How can I improve sleep hygiene

Sleep hygiene

1. The most important things in a nutshell

Many diseases are associated with sleep disorders and influence one another. Sleep disorders can also develop into an independent clinical picture. Observing what is known as sleep hygiene can be helpful here. This means certain habits that promote healthy sleep.

2. Insomnia

If the quality, duration or restfulness of sleep is permanently disturbed, one speaks of a sleep disorder (= insomnia). It can severely impair your ability to concentrate and perform during the day. A sleep disorder often arises in connection with an illness (e.g. depression, respiratory and lung diseases or illness-related pain), but can also be caused by living conditions (e.g. shift work, caffeine, stress, sleeping environment).

In addition to treating the underlying disease, behavioral therapeutic measures in the form of so-called sleep hygiene can also be helpful to improve sleep. Drug treatment with sleeping pills should only be carried out in exceptional cases, in consultation with the attending physician.

3. Sleep hygiene

The following tips can help with sleep disorders to develop a healthy sleep rhythm:

  • Regular getting up and going to bed: The times should deviate by a maximum of 30 minutes in order to support the biological rhythm. A regular time to get up (also on weekends or on vacation) is important, as it forms the "anchor point" of the biorhythm.
  • No naps during the day: This can lead to problems falling asleep and staying asleep at night. If you don't want to miss out on a short nap, you should definitely not do it after 3 p.m. and end it again after 20 minutes with an alarm clock. In addition, the nap should always take place at the same time.
  • Reduce bedtime: Don't lie in bed longer than the average number of hours you slept per night in the last week. Too long lying in bed contributes to the maintenance of the sleep disorder.
  • Do not drink alcohol 3 hours before bed: Alcohol makes it easier to fall asleep, but it seriously affects the quality of sleep and often leads to problems sleeping through the night, especially in the second half of the night. Even small amounts worsen the restfulness of sleep. Therefore, one should not drink alcohol more than once or twice a week in the evening - if possible with enough space (about an hour per glass) before going to bed.
  • No coffee 4-8 hours before bed: The sleep-damaging effects of coffee and other caffeinated beverages such as green tea and cola can last for 8-14 hours. It would be best to avoid caffeine for 4 weeks and then consume no more than 3 cups of coffee a day and only before 10 a.m.
  • Do not smoke after 7 p.m.: Nicotine has a similar negative effect on sleep as caffeine. In particular, the interaction between nicotine and alcohol has a sleep-disturbing effect. In the long term, the impaired lung function as a result of smoking also affects sleep.
  • Do not eat and / or drink large amounts 3 hours before bed: A full stomach or a full bladder can disrupt sleep. A small snack before bed (e.g. milk with honey, a banana) can be helpful: Foods such as milk, bananas and chocolate contain L-tryptophan, which plays a role in sleep regulation in the brain. In particular, foods that are difficult to digest are to be avoided, e.g. raw vegetables and whole grain products.
  • No physical overexertion after 6 p.m.: Like coffee and nicotine, intense physical activity stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for activity and stress. It takes several hours for this activity to subside.
  • Regular exercise: Exercising regularly can improve sleep, especially when people with sleep disorders have little or no exercise.
  • Sleep-promoting environment: If possible, use the bedroom only for sleeping, not as a study or TV room. In addition, it should have the right temperature (not too warm, 16-18 degrees are recommended) and be dark and quiet.
  • "Buffer zone" between everyday life and sleep: There should be a period of recovery 2 hours before bedtime. If you don't let go of the next day's tasks, worries, work, arguments or brooding, it is often helpful to write them down in a diary and "put them down" in good time in the evening, for example.
  • Regular bedtime ritual: A series of regular actions, always carried out in the same sequence (e.g. checking whether the front door is locked, switching off lights in other rooms, changing clothes for the night, turning off the heating, brushing teeth) can help to prepare the body for bedtime in advance. Your bedtime ritual shouldn't last longer than 30 minutes.
  • Don't eat at night: Eating regularly at night quickly leads to the fact that the body wakes up on its own at night because it expects to be "fed".
  • No bright light when getting up at night: Bright light acts as a "wake-up" and is able to adjust the "inner clocks". Hence, it should be avoided at bedtime.
  • Do not look at the clock at night: Looking at the clock usually triggers corresponding mental ("3 o'clock: I can forget the night again") and physical reactions (tension, excitement). Turn the alarm clock so that it cannot be seen.
  • 30 min. Daylight in the morning: Daylight in the morning (even in bad weather) helps to stabilize the sleep-wake rhythm and at the same time has a mood-enhancing effect.

4. Who can help?

The German Society for Sleep Research and Sleep Medicine (DGSM) offers a lot of information on the subject of sleep and sleep disorders and maintains an address list with sleep laboratories and self-help groups:

5. Related links

Asthma> Recommended behavior

Chronic Pain> Family and Everyday Life

Dementia> dealing with the disease

Depression> General

Fatigue - Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Alcohol addiction - alcoholism

Migraines> General

Neurodermatitis> General

Kidney Diseases> General

Parkinson's> General

Tinnitus> General