Difficulty sleeping is familiar to people of all ages, from adolescents to the elderly. Many people struggle to sleep and as we age, these struggles become all the more common. However, we don't always have to be victim of a poor night's sleep. Proper sleep hygiene not only enhances your quality of sleep but also affects your work activity, psychological strain and self-control.
What is Sleep Hygiene?
Sleep hygiene is a term that describes practices for better sleep. Proper sleep hygiene not only enhances your quality of sleep but also affects your level of alertness while awake. Practicing proper sleep hygiene by making simple changes in your day-to-day routine can lead to significant benefits in your sleep, alertness, and overall performance.
What your Doing Wrong
According to psychology professor, William Moorcroft, research has shown that there are many choices an individual makes while awake in order to sleep better at night. As outlined in his book Understanding Sleep and Dreaming the suggestions are as follows:
1. Do not attempt to go to bed until you feel sleepy. Attempting to force yourself to sleep just becomes more stressful instead of relaxing.
2. Do not look at the time once you are in bed. This will also only add more stress.
3. If you have difficulty going to sleep, it is best to get up and return to bed when you are sleepy. Sleep is a conditioned response. If you associate your bed with sleepiness, you are more likely to fall asleep when you go to bed.
4. Try to maintain consistency in the time you awaken and go to bed everyday. This includes weekends and days you are on vacation. Regular sleep and wake times will help maintain a consistent circadian clock while irregular sleep patterns can disrupt your circadian clock and cause difficulty waking up and going to sleep.
5. Use your bed only for sleep. Do not use electronics, watch shows, read, etc. in bed. The bed should only be associated with sleep.
6. Do not nap for extended times during the day. If you are to take a nap, try to nap no later than mid-afternoon and limit the nap to 20 minutes.
7. Allow approximately one hour to relax and unwind before going to sleep. Some examples of relaxing before sleep can include taking a shower or reading (not in your bed).
8. Try not to exercise a few hours before you plan to go to sleep. Exercise is helpful for sleep only if it is done sometime between morning and early evening.
9. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and smoking a few hours before you plan to sleep. Even though some individuals claim alcohol helps them sleep, it actually fragments your sleep.
Proof that Poor Sleep Hygiene Influences Your Work
Larissa Barber from Northern Illinois University along with Matthew Grawitch and David Munz from Saint Luis University conducted a sleep-hygiene study on 328 working individuals. For the span of one month, participants completed questionnaires that evaluated their sleep hygiene, self-control capacity, psychological strain, and work engagement. The study found that poor sleep hygiene was associated with increased psychological strain, less engagement at work, and lower levels of self-control. Individuals with poor sleep hygiene had a significantly lower self-control capacity which meant that they were more likely to demonstrate poor interpersonal skills, poor coping mechanisms, and less self-discipline.
Therefore, better sleep leads to better performance. Just a few changes to our daily routine can have a significant influence on our sleep and our behavior.
Barber, L., Grawitch, M. J., & Munz, D. C. (2013). Are Better Sleepers More Engaged
Workers? A Self-regulatory Approach to Sleep Hygiene and Work Engagement. Stress & Health: Journal Of The International Society For The Investigation Of Stress, 29(4), 307-316. doi:10.1002/smi.2468
Moorcroft, William H. "The Body During Sleep." Understanding Sleep and Dreaming.
2nd ed. Boston, Mass: Springer, 2005. 130-31.