Sleep hygiene: learn to create a routine throughout the day to sleep well – 05/05/2022 – Mental Health

The term sleep hygiene has become popular on social media. The main idea is to eliminate from the routine all habits that get in the way of falling asleep.

But, contrary to what one might imagine at first, the practice is not limited to behaviors that should only be taken at night, just before going to bed.

Neuroscientist Andrei Mayer, professor at the Department of Physiological Sciences at UFSC (Federal University of Santa Catarina) and presenter of the podcast Blame it on the brain, explains that sleep hygiene is a set of behaviors that we should have throughout the day. that facilitates our ability to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night.

This re-education includes some attitudes, such as exposing yourself more to natural light — a very important and not widespread strategy, according to Mayer —, avoiding drinking coffee after 3 pm and having dinner two hours before bed.

Sleepless nights have a short-term and long-term impact. “Sleep is a process that impacts practically all the functions of our body and our brain. So everything a person has to do during the day will be affected by the duration and quality of sleep they had the night before and also has had in recent years. If a person has to study, take care of their children, train, maintain a diet, deal with people, in short, everything will depend on how they slept”, he says.

Some of the immediate symptoms, that is, the day after a night of insomnia, are difficulty concentrating — an attention deficit disorder similar to that of a person with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), Mayer points out — depressed mood, bad mood, anxiety and lack of motivation for any activity that requires physical or mental effort.

“There’s a whole chemical change that happens in the body when we sleep poorly that makes us want to eat more. And that’s not all, we tend to choose foods in a different way, giving preference to ultra-processed foods, rich in sugar and in fat. Another symptom is that we tend to lose our ability to control ourselves, become more impulsive, more aggressive, more impatient and this naturally affects our social life”, he observes.

“In the long term, poor quality sleep can predispose a person to chronic diseases such as diabetes, metabolic disorders, some types of cancer and Alzheimer’s”, he points out.

The neuroscientist lists below the habits that are part of sleep hygiene and clarifies each one.

Exposure to natural light
It is very important to get plenty of natural light during the day, especially in the morning, close to waking up, and also in the late afternoon, close to sunset. At night, it is recommended to avoid artificial light as much as possible. Just by doing this, you can feel a big impact on the quality of sleep,” says Mayer.

The neuroscientist explains that exposure to light affects our biological clock, which will influence the time we wake up and go to sleep.

“In the brain of each of us there is a clock that is marking the passage of time and affecting the activity of various areas of the organ. This consequently affects our mood, our motivation, our attention, our level of alertness. It turns out that this biological clock is very affected by light. So it is very important that we expose ourselves to natural light close to waking up time to signal this biological clock that the day has begun”, he observes.

“Exposure to natural light also in the late afternoon is interesting, as it is a way for this clock to know that the day is ending”, says Mayer.

Avoiding artificial light at night is important so that the brain does not understand that it is still day and deregulate the biological clock.

“By putting this routine into practice, in a few days the person will start to feel a good difference in the quality of sleep. And they will also start to feel a lot of sleep at about the same time, which is very good. the system is regulated and this is a factor that will help the person to be able to sleep more easily and have a better quality sleep”, he says.

caffeine consumption
To sleep well, you need to keep an eye on your caffeine consumption — present in coffee, chocolate and some teas and soft drinks — throughout the day. This is because the substance takes hours to be eliminated from our body.

“It takes about 5 to 7 hours for us to eliminate half of the caffeine consumed. For example, if I drink a cup of coffee that has 100 milligrams of caffeine at 3 pm, when it’s around 8 pm I’ll still have half that caffeine in my body, around 50 milligrams, which is a lot”, calculates Mayer.

The recommendation for those who are going through a phase with a lot of difficulty sleeping, says the neuroscientist, is to completely remove coffee and other caffeinated foods from the routine. But those who prefer to keep consumption, the ideal is to avoid ingestion after 15 pm.

afternoon nap
The famous after-lunch nap has several benefits, such as increasing focus and productivity throughout the day, improving learning, and lowering stress levels.

However, it is good to control the duration and time that the nap will be taken.

“A very long nap, longer than an hour, can reduce your sleep at night. And if that nap is too late, it will take away some of what we call sleep pressure, which is that force that makes us feel sleepy at night,” he notes.

For Mayer, a good nap should last 10 to 20 minutes and should not be taken after 3 pm. “But if the person has difficulty sleeping at night, the recommendation is not to take a nap at all. Here the same rule applies to caffeine”, she emphasizes.

Physical exercises
Practicing physical activities has numerous benefits for physical and mental health. One is to regulate and improve sleep.

“There are studies that show that exercising regularly increases the stability of deep sleep, which is one of the stages of sleep that we depend on to wake up in a good mood in the morning”, says the neuroscientist. “Those people who have difficulty staying asleep or who are a very light sleeper, wake up very easily, will benefit greatly from exercise.”

On the other hand, it is important to be careful with the timing of physical exercise. “It’s an activity that releases chemical signals that increase our alertness and make us more active and willing. So the recommendation is to avoid any physical activity, from intense to moderate, up to an hour and a half before bed. The earlier it is practiced, the better”, he says.

Dinner time
You also need to be aware of the time of the last big meal of the day.

“Digestion and absorption of food consume a lot of energy and move blood from our body to our digestive system. It turns out that, during sleep, our brain also needs to increase blood flow”, explains Mayer.

“While we sleep, our brain is kind of washed, just like a washing machine. Blood flow increases, cerebrospinal fluid flow increases. So, if at the same time, the body is digesting food, it will harm the processes that need to happen during sleep”, he adds.

The recommendation is that the last meal happens up to two hours before bed.

escape the screens
Control the urge to check social media before bed. In addition to artificial light, which should be avoided at this time, following news, memes and messages on the cell phone makes us more agitated and anxious.

“The ideal is to avoid artificial light as much as possible and the excessive use of screens, such as television and cell phones. This is one of the biggest challenges for people today. Everything that generates stress, anxiety and excitement inhibits sleep, and in this little package you can include some habits, like watching a series or playing video games”, reinforces Mayer.

The recommended thing is to get away from these electronic devices two hours before bed.

relaxation routine
Create a nightly routine to prepare for bed with activities that promote relaxation.

“If a person is going to sleep at 10pm, for example, they should have dinner between 7pm and 8pm, respecting the two-hour margin before going to bed. So from 8pm to 10pm, they should slow down”, says Mayer.

“Turn off the strongest lights and leave only the weakest and most indirect lights on. You can create a romantic atmosphere with the lighting more towards the shade of red and orange, as if it were lit by candlelight”, he suggests.

Taking a hot shower and reading a book (as long as it doesn’t have an anxiety-inducing story) are also good tips to include in your evening relaxation activities.

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About Jenni Smith

She's our PC girl, so anything is up to her. She is also responsible for the videos of Play Crazy Game, as well as giving a leg in the news.

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