Once, the son of a rich businessman went to his guru for advice. He was not able to sleep. The guru told him to visit the ashram the next day. The son did as instructed. The guru made him work since morning. Cut the wood, clean the garden, fill water etc. This went on until about 5:30 pm. The guru then asked him to wash his hands and legs. They had a short conversation. The guru told him to rest comfortably in a room. Without his awareness, he fell asleep.
I thought I must have an article dedicated to sleep hygiene. This can act as a checklist. If you are unable to sleep peacefully refer to this list and check where you are going wrong.
These should be practiced by everyone irrespective of your sleep condition.
Hygiene to be followed during the day
Get Moderately tired:
Earlier people were able to sleep easily as they were tired.
Those who don’t do any physical activity find it difficult to sleep. Similarly, those who are extremely exhausted are unable to sleep either. They become restless. It is important to be moderately tired.
Exercise often and enough
Exercise at least for 20 to 30 minutes during the day. Preferably in the morning. Then exercise whenever you get a chance. Even if it is for just one minute. These little moves take you a long way.
Avoid these food items afternoon
- Cold drinks have a lot of caffeine which is a very strong stimulant.
- Sugar makes you heavy in the beginning but later spikes your energy levels. This increased energy hinders sleep if taken in the evenings or nights.
- Tea and coffee are stimulants. Tes should be taken 6 hours and coffee 12 hours before sleeping.
Detachment Your sleep is greatly dependent on your ability to detach. I have discussed this in detail in the article on detachment.
Sleep Hygiene to be followed in the evenings and nights
Avoid Gadgets: Life has become very fast. Till the last minute of the day, people are on gadgets – mobiles, laptops, tablets. The blue light from these screens is harmful. It prevents the secretion of a chemical called melatonin which is essential for sleep. Close all the gadgets one hour before going to bed. If it’s just not possible then at least half an hour before going to bed.
Avoid TV: Switch off the television at least one hour before going to bed. Apart from the blue light, TV shows can be harmful. Especially the ones which create excitement. What is going to happen in the next episode? When there is excitement your brain does not relax.
Avoid tea, coffee, sugar, cold drinks, chocolates: These are all stimulants.
Read a descriptive book: Book on self-development and spirituality induce sleep.
Reading thrillers are again harmful as they create excitement just like TV shows.
Light: Sleeping pattern of people who sleep in a totally dark room is very good.
Set the alarm: Some people don’t turn off the light to see the clock. You don’t need to see it. Keep the room dark and If you wake up at night don’t see the clock. Wake up when the alarm rings.
In villages where there is no light people sleep early and wake up very early.
Fix your sleep time: When the sleep time fluctuates the brain can’t get the right message. So, have a fixed time to sleep.
Place: Have a fixed place to sleep if possible. This helps give the right message to the brain.
Routine: Have a fixed routine for your evenings and nights. Reach home, freshen up, spend time with kids, have dinner with family, read, relax and meditate. People have dinner in front of the TV and then go straight to bed. This is not good.
Clean room: An uncluttered neat and clean room also helps in sleeping better.
Room temperature: Research shows that people sleep better when the temperature is around 20°C – 22°C. Some people are used to sleeping only in acs. However, maintaining a room temperature is not always possible. What helps in such situations is the ability to detach.
Early dinner: Have dinner at least 1.5 to 2 hours before going to bed: You need to give some time to your food to digest.
Light dinner: Food should be light and not cause gas. For example heavy protein. If you take a lot of protein in dinner it causes a lot of gas which disturbs sleep.
There is a good amount of complex carbohydrate in your dinner. Eat food which gives you sustained energy.
Light walk post dinner: There is a saying ‘after lunch, lie for a while and after dinner walk a mile’. A light walk or simple exercises or stretches is very good.
Self-analysis and meditatation: Reflect on how the day went. What was good and what was bad. Learn your lessons and then detach yourself from the senses and the world outside. Meditation is a must before going to bed.
It is important to have a routine.
Myths about sleep
Sugar at night helps sleep. It may help you feel drowsy for a while but then wakes you up and makes you alert.
Alcohol helps you to sleep better. It is found that alcohol helps you sleep faster but the quality of sleep is not good as it disturbs the REM phase of sleep. The closer the consumption of alcohol before bedtime the worse the effect. It is best to not consume it.
These if practiced can really help your sleep quality, reduce your sleep time and improve your life. In the next articles, we will look at a few other techniques which can help you improve your sleep quality further.