What does it mean to have good sleep hygiene and why is that so important?
Sleep hygiene refers to the quantity and quality of the sleep that you obtain each night. It is important to get an appropriate amount of sleep, making sure it’s not too little or too excessive. Our sleep needs are dynamic and change across different ages and can be impacted by lifestyle and health status. As a general guide, teens need about 8-10 hours a night, young adults and adults need about 7-9 hours, and adults 65+ need about 7-8 hours each night. Having good sleep hygiene is critical to your overall health and can have a significant positive impact on the reduction of high blood pressure, diabetes and other chronic diseases.
What are the most important things I can do to help get a good night’s sleep?
Make sure that your bedroom is completely conducive to sleep. Dark shades, noise reduction and eliminating a bright clock are helpful. Avoid nicotine, alcohol and caffeine a minimum of four hours prior to anticipated bedtime. Try to maintain a regular circadian rhythm and sleep cycle by being consistent with the time that you go to sleep and awaken each day as much as possible. Exercising earlier in the day is better than in the evening. Make sure that you balance your fluid intake to avoid excessive amounts of volume before bedtime which may trigger more trips to the bathroom during the night.
Does it matter if I sleep on my stomach, back or side?
If you do not awaken with pain or soreness, there may be no need to change your sleep position. However, the vast majority of people do sleep on their side which can lead to significant shoulder and neck pain. If you are a side sleeper, make sure that you use a pillow that’s thick enough to support your head and take some of the pressure off your shoulders as well as your neck. In addition, sleeping on your right side can potentially increase problems of heartburn and acid reflux. Those who sleep on their stomach should use a flatter pillow to avoid excessive pressure on the neck and upper back. Sleeping on your back is the best position anatomically speaking, but less than 10% of people actually do so. Sleeping on your back helps to reduce aches, pains and heartburn because it allows the body to rest in a completely neutral position. The downside to sleeping on the back is that it can increase the amount of snoring. Regardless of which position you ultimately sleep in, comfort is the key and if you awaken refreshed and without significant aches or pains, you’re probably in the perfect position!