"To boost the quality of sleep, it's important to get right into bed. The act of getting into one's futon (or bed, depending on your furnishings) is the first step to giving your all the next day."
So says physician Eishu Hai, a 44-year-old native of Nara Prefecture and author of the recently published "Ichiryu no Suimin" (First-class sleep, Diamond-sha, 192 pages, 1,512 yen).
Our busy, distraction-filled lives, it seems, have led to increasingly shorter sleeping hours. A survey by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare found that about 20% of the adult population are not sufficiently rested, with the ratio highest among people in their 40s. Less sleep time can be covered, to some extent, by good-quality sleep, but one likely factor preventing that may be the person with whom one shares the futon.
Once you walk in the door to your domicile, the first thing you want to do is banish all thoughts of work-related problems. Sleep beckons. But to snuggle up in the futon, only to have one's spouse dump on you with matters related to the household budget, or the kids schooling, is a surefire way of missing out on a good night's rest.
If you tell her, "I'm tired, can't we save it for tomorrow morning?" she'll fire back, saying, "You never want to hear about your own family." And after an exchange like that, do you really think you're in for a peaceful night's sleep?
"If you blame lack of sleep on your partner, it's a sure formula for a breakup of the marriage," says Dr Hai. "It's important to manage these matters properly."
The best way to ensure sweet dreams? It may not be easy in a small Japanese residence, but the doctor says partners should repose in separate bedrooms.
"If you tell your partner straight out, 'From tonight, we're going to sleep in separate rooms,' she might take it the wrong way and become angry,'" Dr Hai remarks. "So it's not an easy subject to broach. But in families where both partners are working, the wife is probably tired as well. Raising the subject by saying, 'I can tell you're tired too. What do you say we try sleeping in separate rooms and see if that doesn't help things?' Make it seem like you have her best interests in mind.
"Should separate rooms be impractical, try to find other ways to improve sleep quality, such as by establishing strict rules to be followed, like, 'Brush your teeth well before bedtime' or 'No using a smartphone once in bed' and then further down the list, 'No nagging.' Another rule should be 'Always greet your partner with 'ohayo' (good morning) when you awaken.
"If you learn to manage your home life, things will work better while on the job, too," Dr Hai concludes. "Assuring better quality sleep is a family project."
Even if you can't sleep longer hours, by following these six easy steps, you can improve the quality of your sleep and expect resulting benefits.
- Decide in advance on what time you'll arise from bed.
- Decide on the time you will sleep, and get in bed, even if you're not sleepy.
- If you don't fall asleep within the first 15 minutes, then get up and leave the bedroom.
- When you feel sleepy, get back in bed.
- When it's time to get up, don't lie in bed.
- Stick with the above steps and as your sleep becomes more consistent, work at extending sleeping time.