Inspired by a little-known picture book from the pen of Bethany Tudor, this is a diary, of sorts, where I document some of my thoughts, activities, and ideas as I explore the challenges met by the characters in the story: hard work, the care and nurture of others, housekeeping skills, life changes, charity, community, and cooperation, among others. Like Samuel and Samantha, the ducks in the tale, I struggle and succeed, cope and celebrate, work and play, handling the tasks that come my way. I invite you to join me on my journey.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Sleep Hygiene?

I have known for a long time that sleep quality is important to overall health, but I had never before heard sleep behaviors referred to as “sleep hygiene.” Recently, this information came to my mailbox from (see below). Why do I care? Because researchers are seeing a connection between disrupted sleep and an increased risk of blood clots.
Sleep hygiene refers to a list of recommended behaviors and environmental conditions that, when employed singularly or in combination, can improve sleep quality. Research indicates that 70% to 80% of patients with sleep disorders benefit when practicing good sleep hygiene.
Ok. That makes sense. My complexion improves when I practice better skin care, so why wouldn’t my sleep improve when I practice better sleep habits. What exactly should I do to improve my sleep quality? And how does my current sleep hygiene stack up against the do’s and don’ts of sleep habits?
Behaviors to avoid
- consuming caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol too close to bedtime
- watching television right before going to bed
- eating or drinking 2-3 hours before bedtime
- going to bed before you are sleepy
- exercising too close to bedtime
I don’t usually drink coffee or even caffeinated tea before bed; I have never smoked a day in my life; and if I drink alcohol in the evening (which is rare), I usually imbibe during dinner, having a glass of dark red wine or very dark ale/beer like Guinness Stout.

I do watch too much television and almost always in the evening, usually concluding with the news right before bed. According to the guidelines given above, this behavior should definitely be eliminated or adjusted.

Dinner at my house is usually around 6:00 PM; bedtime is usually around 11:00 PM. That gives me at least four hours between food consumption and sleep. I think I am ok on that front.

Going to bed before feeling sleepy? Who does that? Does such a behavior exist in adults over forty? This is not a problem at my house.

Exercising too close to bedtime is also not a problem in my home. Getting enough exercise at any time during the day is the problem I need to address.
Behaviors to adopt
- using your bedroom only for sleep
- exercising regularly, preferably in the morning or early afternoon
- keeping a regular bedtime and waking time, even on the weekends
- creating a relaxing bedtime routine
- practicing relaxation techniques
- creating a comfortable environment that is conducive to sleep
I may fare a little better per this checklist. I do use my bedroom for reading once in a while, but only as part of my bedtime routine. I certainly do not have a television or a computer in my sleeping quarters. Those items were eliminated from the “doze zone” immediately after college.

As previously mentioned, I do not exercise enough during any part of my day; however, when I do exercise, I do so early in the day (usually around 5:00-6:00 AM).

I definitely have a regular waking time. My alarm clock gets me up every morning at 5:00 AM. Turning in at a regular time every night is a bit more challenging, but as long as I accomplish my bedtime routine, I can usually hit the hay on time. Again, that involves turning off the television set; tough to do at times, but not impossible.

I do have a bedtime routine, but I am not sure it is “relaxing.” It occasionally includes some relaxing activities (like yoga or reading a book), but mostly it is populated by morning preparation tasks --- clothes in the washer, clothes in the dryer, dishes out of the sink, etc. I suppose I could work on this a bit.

Relaxation techniques? Sad to say, I do not utilize these to their fullest capacity, usually because I don’t plan well enough to take some down time either at night or during the day. Again, something I need to work on.

As for my environment being conducive to sleep, my bedroom could use some redecorating, although I would guess that is not what the researchers meant by the word “environment.” If it is what they meant, I am more than willing to address this issue. I have some great ideas for new wallpaper, curtains, and bed linen!

So, that’s my assessment. How do your sleep behaviors stack up against the recommendations?

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