Insomnia - Tips: sleep hygiene standards

The set of habits and simple steps can reduce sleeping problems.


Sleep hygiene standards

What perhaps not everyone knows is that there are a few simple steps that, if applied with method and in the correct way, can help, if not even solve the problems that many of us have during sleep.

They are sleep hygiene rules, i.e. the set of habits and behaviour that physiologically, promote good sleep. They are simple tricks that often people do not consider important. They are sceptical about believing that the correct application of these rules can solve, or substantially reduce insomnia problems. In part this happens because, in the common imagination, the rules are perceived to be of little value, banal, historically experienced as useless or negligible limitations. And much more besides. Sometimes information means talk about sleep hygiene rules, but do not explain the underlying science so people are not sufficiently aware of the real value of these rules. But let’s look closely at what it is about.
Sleep hygiene rules are divided into:

  • Environmental rules
  • Dietary rules
  • Behavioural rules

Environmental rules include factors such as light, noise, or unpleasant or painful physical sensations. These factors are stimuli that activate wakefulness systems in the central nervous system, making it difficult to sleep or stay asleep. Correcting your sleep environment will encourage physical and psychological relaxation because the reawakening stimuli will be reduced. It is important then to move objects symbolic of the activity of wakefulness away such as, for example, your computer, smartphone or illuminated desks.

Dietary rules relate to substances that, in the nerve centres, exercise an exciting and therefore awakening activity. Caffeine and theine, protein foods and nicotine are substances with stimulating effects. In particular, cigarette or pipe smoke also have irritant and congesting effects on the respiratory tract and may encourage the emergence of respiratory disorders during sleep with consequent sleep disorders. A sugar-based diet such as starches in rice and pasta, fructose and sucrose, however, facilitate falling and staying sleep by facilitating the absorption of an amino acid, tryptophan, which enters in the synthesis of serotonin, a substance which plays a fundamental role in sleep regulation. On the contrary, protein-rich foods make the absorption of this amino acid more difficult. A particular note relates to alcohol: it is a sedative yes, but very fast acting. This means that it facilitates sleep, but the body quickly the eliminates it and enters a state of hyperexcitability (a sort of abstinence syndrome), a state that causes awakening in the course of the night’s sleep.

Behavioural rules, finally, concern the whole system which is why we all, cyclically, alternate being asleep and being awake over a 24-hour rhythm. It is good to know that our ‘internal’ day would, naturally be for 25 hours (circadian rhythm), a time that has been reduced, marked by socio-conventional rhythm. This ‘reduction’ was possible because our neuro-hormonal internal regulation system can be adapted and lets you be guided by external stimuli, in particular by the alternating light-dark cycle (light from the retina sends impulses to the diencephalon and interferes with the secretion of melatonin). Sticking to habits and regular and constant sleep times is fundamental. If we disorientate our internal clock, the disorder will manifest in insomnia at night and daytime drowsiness. Shift workers are particularly sensitive to this problem, forced to be awake (and sleep) at unusual hours. Certainly, an afternoon nap is permitted (not more than 30 minutes in each case), but be careful about evening naps as they are deleterious to the amount of sleep that we should get at night.

Physical exercise influences sleep by: increasing body temperature, modifying the secretion of melatonin, influencing the level of relaxation and psycho-physical comfort. Regulating body temperature is closely connected with that of the sleep-wake cycle: lowering temperature corresponds to an increased propensity to sleep. Taking physical exercise in the hours preceding bedtime initially causes a temperature increase, which then falls when we go to bed, creating a favourable condition for sleep. The same explanation could be applied to the relationship between a hot bath in the evening and aiding sleep.


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