Sleep Hygiene Part I

Sleep hygiene is about the habits you can get into and the things you can do to help ensure that at bedtime you are able to fall asleep and stay asleep.

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There really is such a thing as sleep hygieneThe Harvard Medical School Guide to a Good Night's Sleep (Harvard Medical School Guides) and once you understand what it means, you likely will find that the quality of your sleep is greatly improved. Personal hygiene is all about the things you can do to keep your body clean and smelling good. Dental hygiene involves all the things you can do to keep your teeth healthy and strong and situated firmly in your mouth where they belong.

Sleep hygiene therefore, is about the habits you can get into and the things you can do to help ensure that when it's time for you to go to bed, you are able to fall asleep and stay asleep. What follows is a list of ways you can improve your sleep hygiene so that you can get the most out of your sleeping time.

Establish set times for sleeping and for waking

Having a regular bed time was important when you were a child and it is still important as an adult. Unfortunately we adults lead busy lives and getting to sleep at the same time every night can be difficult. It's a bit easier to wake at set times because our jobs or our schooling force us to wake even when we don't want to. But, when there's a day off, we treat ourselves by sleeping in later than normal whenever possible. Without a set time for sleeping and for waking it is difficult to train your body for sleep. Without proper training, adequate sleep night after night is difficult.

Learn to relax your body

If you just change into your pajamas and climb into bed, your body might not be ready for sleep, especially if you just completed an activity that engages your mind and body such as exercising, watching television or even eating. If you don't first relax, you'll find it takes longer to fall asleep even though you may feel exhausted. In fact, studies have shown that watching TV or playing on the computer stimulates portions of the brain in ways that can interfere with falling asleep.

To further help train the body into settling down to sleep, it's important to learn to relax before bedtime. About an hour before you plan to go to bed, start calming your body. Yoga and meditationOpening to Meditation: A Gentle, Guided Approach (Book & CD) are perfect ways you can take your mind and body into a relaxed state.

Other ways to bring about a relaxed state are by learning how to deep breathe. When you are busy concentrating on your breathing, the body automatically begins to relax. Progressive relaxationNew Directions in Progressive Relaxation Training: A Guidebook for Helping Professionals is a technique in which you start relaxing one part of your body and you continue relaxing different parts until you have covered the major parts from head to toe. When you are finished, you go back over your body in your mind. If any part of the body still feels tense, focus on that part until you can get it to feel relaxed.

If that's too much effort, try this relaxation technique. Flex and release your toes over and over again. This type of intense focusing on your toes can actually help to relax the entire rest of your body!

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Sleep Hygiene Part I
Page Updated 4:27 PM Thursday 2/12/2015