Sleep hygiene

What is Sleep Hygiene?

Sleep hygiene is a way to help a person to have a more restful sleep, which can make you more alert in the day. Many people with chronic pain have trouble falling asleep and thus do not get enough rest at night. This can cause them to feel very tired during the day and have difficulty concentrating on work. When sleep is poor, pain can feel worse as well.

How to have Good Sleep Hygiene?

  1. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day. Try not to let these times differ too much. Your body gets used to falling asleep and waking up at a fixed time everyday. (Even on weekends or holidays.)
  2. Avoid taking naps during the day. If you must take a nap, keep it within 30-45 minutes. Try not to nap in the evening.
  3. Avoid alcohol, caffeine, heavy, spicy or sugary foods 4-6 hours before bedtime. Alcohol is found in wine and beer.  As the alcohol levels in your blood fall after a few hours, it can create a stimulant or wake up effect. Likewise, caffeine (found in coffee, teas, and chocolates), spice and sugar also stimulate the body system and makes sleeping difficult.
  4. Regular exercise. Especially if done earlier in the day, can help you sleep more easily and more soundly. However, heavy exercise in the late afternoons and evenings can make falling asleep more difficult.
  5. Keep your room quiet, dark, well ventilated and at a comfortable temperature. Block out all distracting noise and light. A room that is too hot or too cold can keep you awake. A cool environment is often the most conducive environment for sleeping.
  6. The bed is for sleep, only. Do not use the bed as an office table or a game room. Your body needs to know that the bed is only associated with sleeping.
  7. Establish a pre-sleep habit. This includes things like a warm bath, light snack or a few minutes of reading before going to sleep. These habits will get your body ready for rest/sleep.
  8. Do not go to bed unless you are sleepy. If you are not sleepy at bedtime, try reading a book, listen to soft music or find something relaxing to take your mind off worries about sleep.
  9. Practice relaxation techniques before bed. Deep breathing, muscle relaxation and others help to relax both your mind and your body. This helps to reduce any anxiety or muscle tension that keeps you awake in bed.
  10. If you are not asleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed. Read, have a light snack, do some relaxing activity or take a bath. Do not perform office work or housework. Do not watch television, as it is a very engaging medium that keeps people up. Listening to the radio helps most people and you will find that you can get back to sleep after that.
  11. Clock watching.  If you cannot sleep, do not keep checking the time on your clock or watch.  This will make you more anxious and makes it harder to fall asleep.  Different people need different amount of sleep, when you keep looking and the clock and worry you will not have the full 8 hours of sleep, it will make it worse.
  12. Pain.  Before your bedtime, do take any medicine that your doctor gave you to help with sleep, and/ or do any stretches and light exercises that are helpful to reduce muscle tensions and pain.  This can make falling asleep easier.