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In contrast to just feeling tired, how likely are you to doze off or fall asleep in the following situations? (Even if you have not done some of these things recently, try to work out how they would have affected you.) Use the following sleep test scale to choose the most appropriate number for each situation:

0 = Would never doze
1 = Slight chance of dozing
2 = Moderate chance of dozing
3 = High chance of dozing

Your Situation:

Sitting and Reading

Watching Television

Sitting inactive in a public place

As a car passenger for 1 hour, no break

Lying down to rest in the afternoon

Sitting and talking to someone

Sitting quietly after lunch without alcohol

In a car stopped in traffic

    

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What is Sleep Hygiene? How Does That Help with My Insomnia?

According to the medical journal The Lancet and as reported by HuffPost Healthy Living, insomnia, despite being trivialized for so long, has become the most common sleep disorder in the U.S.. Nearly 25% of adults are not satisfied with their sleeping patterns and about 10% have insomnia.

We live in a fast paced world and as things get faster and faster, sleep seems to be the first thing to go.  However, insomniacs are twice as likely to have congestive heart failure and five times as likely to suffer from depression or anxiety.(1)

The treatment of insomnia can include cognitive behavioral therapy and hypnosis but good sleep hygiene is a good place to start.

When we talk about sleep hygiene, we are not talking about whether your bed sheets are clean.  We are talking about your sleeping environment and whether it is clean or clear from distractions.  Here are some tips for ensuring that you have good sleep hygiene:

Try Using Your Bed Just for Sleeping

Think of your bed as only a place for sleeping and intimacy. Remove the thought that it’s a place for lounging, reading, or watching television. This will help condition your brain to thinking that it is time to sleep when you get into bed.

Condition your brain in the same way that you would condition a child.  One clear way to get a child to behave in a certain way is to be consistent in the enforcement of the way you want him/her to act.  If you are inconsistent, the toddler will not think that you mean it.  Your brain is the same way.  When you get into bed, it is time for sleeping.

Go to Bed at the Same Time Every Night

Much like conditioning your brain to know that going to bed means going to sleep, you can condition your brain to expect that a specific time of night is bedtime. If you choose 10pm as your bedtime, be consistent and try to always go to bed at 10pm.

Initially, this may mean that you curtail those nights out on the town or watching late night television, at least for a while.  Even if you are one that’s able to fall asleep in front of the television, it is likely that you’re still not getting the quality sleep you need.  People with insomnia may find that even when sleepy, the television will keep them awake.  The brain will never relax if the television is on.

Get Up at the Same Time

Again, consistency and conditioning.  If you allow yourself to sleep in, you will allow yourself to stay up which contradicts your attempt to establish a healthy sleep pattern.  No matter what day it is, no matter what you have planned or have not planned, you should still get up at the same time each morning.

Sleep in a Dark Room

Our bodies are wired to know that sleeping is traditionally done in the dark, at night.  If you have a room that is too bright, your melatonin will not rise to the levels needed to keep you asleep.  If you are a person who has night blindness, a small nightlight in the bathroom should suffice but bright light will prevent you from getting quality sleep.

Keep Your House or Bedroom Cool at Night

Studies show that people sleep more soundly in a slightly cool environment.  The ambient temperature should not be too cold (or too hot), though. When you go to sleep, your brain knows to target a lower set point for body temperature which helps to induce sleep. This is a bonus in the winter as you can simply turn the heat down.  In the summer, you may need to rid your bed of some covers.(2)

Avoid Naps

Some people really enjoy taking a nap but a nap can interfere with your sleep cycle.  It can essentially reset your circadian rhythm where your body thinks bedtime is occurring in the middle of the day and that night time is intended for activity.  If you are having problems with insomnia on a regular basis - try skipping your daily nap.

Avoid Alcohol

Alcohol acts as a sedative for only a few hours.  Any alcohol induced sleep will not be physiologically satisfactory sleep and your insomnia problems will recur. Also, try avoiding sleeping pills and antihistamines if you can because they can also disrupt REM sleep patterns. For example, Benadryl, and over-the-counter antihistamine, acts as a mild sedative for some people but can disrupt the REM sleep cycle thus interrupting normal sleep patterns.

Do Not Exercise Right Before Bed

Many people believe that exercise before bedtime is a good sedative. In fact, exercise increases your heart rate, respiratory rate, blood flow, and body temperature.  None of this will tell your brain it’s time to be quiet.  If you must exercise in the evening, do so, but finish at least an hour before bedtime. This will allow enough time for your body and brain to relax.

The key to sleep hygiene is consistency. Go to bed at the same time in a comfortably cool dark room and get up at the same time each morning. 

 

Donald M. Sesso, D.O.

Dr. Donald M. Sesso, the Director of The Pennsylvania Snoring and Sleep Institute, is the only triple certified snoring doctor in the tri-state area. He specializes in the surgical treatment of obstructive sleep apnea and sinus disorders and is a Board Certified ENT Otolaryngologist in Head and Neck Surgery, Facial Plastic Surgery, and Sleep Medicine.

 

 

(1)Insomnia In The U.S. Is Still A Pressing Public Health Problem, Study Shows, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/20/insomnia-health-problem-study_n_1217093.html, 01/20/12

(2) Can’t Sleep? Adjust the Temperature, http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/features/cant-sleep-adjust-the-temperature