What is sleep hygiene?
Sleep hygiene is the term used to describe good sleep habits, and paying attention to sleep hygiene is one of the most straightforward ways to set yourself up for better sleep. Considerable research has developed a set of guidelines and tips designed to enhance good sleeping, and there is much evidence to suggest that these strategies can provide long-term solutions to sleep difficulties.
Every sleeper can tailor their sleep hygiene practices to suit their needs. In the process, you can harness positive habits to make it easier to sleep soundly throughout the night and wake up well-rested.
How does sleep Hygiene help?
A healthy night’s sleep can be imperative for both physical and mental health and improves productivity and overall quality of life. Everyone, no matter their age, can benefit from better sleep, and sleep hygiene plays a key part in reaching that goal.
Research has shown that forming good habits is central to maintaining your health. Creating sustainable and beneficial routines can automate healthy behaviors; it can make that habit so second nature you don’t even think about it as you do it anymore, and thankfully, humans have an impressive ability to make our habits serve our long-term interests.
Sleep hygiene factors in environment and habits and can pave the way for higher-quality sleep and overall health. Improving sleep hygiene requires a small effort on your part with no risk and tackles serious problems of insufficient sleep and insomnia in America.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than a third of Americans don’t get the recommended amount of sleep needed for overall health and well-being, most likely due to poor sleep hygiene.
What are some signs of poor sleep hygiene?
When you climb into bed at night, does it take forever to fall asleep, or are you out like a light the minute your head hits the pillow, only to wake up at two in the morning tossing and turning?
One of the most obvious signs of poor sleep hygiene includes trouble falling asleep, disrupted sleep, and feeling fatigued and foggy throughout the day. Sleep deprivation leads to slow reflexes, sabotages decision-making, and saps creativity. Another recent study also showed that insufficient sleep could lead to anxiety and depression. The study linked sleep deprivation to problems diverting our attention away from negative thoughts and ideas, which put us at great risk for mental health instability.
What are some good sleep hygiene practices?
Good sleep hygiene is all about setting yourself up with the best possible conditions to sleep well each night. Some tips can help you achieve your good sleep goals and habits. Remember they’re tips and not rules, and the parameters for what might help each person may look different.
Set your sleep schedule.
Get regular. One of the best ways to train your body to sleep well is to go to bed and get up at around the same time every day, including weekends and days off! A consistent rhythm will make you feel better and give your body a schedule to work from. Having a set schedule helps normalize sleep as an essential part of your day and gets your brain and body accustomed to getting the full amount of sleep that you need.
Make your sleep a priority!
It can be tempting to skip sleep to work, study, socialize, exercise, or do other things. However, it’s vital to treat sleep as a priority. One easy way to help you increase it as a priority is to set a target bedtime based on your fixed wake-up time and do your best to be ready for bed each night.
Allow yourself time to adjust.
Sleep isn’t always an easy thing to adjust and can take time, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your habits won’t form in a day either. So make gradual adjustments, don’t try to do it all in one fell swoop because it can throw your existing schedule out of whack. To make these gradual steps start small by moving your new time up by an hour or two until you get to the desired time you wish to be in bed and adjust to the new sleep schedule.
Don’t overdo it with naps!
Naps can indeed be a handy way to regain energy during the day, but they can throw off your schedule. To avoid this, keep naps relatively short and limited to the early afternoon. We recommend napping for only twenty minutes to maximize the benefits of a nap.
Follow a Nightly Routine!
Follow the same routine each night because how you prepare for bed can determine how easily you can fall asleep. Habits that we associate with bedtime can help reinforce the mind that it’s bedtime. These things include putting pajamas on, brushing your teeth, washing your face, and making simple habits you do before bed to associate with sleeping.
Wind down before bed.
Before your bedtime routine, allow some time for yourself to wind down. We recommend 30 minutes, but this time can vary for everyone. Take advantage of things that calm you, such as soft music, reading, or some light stretching. Dimming your lights is a big one that can help your mind wind down for bedtime, as bright lights can hinder the production of melatonin, a hormone the body creates to facilitate sleep.
