By Pam Coyle
When I put head to the pillow after the end of a long day, my mind doesn’t always want to sleep. It races, rolls stuff around, argues with itself and generally makes slumber elusive.
I need to work on my sleep hygiene.
“Sleep hygiene” is indeed an official term and includes what are considered best practices when bedding down for the night. Many of them are common sense but sleep experts increasingly agree that the 24/7 nature of today’s technology may rob us of the sleep we need.
So turn it off.
Yup. Everything. Televisions, computers, iPads, smart phones. No Angry Birds or texting or checking work email an hour before you get into bed. The one exception is soothing music, preferably not piped into your head by earbuds.
The National Sleep Foundation conducts its “Sleep in America” survey every year and focused on technology in 2011. It found 95 percent of those surveyed use a television, computer, video game or cell phone at least a few nights a week within the hour before bed. And about two-thirds of Americans say their sleep needs are not being met during the week.
Coincidence? Probably not.
“This study reveals that light-emitting screens are in heavy use within the pivotal hour before sleep,” Dr. Charles Czeisler, of Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said when the study was released. “Invasion of such alerting technologies into the bedroom may contribute to the high proportion of respondents who reported that they routinely get less sleep than they need.”
Other habits get in the way of quality sleep, too. Sleep experts also recommend:
• Avoid napping during the day.
• Keep a set schedule (or as close as possible) for sleeping and waking.
• Avoid stimulants such as caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol too close to bedtime.
• Try a relaxing exercise, like yoga, before bed.
• Stay away from large meals close to bedtime. Chocolate, alas, has caffeine.
• Set a regular relaxing bedtime routine – soothing music, hot bath, herbal tea, etc.
• Associate your bed with sleep in a room that is pleasant and relaxing.
At our house, we don’t have a TV in the bedroom. House rule. Although sleep experts also recommend against reading in bed, I ignore them. If I didn’t read in bed I’d never finish a book.
I do try to “power down” at least 30 minutes before bed so I’m getting there. What helps me is everything off but a reading light and a crossword puzzle – on paper, with a pencil – not a screen.