Birgit Högl MD
President, World Sleep Society
Dr Högl is Associate Professor and Director of the Sleep Disorders Clinic at the Department of Neurology, at the Medical University of Innsbruck
It is estimated that one in three people have trouble sleeping. While lack of quality sleep is tied to many health ailments, it is important to remember that you can do a lot to help your sleep.
First, simply plan enough time for sleep – it must be a priority. Next, look at the environment that you sleep in; making it dark enough and striving for warm hands and feet at the time of falling asleep can help.
Another, often overlooked, environmental factor is sound and protecting yourself from it. Even low sounds, that may not fully wake you, can disturb the integrity of your sleep.
Why do we need healthy sleep?
It is important to understand that healthy sleep restores and energises you, leaving you feeling wide awake, energetic and lively all day long.
Without healthy sleep, you will likely face consequences such as daytime sleepiness or fatigue, irritability, moodiness, and difficulty focusing and concentrating.
Certain sleep disorders can indicate a risk of future neurodegenerative disease, and need to be diagnosed so you can begin any necessary treatment and/or make appropriate changes to your lifestyle.
These are the reasons why we must care that certain sleep disorders are sometimes unnoticed or not taken seriously. High quality sleep and good sleep integrity reduces rates of diabetes, chronic illnesses and high blood pressure.
How can you achieve healthy sleep?
World Sleep Society has created a list of sleep hygiene habits for healthy sleep. When seeking an optimal night’s sleep, try to:
- Establish regular sleep and wake times.
- Avoid excessive alcohol ingestion four hours before bedtime.
- Do not smoke.
- If you are sensitive to caffeine, avoid it six hours before bedtime
- Avoid heavy, spicy, or sugary foods four hours before bedtime, but also avoid going to sleep hungry.
- Avoid light from smartphones and tablets near bedtime.
- Reserve the bedroom environment for sleep and sex only, avoiding work or study.
- If you do not fall asleep in 20 minutes, leave the bedroom and return to bed when you’re actually tired so your body will begin to associate the bedroom environment for sleep only.
- Exercise regularly, but not too close to bedtime.
- If you have trouble sleeping during the night, do not exceed 30 minutes of daytime sleep or napping.
If you are still unable to sleep well after following these suggestions, consider consulting a sleep specialist.