Have you ever gone to bed, promising to sleep at 10:00pm, only to stay up the whole night binge-watching your favorite TV series? Or have you taken your school work home, propped up against a pillow, typing into your laptop into the wee hours of the morning?
If you find yourself doing this on a regular basis, all the while complaining of tiredness the next day, then you aren’t practicing good sleep hygiene.
"Sleep hygiene is essential to a good night's sleep," says Dr. Keith Aguilera, head of Comprehensive Sleep Disorders Center at St. Luke's Medical Center. At his talk at the recent "Nurture Life With A Sound Sleep" event with Uratex, the Sleep Specialist, held to celebrate World Sleep Day, the doctor warns that not getting enough sleep will lead to "sleep debt." This type of "debt" is the cumulative effect of not getting enough sleep over a period of time. A large sleep debt will eventually cause mental or physical fatigue.
Dr. Aguilera explains that every human being has a circadian rhythm, which is an internal clock controlled by your hypothalamus that determines your sleeping and waking patterns. Your circadian rhythm establishes your wakefulness and sleepiness throughout the day, and this rhythm changes as you age (like the fact that older people sleep less).
Other external factors like darkness, light, illness, and other disturbances also upset this circadian rhythm. This can be avoided by practicing proper sleep hygiene. Here's how:
Go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day.
And yes, this applies even on weekends, because waking up at the same time every day stabilizes your circadian rhythm. This means that you will begin to feel sleepy and tired at the same time at night, thus normalizing your sleeping patterns. The doctor also encourages to not extending your sleep—just get up and get moving, as extending your sleep will make you feel even more tired later on. So just turn off your snooze button, this time.
Lower your bedroom temperature.
"Part of proper sleep hygiene is to adjust the bedroom environment," says Dr. Aguilera. One way to adjust your bedroom environment is to lower the room temperature, as a drop in body temperature induces sleep. The ideal temperature is a chilly 15 to 19 degrees centigrade. If this is too cool for you, just set your AC to a comfortable temperature that will prevent heat buildup at night.
Keep your sleeping area dark and quiet.
This is another way to adjust your bedroom environment. External disturbances such as noise and bright lights can keep you up and about. The sleep specialist even says that in the days before modern electricity, people in general slept earlier because there wasn't any artificial light. So when it's time to sleep, put the lights out, and turn the TV and radio off.
Banish the blue light.
The blue light emanating from the screens of your mobile phone, tablet, and other devices are notorious for slowing the production of melatonin, which helps you sleep. "There are eyeglasses that cancel out the blue glare from devices, and you can put your phone on a warmer [Night Shift] mode, but it's best to just put those devices away," says Dr. Aguilera.
Use your bed only for sleep.
The bed should be a furniture piece used solely for sleeping, and the doctor encourages you not even to read in bed, or eat on it. "If you wake up in the middle of the night, just get out of bed, and read—and only read a book, not a tablet or phoneâand then when you're sleepy again, just go back to bed," advises Dr. Aguilera.
This story originally appeared on Realliving.com.ph.
* Minor edits have been made by the Candymag.com editors.