March 14, 2008

Sleep Hygiene: a self-critique

I recently prepared a presentation on sleep apnea and sleep hygiene. I tacked on the bit about sleep hygiene because it's a concept that's quite foreign to me and I wanted to learn more about it. Quite frankly, I suck. I routinely go to sleep around 3 or 4am and I take a nap in the afternoons to try to catch up on my sleep deficits. On days when I can't take a nap, my mind wanders, I yawn a lot, I feel on the edge of nodding off around 3 or 4pm.

Here's some of the basics about it:

  • Areas important to sleep hygiene:
  • Circadian rhythm
  • Aging
  • Stress
  • Common social or recreational drugs like nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol
  1. Adapt your habits
    o Set a bedtime and waking time (no sleeping in more than 2-3 hours on weekends)
    o Avoid napping (if you do, make it short and before 3 pm)
    o Avoid EtOH, caffeine, heavy/spicy/sugary foods 4-6 hours before bedtime
    o Exercise! (but not right before bed)

  2. Adapt your environment
    o Comfortable bed, comfortable temperature, dark room
    o Block distractions (NO TV, NO computer for at least an hour or more before, but radio is OK)
    o Only two S’s for bed
    o Proper positioning

  3. Prepare yourself nightly
    o Light snack (warm milk)
    o Relaxation techniques
    o No worries in bed!
    o Pre-sleep ritual

  4. Problems?
    o If you don’t fall asleep in 20 min, go do something else (like reading) until sleepy (~20 min later)
And here's my self-critique.

My waking time varies every day. Basically, I set it as late as possible so I can sleep in because it's just so hard for me to get up in the morning. I nap around 4-5pm whenever I can, which is usually 2 or 3 times a week. My naps are about 1-2 hours long, depending on what finally rouses me (usually hunger). On the plus side for me, I hardly ever snack late at night (but it's not really a problem for me to go to bed once I'm there. It's more an issue of studying when I feel most mentally alert... it's just unfortunate that it happens to be 10pm onward.

My environment for sleeping is pretty good. I actually sleep on a bed now, which different from the ~20 years of sleeping on a futon at home (the parents' place) One of my S's is lacking... I've pretty much replaced it with another S: studying.

My pre-sleep ritual usually involves brushing my teeth for close to half an hour while I browse blogs on the internet (or on especially good days, I decide to blog!) Perhaps an unwise decision, since the lights from the computer screen and the content of the blogs stimulate me and I decide "oooh, another 15 min wouldn't hurt..." and before I know it, it's 3am and I've got class at 830 tomorrow.

So my sleep hygiene is about as bad as it could be. If I want to start sleeping earlier and reset my circadian rhythm to a more decent hour, I've got to exercise more, stop my midnight blog browsing, and stop studying in bed. I should have a warm glass of soy milk, settle in with a book and read for about 15 minutes before turning in at midnight.

Ha! I wonder if that's even possible to manage, med school and beyond.


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