Sleep hygiene refers to habits that aid in having a good night’s sleep

Sleeping pills: Do not use these unless prescribed by a doctor for youFour tips to retrain your body and mind:

Obey your body clock

An internal clock within the brain controls your body’s alternation sleep-wake cycle. Most bodily functions are synchronised around this 24 hour physiological clock in your brain. This makes some people say “I’m a night person” or “I’m way more active in the mornings”. Getting a good sleep routine means working with your body clock, not against it. Suggestions include:

  • Set a routine, get up at the same time everyday. This strict routine will help to set your body clock and soon you’ll find yourself sleepy at about the same time every night
  • Do not ignore tiredness. When you are tired, go to bed
  • If you do not feel sleepy do not just lie awake in bed. This will only lead to reinforcement of the bad habit of lying awake in bed.
  • Get up early and expose yourself top early morning sunshine as it has been known to aid in setting your body clock.

Improve your sleeping environment:

Good sleep is more likely, if your bedroom seems restful and comfortable. Suggestions include:

  • Sleep on a mattress that is neither too hard nor  too soft
  • The room must be at the right temperature for you neither too cold nor too warm
  • Ensure that your room is dark enough
  • If you are disturbed by noise such as street dogs or loud neighbours, it’s helpful to invest in a pair of earplugs
  • Use your sleeping space only to sleep. If you use it as an all purpose room; watching TV, chatting with family and friends or even eating there, your body will associate the sleeping space with activity

Avoid Drugs

Some people get frustrated enough to take medications or ‘social drugs’ to aid with sleep. Common drugs are:

  • Cigarettes- Many smokers claim that cigarettes can help them relax and lull them to sleep, however cigarettes contain nicotine which is a known stimulant. Therefore rather than feeling sleepy, your heart rate and blood pressure will increase and you will lay awake for longer.
  • Alcohol: Alcohol is a depressant but that doesn’t help you on the long run. On the short run however, it slows down your nervous system and you may doze off to sleep but on the long run it will interfere with the rhythm of your sleep pattern and you will wake up in the mornings feeling tired.  There are also other disadvantages which are waking up frequently to use the toilet and hangovers.
  • Sleeping pills: Do not use these unless prescribed by a doctor for you. They can cause daytime sleepiness and addiction. Also, it does not address the cause of the sleeping problem.

Relax your mind
Insomnia is often caused by worrying. Suggestions include:

  • If you are constantly worrying while in bed, try assigning yourself worry time well before your sleep time. Once you get into bed remind yourself that you’ve already finished your worrying for the day.
  • Relaxation exercises can help. Try consciously relaxing every part of the body starting from your toes and working up to your scalp. You could also try thinking of restful scenes, concentrating on your rhythmic breathing or focus on a mantra (repeat a verse or a word constantly)
  • You could also try playing soothing music while you sleep.

General suggestions

Other lifestyle adjustments that may help improve your sleep:

  • Do not take afternoon naps or keep them very short to about 20 minutes.
  • Exercise everyday it will make you physically tired, but do not exercise close to bedtime as your body needs time to wind down before sleep
  • Do not engage in mentally stimulating activities close to bedtime.
  • Avoid caffeinated drinks close to bedtime. Warm milk can help you sleep better as it has a sleep enhancing amino acid in it.
  • Have a warm bath before bedtime
  • Turn the bedside alarm clock to the wall, watching the  minutes tick by can make you restless
  • If you do not fall asleep within a reasonable amount of time do not lie awake in bed, go read a book or listen to soothing music and then try getting back to bed.
  • If all of the above tips do not help, seek medical advice.

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