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Good sleep hygiene includes positive practices, routines and environments for achieving a full night’s sleep and daytime alertness. Often when an individual has trouble sleeping he or she is willing to try anything to remedy late night tossing and turning, here are a few precautions that can be taken in advance to improve sleep.

  1. Avoid Stimulants: Many over-the-counter and prescribed medications can impact sleep cycles. Before starting any new medications check with your doctor to learn about these side effects. Caffeine and nicotine also stimulate the body and hinder the ability to rest. Avoid using such stimulants within 12 hours of bedtime. Alcohol may make it easier for the body to fall asleep; but once it begins to metabolize, the body will be impacted by the “wake-up effect” causing restless sleep and drowsiness the following day.  Avoid alcohol four to six hours before sleep.
  2. Be Cautious with Food: Eat large meals well in advance of bedtime, and avoid any heavy intake four to six hours before sleep. Spicy and sugary foods can also disrupt sleep patterns, so if you are experiencing sleep difficulties try minimizing intake of such foods.
  3. Strengthen Your Internal Clock: The best way to build your internal clock is to wake up at the same time everyday, even on the weekends. Strengthening your internal clock will help your sleep cycle stick to a more regular schedule. Young adults especially struggle with a slower internal clock and should work to program their sleep cycle.
  4. Exercise Daily: Daily exercise increases sleep quality by ensuring your body is in need of rest at night. Your body needs at least two hours to wind down after a workout before being able to sleep soundly, so plan vigorous workouts for the morning, afternoon or early evening. Relaxing exercise, such as yoga, can be done before bed to ensure a restful night’s sleep.
  5. Relax Before Bed: Avoid environments that alert and arouse the body such as bright lights or scary movies. Using a computer before bed also makes it difficult for the body to wind down. Instead, allow the body to relax by taking a warm bath or reading a book.
  6. Avoid Napping: Napping interrupts the body’s internal clock and therefore disrupts your sleep cycle. If experiencing chronic pain it is recommended to rest, not nap, in the late morning or early afternoon then remain active till bedtime. If your body requires a mid-day nap limit daytime sleep to 30 or 40 minutes to ensure you are still able to sleep at night.
  7. Reduce Bedtime Disturbances: Maximize the comfort of your sleeping arrangement by sleeping alone if your sleeping partner is disruptive with movement or snoring, and make sure bedding is optimally comfortable with pillows and blankets. Also reduce all noises and lights outside of the bedroom, which can be distracting when trying to sleep.

While these tactics can often improve sleep, if you find yourself still struggling with restless nights, aching muscles, or daytime drowsiness contact the Columbus Sleep Consultants, by phone at 614-866-8200 or by e-mail at info@columbussleep.com, to learn more about sleep disorders and treatments.