A few years back, sleep researchers used slight sound disturbances to see what happens when folks try to sleep through low-level noises. The sounds they use are sort of like sleeping in a slightly noisy room…imagine when you leave the TV on low…forget the sirens and the garbage trucks.
People in the experiment still spent the same amount of time sleeping, but they, what a surprise, experienced what the researchers called ‘impaired functioning of the brain’. Showing that even when you get enough sleep, if you can improve the quality of your sleep, things like learning and memory are improved. Cool, huh
I said in my last blog that this one would be about sleep hygiene…and by that I don’t mean how clean your sheets are. Read on, and I will give you seven tips on how to sleep better, and why.
What you do before bed, the level of noise in your house and the amount of light where you sleep all matter. In fact, most problems with sleep either boil down to, or are made worse by, that ugly phrase ‘poor sleep hygiene’. Sleep Hygiene is the combination of what you do before bed, and the what’s around you before you go to sleep…
Remember, quality sleep requires calming the brain, while being uncomfortable activates the brains stress response. If your bedroom is too cold or too hot, too bright, noisy, or smelly (now we can talk about your sheets), your sleep can be disrupted and you won’t even know it. Here are a few Sleep Hygiene tips to improve the quality of your sleep:
Sleep for eight hours straight. Most people need 8 hours of sleep. In general, the older you are the less the sleep you need. The important thing is to sleep in one continuous block (seven hours plus a one hour nap is not the same)
Use your bedroom for sleeping. Don’t do work in the bed or in your bedroom. Don’t surf the Internet. Don’t watch television. If you use your bedroom only for sleeping, your brain associates your bed with sleep, inducing sleepiness.
Create a routine for getting ready to sleep. Do it every night… a ritual to distance yourself from your crazy day. Your brain in particular needs to wind down, so if you’re flying around all day at 70 miles an hour and then crashing into bed, you may have difficulty falling asleep or getting quality sleep.
No caffeine near bedtime Even if you could fall asleep while caffeinated, caffeine disrupts proper sleep architecture and reduces sleep quality… so no green tea, coffee, black tea, Lipton tea, or Redbull within a few hours asleep…ever.
Don’t eat a large meal less than three hours before bedtime. Indigestion can interfere with sleep and acid reflux is more common once horizontal.
Don’t use alcohol as a regular sleep aid. Beer or glass of wine can help you fall asleep faster, but it disrupts your sleep architecture, so your night’s not as restful.
Make physical activity a regular part of your life. Exercise improves sleeping by reducing stress, decreasing REM sleep, and inducing numerous neuro-chemical changes.
Now, back to that ugly word, sleep hygiene… Studies show that just knowing about sleep hygiene improves sleep hygiene practices, in turn improving the quality of sleep.
So just by reading this blog you’re already heading on to the right track!
Frank Hopkins is a certified Professional Coach (CPC) and certified by the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC). He is a certified Master Practitioner (ELI-MP) of the iPEC proprietary assessment tool, the Energy Leadership Index and offers seminars on Energy Leadership. He maintains memberships in the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and the Institute of Coaching (ICPA).