A good and refreshing night's sleep is important for the healthy functioning of the mind and body. Poor sleep can lead to multiple problems like poor concentration, irritability, difficulties at work, feeling tired all the time etc. In the long run, it can increase the risk of major illnesses like obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and heart problems.
Following proper sleep-hygiene can help reduce problems associated with sleep. These small steps can help improve your health and lifestyle.
- Keep regular timings for sleeping and waking up. Try and stick to this routine on weekends and holidays also.
- Don't roll in bed. If you are not able to fall asleep for more than 15-20 minutes; get up, do an activity which is calming or boring. Then try to sleep again. Don't do anything interesting during this period.
- Avoid caffeinated beverages (cola, tea, coffee), at least 4-6 hours before bedtime. They are stimulating.
- Avoid alcohol and nicotine (cigarettes) at least 4 hours before sleeping. There is a common belief that alcohol helps to fall asleep, however, it affects the quality of the sleep.
- Avoid naps. If you must take a nap, keep it less than 1 hour and before 3 pm.
- Keep a certain order/routine before sleeping. (brush your teeth, take your medicines, prepare your clothes for the next day etc). Following those steps, before bedtime every day will signal your body to prepare to fall asleep.
- Avoid other activities in bed, especially watching TV or playing/surfing on the mobile phone.
- Avoid watching the clock. This happens commonly with people who are having problems sleeping. Watching the clock keeps reminding you of your difficulty falling asleep and in turn keeps you awake.
- Regular exercise, especially in the early morning, can help your body be active and improve sleep quality.
- A warm bath before sleeping helps you relax and fall asleep.
- Keep your daytime routine. Don't avoid daytime activities because of your sleep problems.
Following the above tips should help with a lot of sleep-related problems. However, please remember that disturbed sleep can be a symptom of an underlying mental illness like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder etc. or physical illness like sleep apnea. Persistent sleep problems require evaluation.