Sleep hygiene refers to various habits and practices used to promote healthy sleeping patterns. Having healthy sleep patterns help decrease depression. Evaluating sleeping patterns can begin with a few simple questions. Do you wake up refreshed in the morning? Do you sleep soundly throughout the night? Do you experience difficulty falling asleep? A simple self-assessment can be completed to evaluate possible causes for inadequate sleep. There are many steps we can take to improve sleep quality by assessing environmental and lifestyle factors which may be the cause of the interference. By identifying these factors, we can better manage healthy sleep habits. A sleep journal may be a helpful tool to assess current habits as well as to promote the implementation of new healthy behaviors and track progress.
The Science of Sleep
What controls feelings of sleepiness and wakefulness? Circadian Rhythm
A circadian rhythm is an internal clock which controls feelings of sleepiness and wakefulness. This clock is also commonly referred to as the body clock. The circadian rhythm is sensitive to environmental cues such as sunlight and temperature. So, for those of us living in the Pacific Northwest or other areas with limited sunlight it may be already something you are familiar with symptomatically. Winter and fall months are known for minimal sunlight which is often associated with feeling cozy and lethargic, much like a hibernating bear. Summer, on the other hand, rise and shine as the saying goes, our bodies are noticeably more energetic and easier to rise in the morning. The body clock does adapt well to seasonal changes, including that of the long winter nights and long summer days. However, it is important to understand these behavioral changes and how they are directly related to the circadian rhythm which is maintained by exposure to light. The brain responds to the changes in our environment which can play a critical role in sleep patterns, mood, and productivity.1
Let’s explore some simple tips for better sleep hygiene.
Environment: Try to create an environment conducive to sleep. Adjust the light, sound, temperature. Make your space comfortable. It is best to use the bedroom for sleep. A dedicated sleep area will ensure that the brain will subconsciously recognize your bedroom for this activity. This would be comparable to going to the kitchen which is likely to promote thoughts about food. Well the same idea goes for the bedroom and sleep.2
Limit Screen Time: Do the use of electronics right before or while in bed. The introduction of electronics causes the brain to become more alert by attending to the stimulus. The light emitted from cell phones and televisions interfere with the circadian rhythm and keep the brain alert by directing attention to the stimuli. This specific habit is one that many people don’t realize interferes with the brain’s ability to prepare for sleep. We adjust our environment to become dark and low stimulation to serve as a setting for sleep.
Establish a Routine: Try and go to sleep the same time every day. If you find this difficult try creating a reminder or set up an alarm. This will well to create consistency in your night-time routine. Sleep when you are sleepy but avoid taking naps late in the day as this will disrupt your rhythm. Establish a pre-sleep routine to encourage relaxation. This wind-down process is a good time do to self-care activities as well such as reading a book, journaling, or meditating.
Exercise: Come on, we know that exercise is just all-around good for you. Exercise will help burn off that extra energy and by decreasing arousal it will be easier to fall asleep and remain asleep.
Diet: Avoid stimulants like caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol. Be proactive by eating balanced and notorious meals. Minimize sugar intake. If you get cravings try adding in a relaxing late-night drink such as a chamomile tea.3
Sleep quality and quantity are important for both physical and mental health. Be proactive in your health and implement simple lifestyle interventions to improve your sleep hygiene and promote a healthier lifestyle.
Here at Cascade TMS in Portland we talk with you about ways, such as sleep hygiene, to help decrease depression and help improve your mood. Activities such as proper sleep hygiene work along with TMS therapy to help minimize depression and increase happiness. Look for more tips from Cascade TMS in Portland, OR on how to decrease depression here on our blog in the future.
What is Circadian Rhythm / Body Clock? (2014, October 28). Retrieved May 13, 2018, from https://sleep.org/articles/circadian-rhythm-body-clock/
Twelve Simple Tips to Improve Your Sleep. (2007, December 18). Retrieved May 13, 2018, from http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/getting/overcoming/tips
Irish, L. A., Kline, C. E., Gunn, H. E., Buysse, D. J., & Hall, M. H. (2014, October 16). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4400203/