Healthful sleep is the key to good health. Multiple research studies have revealed that adults should get between seven and nine hours of sleep every night. Sleep helps our minds and bodies rejuvenate themselves. Without enough natural sleep, it’s easy for all the physiological systems to get out of whack and make us susceptible to infections, colds, flu and a whole host of negative consequences. Experts say the key to proper sleep habits is something called “sleep hygiene,” which refers to the practices and habits that help us sleep regularly and deeply. Here are the essential points to remember about establishing a good sleep hygiene routine:
Go to Bed at the Same Time Every Night
All the sleep experts put this suggestion at the top of their sleep hygiene lists because it is the single most powerful way to get your sleep habits on the right track. Don’t be discouraged if it takes you several weeks to actually fall asleep when you go to bed. In the beginning, the important thing is to adhere to a consistent bedtime and stick with it. Eventually, your body will learn that you retire at that hour and all the physiological systems will fall into place.
Control the Temperature, Sound Level and Amount of Light
Ideal conditions for sleep include a cool temperature. The definition of cool can vary from person to person. Keep sound levels to a minimum and avoid having a radio on while you sleep. Except for a small night light, make the room as dark as possible. Notice that controlling light, sound and temperature is a direct method for calming three of the five bodily senses: sight, hearing and touch.
Put Your Worries Aside and Contemplate Physical Relaxation
Even when all the external conditions are perfect, we need to have a clear mental state in order to go to sleep. Experts say it’s best to avoid thinking about things like work projects, paychecks, family matters, MEC insurance, long-term life goals, home repairs and all the other items that typically occupy the mind. The secret is to simply become aware of the body, from bottom to top, and sense each separate part. Notice how muscles tend to relax as you think of them. Slowly move from the feet, up the ankles and legs, to the mid-section, up the torso to the neck, down each arm into the fingers and then back to the neck and up to the top of the head. This simple, deeply relaxing process of “scanning” the body takes a little practice but can help just about anyone get to sleep in a matter of minutes.
Avoid Taking Naps During the Day
After the age of 50, the body begins to slow down and naps become a pretty common practice. Especially on weekends and days off work, it’s easy to grab an extra hour or two to catch up with a lack of sleep. Avoid this temptation. The first few times you avoid your body’s call for a nap can be a real challenge. Eventually, you will train your body that it needs to get its sleep hours at night, not during the day.