As a busy medical student, it can be really easy to wave off the importance of sleep and decide that you will sacrifice a couple hours of sleep at night to stay up late studying. After studying sleep disorders, I self-diagnosed myself with Advanced Sleep Phase Disorder, which is a Circadian Rhythm disorder that includes falling asleep before the desired bed time and waking up extremely early. The mainstay of treatment for such a condition is to practice good sleep hygiene, which is often the recommendation for most sleep disorders. Although many of them may seem like common sense, reading through them made me realize I follow few, if any, of the suggestions for practicing good sleep habits. I thought I would list some of the highlighted recommendations here, because sometimes just seeing them written down on paper can make one more conscientious and apt to making changes in his/her lifestyle:
- Exercise daily, preferably in the morning, and not in the evening too close to bed.
- Use the bed only for sleep – no reading, watching TV, using a laptop, or other activities.
- Keep the bedroom dark, quiet and set to a comfortable temperature for sleep.
- Go to bed only when sleepy, and get out of bed if unable to sleep.
- Avoid naps during the day (this one I am having a hard time with as I have taken daily naps for years).
- Avoid stimulants (caffeine, nicotine) for several hours before bedtime.
- Avoid alcohol at bedtime.
So, take some time to assess how good your sleep hygiene is, and see if you can identify places where you can make changes to optimize your slumber to wake up to a more productive day! Happy sleeping!