Develop Pre-Sleep Rituals
A very helpful suggestion while developing good sleep habits is to develop rituals that can be performed or carried out just before going to bed, with the goal of training the mind that these are signals to fall asleep. They may include a light snack, a warm bath, listening to soothing music, saying your prayers or reading a book that is not stimulating. It is important to do the exact same thing each night at bedtime so that it will become a trigger to tell the body it is time to sleep and become part of good sleep habits.
Keep a Regular Schedule for Good Sleep Habits
Go to bed each night at a certain time and get up at the same time every morning. Doing this regularly will train the body to establish a sleep-wake cycle. An individual should stick to the schedule even if waking during the night disrupts sleep. Some people believe they should just “get sleep when they can.” Chronic back pain sufferers fall into this category. That means if the person does not sleep until the wee hours of the morning, they may believe they should sleep in until noon. If that pattern is established, however, it will just further disturb the sleep-wake cycle.
Wake at the same time each morning and get out of bed. It may be necessary to set an alarm until the new schedule becomes part of good sleep habits. Keeping a consistent sleep-wake pattern every day of the week, including week-ends, holidays or days off work is important. This will reinforce the body’s training to sleep at a set time each night and wake up at the designated hour each morning. It is important not to disrupt the sleep-wake cycle for any reason that can be avoided. To stick to good sleep habits, stay on schedule even if it was difficult to fall asleep or if sleep was disturbed during the night. Some people decide to sleep whenever they can get a little sleep. That means if someone does not sleep until the wee hours of the morning, he or she may compensate by sleeping late in the morning. Doing that also becomes a pattern, and then sleep is constantly disrupted, making it even more difficult to get good, refreshing sleep.
Avoid taking naps during the daytime as part of good sleep habits. A bad habit that fosters sleep disruption is sleeping for short times during daylight hours. When one has been unable to sleep through the night, this may seem a good idea. However, it will actually promote a worse situation for the long term because there is no definite sleep cycle established and the body does not know when to sleep or wake, and this is necessary to promote good sleep habits.
Keep a regular daytime schedule to help establish good sleep habits. Wherever possible, try to maintain a set schedule during the day, along with keeping bedtime rituals at night. It is usually easier for someone who is in pain but has a day time job, to stay on schedule. However, an individual who suffers chronic pain and is on disability should also maintain a regular routine during the day. A regular schedule can include having meals at regular intervals throughout the day, pursuing a hobby or doing volunteer work, or even watching particular TV shows at set times. Sticking to a daytime routine and keeping the aforementioned bedtime rituals as well, will help to train the body and brain to follow a good sleep-wake cycle.
Avoid Stimulants for Good Sleep Habits
Stop or limit alcohol, caffeine, nicotine or other stimulants that can cause insomnia as bedtime approaches. For instance, recent research has shown that exceeding 250 mg of caffeine per day interferes with slow wave, deep refreshing sleep. For a person with chronic pain, this can be even more of a problem. That is why caffeine consumption should be greatly restricted or even eliminated, with a rule of no caffeine after twelve noon. Alcohol has also been found to interfere with good sleep habits and should be limited or eliminated as well, at least within four hours of bedtime.
Vigorous exercise or any other strenuous activity should not be undertaken within six hours of bedtime, as part of good sleep habits. Engaging in yoga or other relaxing exercise is fine before bedtime.
Good sleep habits include having a bedroom that is restful and peaceful. The environment in which someone sleeps should be relaxing and pleasant with a comfortable bed and moderate temperatures. Following these ideas will help to maintain good sleep habits and ensure many good nights of restorative sleep.