The first time I mentioned sleep hygiene to my friend she bust up laughing. She thought I was joking. I don’t joke about sleep. Ah, ok maybe sometimes I do but still, this time I wasn’t. Let me explain what sleep hygiene is, why its important and how it can change your world. In high school I didn’t sleep much, I exercised a lot and busied my mind, body and soul with a billion and one things to do. I was rather active. Some might even say really active. Anyways, I slept maybe five or six hours a night but gained energy throughout my day through running and going from one thing to the next.
After my accident, I slept a ton! Especially while I was still in the hospital, that is most of what I did. When I returned home the first few nights I was so exhausted that every chance I could get, I slept. And then it ended. Then I went through sleepless nights. Nights that turned into early mornings waking up at 4am and not falling back asleep and then being overly worn out the next day. It got to a point where I wasn’t really sleeping at all. And yet I kept going day in and out getting more and more exhausted yet not being able to sleep.
Then my doctors mentioned sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene changed my world for the better and still does, when I am going at keeping it in day-to-day practice. Here’s how:
1. Turn off electronic devices 1-2hrs before going to bed.
2. Dim the lights in your room, apartment, home.
3. Go to bed each night around the same time.
4. Set an alarm to wake up each morning around the same time.
5. Aim for 7-8hrs of sleep.
Little by little, sleep hygiene worked. It also helped that I took melatonin (vitamin) to calm my thoughts and help me to sleep better and for longer. It really helps your brain to heal when you get the proper amount of sleep. I know for me, that when I don’t sleep enough, after a while my body shuts down due to mental exhaustion and I physically cannot go any further. Or I will forget words more easily. I’ll struggle with mental fatigue and get many brain blanks and I will lose track of my thoughts quicker.
As a 21 year old, I struggle with this because everyone else can stay up till 3am and sleep till 8 and be fine. Not me. I mean occasionally I can do this, but not every night and not even every week. My body is getting more and more used to 6.5 hrs of sleep but still when I can get 8 I feel so much better. Well at least my brain feels more rested. My struggle is still that I want to be up crossing off the next thing on my to-do list or hang out a little longer with my friends watching movies, talking and going out. Its a struggle and a daily choice. I have now reached that point that my body is tired and needs more sleep, after 8 weeks in the semester. Thank G-d, I have made it this far with not as much sleep as I used to. My brain is healing but I need to continue to tire my body and mind through studying, exercising, and enjoying life so that when I sleep I can sleep the whole night through in a way to help my brain and body to be better for the next day. May sound confusing, all I know is that in Germany I was so exhausted each night when I went to bed that I sleep solid for a few hours and had energy to go the next day. 5 or 6 hours of deep, REM sleep can also be so healing.
If you are interested in learning more about how sleep helps the brain check out this article, by clicking on the link below: