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Easy and Common Tips for Good Sleep

Jason Malcom, MSW

When you think of healthy habits for a healthy lifestyle, what is the first thing that comes to mind? If you are like most people, things like healthy eating habits, exercise, or avoiding tobacco come to mind first. But what about sleep? More and more research is shedding light on just how important quality sleep is to our everyday lives. According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), poor sleep affects many parts of our health and our lives. People who do not get enough sleep are more likely to have problems with memory, concentration, learning, reasoning, weight, and a variety of serious health and mental health problems. The NSF estimates that about two thirds of older adults suffer from sleep problems.

You’ve probably heard that as we age we need less sleep, right? It turns out that this is a myth; our sleep needs remain pretty constant throughout our adult lives. It is well known and documented that people with MS have difficulty getting quality sleep consistently. From stiffness and rigidity to drowsiness from medications and REM sleep behavior disorder, getting regular and quality sleep for MS can be very difficult. But what about the caregiver for the person with MS? How can he or she get better sleep? Below you will find some tips for good sleep hygiene that anyone can use to help make it more likely that you will get more quality sleep.

Tips for Good Sleep

  1. Stick to a sleep routine/schedule: Go to bed and get up at the same time each day, including weekends. Routine is important; you want to train your mind/body with a good sleep routine.
  2. Create a good sleeping environment: No daytime activities in bed. This means no TV, eating, computer, or telephone. Train yourself to limit your bed-related activities and your mind/body will “think” sleep in bed.
  3. Relaxing ritual before sleep: Reading, taking a bath, listening to music…whatever it is for you, do something comforting and relaxing before sleep.
  4. Avoid stimulants: Generally speaking, you want to avoid caffeine 3-4 hours prior to sleep.
  5. Limit food intake: Avoid large meals or foods that cause indigestion prior to sleep.
  6. Limit liquid intake: Generally avoid too much liquid intake 3-4 hours prior to sleep. This helps avoid having to get up due to nighttime urgency. This includes alcohol.
  7. Bedroom temperature: A cooler room is better for sleeping.
  8. Naps: Try to avoid naps later in the day. Generally speaking, no naps after 3 pm.
  9. Different beds: Though this may not be the most appealing idea at first, you may want to try sleeping in a different bed than your spouse, particularly if your spouse acts out his or her dreams.

Many of these tips for good sleep hygiene take some practice and some “getting used to” before they are helpful. Keep at it; it can take some time to change your routines and habits. After you have given it a try and you are finding that you are still having trouble getting enough quality sleep it may be a good idea to speak with your health care provider.