Sleep Hygiene

Millions of working adults (nearly 1/3 of our population) in the U.S. are getting 6 or less hours of sleep according to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Society accepts a caffeine-fueled, overworked, and technology-obsessed culture.  A history of sleeping problems can have dangerous and fatal effects on your overall health and wellness. I came across a recent article that discussed 7 long term ill effects of sleep deprivation:

  1. Junk food cravings
  2. Skin issues
  3. Memory loss
  4. Sex drive
  5. Heart disease
  6. Brain damage
  7. Death

This past winter I read a New York Times article that addressed sleep, challenging readers to look at their history of sleep patterns.  The author, David K. Randall, explains it is relatively recent that the norm has been to sleep eight hours straight. He cites research done by A. Roger Ekirch, a history professor at Virginia Tech, who had been studying the history of night time when he began to notice references to a sleep cycles which included a first and second sleep, each one lasting four hours.

Photo by Muffet.  Attribution License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/

Photo by Muffet. Attribution License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/

Medical professionals who promote sleep aid products and call for more sleep may unintentionally reinforce the idea that there is something wrong about interrupted sleep cycles. A common result of this is something called “sleep anxiety.”  This is the idea that we should be getting a good night’s sleep but feel we are doing something wrong if we don’t sleep through the night. These worries can result in medicated sleep, which reinforces a cycle that the Harvard psychologist Daniel M. Wegner has called “the ironic processes of mental control.”

Sleep hygiene is something I think is very important.  Promoting healthy sleep includes looking at a person’s bed time routine, tracking sleep patterns, sleep comfort, and how one feels when waking up in the morning.  A list of questions that one can consider are:

  1. Do you sleep better cold or hot?
  2. Is white noise helpful or hurtful?
  3. Do you sleep in a room with a lot of electronics?
  4. Do you have a bed time routine?
  5. Do you try to go to bed at the same time every night?
  6. Do you keep a sleep journal?
  7. Are there other issues that keep you from sleeping?

I would love to talk to you more about your sleep hygiene.  Feel free to contact me for more tips on sleep hygiene!