Sleep Hygiene Part II: Coping Strategies to Promote Restful Sleep
As a continuation of our previous blog post, we will now discuss potential coping strategies and healthy sleep habits that will aid in improving the quality of your sleep and promote restfulness and relaxation. It is important to understand that each person has a different temperament, lifestyle, set of stressors, and culmination of habits that may impact their sleep behaviors.
It is expected that different individuals will have different sets of routines and habits that contribute to overall healthy sleep hygiene behaviors. This blog post will list a variety of different coping strategies and healthy habits that we are encouraged to try out and explore- identifying which ones prove to be most effective for us.
Other Factors to Consider
While improving one’s sleep hygiene may have a positive impact on one’s sleep patterns, it may not be the only intervention needed to resolve one’s sleep issues. Often it is important to consider psychiatric factors, such as mood disorders or stress levels due to environmental factors, physical factors, such as chronic pain, and medical issues, such as sleep apnea. One may choose to review and consider additional treatment options for sleep disorders, such as insomnia, and sleep apnea as a supplement to making improvements in one’s sleep hygiene.
Each person has a different temperament and energy level that may ebb and flow throughout the day. Consider how you expend your energy throughout the day. Are you mostly active (standing or moving around, working with your hands, physical labor) throughout the day?
Are you expending emotional or mental energy (responding to emails, talking on the phone, socializing, caregiving, writing, sitting for extended periods of time while holding concentration and focus on a task) for a majority of the day? Consider how your energy is being spent and how your body is active or inactive throughout the day. What is needed to express physical or mental energy that may store up over the course of the day?
Sense of Calm- Sensory Stimulation
Consider ways of tailoring your sleeping environment and engaging in healthy nighttime activities as a way to promote calm through your senses. For sight and smell, consider watching a candle burning while it adds a scent to your room, for smell and touch, consider essential oils, lavender lotions and room sprays that contain warm scents.
For touch, consider keeping a soft blanket or pillow nearby that you can hold onto. For taste, you might consider drinking something warm without any added stimulant or sugar. You may choose to listen to a calming guided meditation to induce sleep, listen to relaxing music or have a sound machine to add background noise.
One may choose to engage in a relaxing activity, such as reading a chapter of a book or a certain number of pages, engaging in a word puzzle or sudoku puzzle, drawing a miniature sketch, such as mandala or zentangle, or writing in a journal.
Stretching and engaging in calming movements may also prepare the body for relaxation. If you are a night showerer, consider the impact this pay has on inducing your sleepiness. If you find that this activity rejuvenates and wakes you up, you might consider switching your showering to the morning if possible.
Paying attention to the level of light in your home, you also may want to dim lights up to 30 minutes before you’re headed into bed in order to cue your body that you are winding down. The darker environment will promote the production of melatonin in your body, a natural sleep-inducing hormone.
Nighttime Routine and Rituals
Consider what it is that you need to do in order to be able to get to bed at the time that you want.
Perhaps your routine consists of washing the dishes, meal prepping for the next day, organizing bags for work or school, making sure your kids are asleep (if you have children), brushing your teeth, washing your face or taking a shower, getting into one’s sleep attire, picking out clothes for the next day, engaging in a relaxing activity (reading a part of a book, stretching, doodling or writing in a journal), listening to calming music, listening to a guided meditation, making sure your pet’s needs are taken care of if necessary, turning out the light and perhaps turning on the sound machine.
If you are making changes to your schedule, make sure to make gradual adjustments so that your body can orient itself appropriately. You may also consider disconnecting from electronic devices prior to getting into bed, so that your body associates your bed with space for sleep and nothing else.
Consider the temperature of your home and the impact that a warmer or cooler temperature has on the quality of your sleep. Each person is different and some may prefer a cooler temperature to sleep in at night, while others may prefer a warmer environment. While 66-70 degrees Fahrenheit is recommended, it is important to consider other factors, such as bedding and the amount of clothing one chooses or chooses not to wear to bed.
Balancing Noise Level
Consider what helps you to sleep at night- is it the sound of the air conditioning that calms you or keeps you up at night? Does everyone in your home go to sleep all at once or do you have roommates with different sleep schedules?
Consider purchasing a sound machine or listening to background noise on youtube as a way to drown out disruptive movements and sounds. You can search for “white noise”, “nature sounds”, “water sounds”, “Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) sounds”, “classical music”, and “oscillating fan”.
Consider committing to a set sleep schedule. Determine what time you would like to fall asleep, let’s say 10:30pm, and what time you would like to wake up, let’s say 6:30am. Identify how long your bedtime routine usually takes. If I know that it takes me 45 minutes to brush my teeth, drink my tea, read a chapter of my book, turn down the bed, etc. then I can plan accordingly.
Determine when you will need to start your bedtime routine in order for you to be in bed and ready for sleep at a consistent time each night. This may require a checklist or adjustments in routines in order to maintain this healthy boundary. Consider what you usually save for the evening in terms of chores, and planning for the next day and adjust as needed to accommodate your new sleep habits.
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