Having said that, it’s important to unplug electronics. We recommend building in a 30-60 minute device-free pre-bed buffer time. Cell phones, tablets, laptops, and televisions cause mental stimulation that is hard to shut off and generates blue light that can decrease melatonin production.
Test Different Methods!
Testing different methods of relaxation may also increase your sleep hygiene. It can be difficult to lay down and think only about falling asleep instead, try focusing on relaxation methods such as meditation, mindfulness, or paced breathing. There are many methods, so be experimental and find the one that works best for you!
Don’t toss and turn!
I know easier said than done, but it helps to have a healthy mental connection between being in bed and actually sleeping. So if you cannot lull into sleep after about 20 minutes, get up and stretch, read, or do something calming in low light before falling asleep again. In other words, don’t try and force sleep. Only try to sleep if you feel tired enough to sleep and can do so within 20 minutes.
Incorporate positive daily routines
Bedtime routines are not the sole solution to getting good sleep. Incorporating positive daily routines can support your circadian rhythm and limit sleep disruptions. To enforce positive daily routines, consider adding these things to your daily life.
Soak up some sun; light, especially sunlight, is one of the key drivers in your sleep rhythms that can encourage quality sleep.
Regular Physical Exercise
Maintain a regular physical active exercise routine. Doing so can make it easier to sleep at night and delivers a multitude of health benefits aside from good sleep.
Nicotine stimulates the body in ways that disrupt sleep. In fact, it has been discovered that smoking is correlated with numerous sleep problems.
Reduce your alcohol consumption.
Alcohol can indeed make it easier to fall asleep, but the effects wear off, disrupting sleep later in the night. Our advice is to moderate your alcohol consumption and avoid it later in the evening. Similarly, you should reduce caffeine in the afternoon and evening because it’s a stimulant. Caffeine can keep you wired even when you want to rest. Always be aware of what and how much you consume to maximize your sleep and overall health benefits.
Don’t eat your dinner at a late hour
Especially a heavy or spicy meal. Eating too late in the evening means you’re still digesting when it’s time for bed. If you need a snack before bed, keep it light and easy such as fruit, crackers, or yogurt.
Restrict your in-bed activity.
Restricting your bed activity will build a link in your mind between sleep and being in bed; it’s best to only use your bed for sleep, with sex being the exception.
Optimize Your Bedroom.
Another important part of sleep hygiene beyond your nighttime routines is your sleep environment. If you want to fall asleep easier, you want your bedroom to be the epitome of tranquility. What makes a bedroom inviting can vary from person to person, but we have some tips that may help make it calm and free of distraction.
Have a comfortable mattress and pillow. Your sleeping surface is crucial to your comfort and pain-free sleep. Do your research and choose the best mattress and pillow for optimal comfort and restful sleep.
Use Comfortable bedding! Sheets and blankets are the first things you touch when you crawl into bed, so it’s beneficial to ensure the nest you’ve built that you’re climbing into is matched to your needs and preferences.
Set a cool and comfortable temperature. Sleeping in cooler conditions can improve your sleep quality, so fine-tune your bedroom temperature to where you’re cooly comfortable.
Block out any outside light. Use heavy black-out curtains or an eye mask to prevent light from interrupting your sleep.
Drown out unnecessary noise. Ear plugs or noise-canceling wireless headphones can stop noises from keeping you awake, but if you don’t find those comfortable, you can use a white noise machine or fan for noise reduction.
Use calming or comforting scents. Light smells like lavender or camomille can induce a calmer state of mind to help cultivate a positive place for sleep.
The benefits of good sleep hygiene can be exponential. When your sleep quality improves, you’re alert from the time you wake up right up to your regular bedtime. You become more focused, productive, and present. Getting quality sleep goes beyond just feeling good; it’s important for your health. It helps strengthen your immune system, helps you maintain a healthy weight, and lowers your risk for serious health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. Good quality sleep can help improve your mood and even your memory. During sleep, your brain forms new pathways to help you remember information; whether you’re learning new computer skills or studying a new subject at school, restful sleep supports increased comprehension and problem-solving skills.