfulness. My hardest challenge is remembering that chocolate contains significant amounts of caffeine.
However, the stimulant effect of alcohol is not as immediately evident. That is because alcohol seems to enhance the first half of a bedtime, the falling asleep part. Where the difficulty comes up is in the second half of the bedtime. That is when the body begins to metabolize the alcohol, which acts as a stimulant. Thus, you wake up in the middle of the night, without completing your entire sleep cycle.
6. Don’t exercise vigorously right before bed. A better time is the morning or early afternoon. An exception is if you want to practice yoga. The deep breathing and the stretches work well before bedtime.
For additional information, your best source of advice is the National Sleep Foundation. I have found them knowledgeable, and dedicated to sleep hygiene information.