How to Get Proper Sleep Hygiene
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You go into work with your eyes heavy and it seems like your yawns are never-ending. Your nights have been rough and you’ve been tossing and turning. It seems like you barely get any sleep, but you just can’t seem to figure out why.
These terrible sleeping patterns might just be caused by your habits during the day and before bed. This is what we call “sleep hygiene,” and it can either be good or poor depending on your habits. But what is sleep hygiene, exactly?
What Is Sleep Hygiene?
The term “sleep hygiene” refers to the habits and practices that are vital for a person to experience good sleep quality and feel more awake during the day. These habits can help a person fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer without interruption.
According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, “Your daily routines — what you eat and drink, the medications you take, how you schedule your days and how you choose to spend your evenings — can significantly impact your quality of sleep.”
So remember all that tossing and turning you were doing that made you feel terrible at work the next day? Well, now you might just have an answer to why that’s happening to you.
Do You Have Poor Sleep Hygiene?
If you are experiencing any of the following problems, then there’s a good chance you need to change some of your habits during the day so you can practice better sleep hygiene.
Keep a record of the problems that apply to you, including:
- Sleep disturbances
- Taking too long to fall asleep
- Trouble staying asleep
- Sleep deprivation
- An inability to focus or concentrate during the day
If some or most of these apply to your situation, then you might need to change your habits. But don’t worry — you don’t have to change your whole life around. A couple of practices here and there and you can be well on your way to a great night of sleep.
With that in mind, here are eight easy ways to improve your sleep hygiene!
Eight Ways to Improve Your Sleep Hygiene
Now that we know what sleep hygiene is and the signs of poor sleep hygiene, it’s time to consider changing your habits for the better. Below are eight easy ways to improve your sleep hygiene to help you get the great night of sleep that you deserve.
1. Keep a Comfortable Space
Where you sleep is extremely important to the quality of your sleep. Your pillows and mattress should be comfortable so that you can avoid body aches and soreness.
Try to keep the space as dark as possible. Disruptive light from windows, TVs, cellphones or lamps can make it hard to fall asleep as well as stay asleep. Bright lights from outside can be taken care of with regular curtains, but even more so with blackout curtains or sleep masks.
Finally, consider the sound in your space. If you are in a noisy area, consider using earplugs to block out the disruptive sounds. If you need noise in a quiet space, consider using a humidifier, a fan, a white noise machine or any other device that can provide enough background sound to make the room as comfortable as possible.
2. Avoid Bright Light
Besides getting rid of bright light when you are trying to fall asleep, you should also take into consideration the bright light that you are looking at right before going to sleep. This includes your time watching TV and looking at your cell phones or other devices.
Instead of looking at your phone while laying in bed right before sleeping, consider setting aside 15 to 20 minutes of “no device time” before sleeping. Not looking at a bright screen can help your brain wind down from the day and be better prepared to fall asleep.
Instead, try reading a book or a magazine or doing light stretching. Any of these activities can help to relax your brain and get it ready for bed.
3. Keep a Consistent Sleep Schedule
Keeping a consistent sleep schedule can help to get your body in the routine of sleeping at a specific time. So, try to keep your bedtime within 20 minutes of the same time every day. This will help you establish a fixed wake time as well, which will make you feel more rested and alert in the morning.
When you have an unpredictable sleep schedule, your body becomes unable to get into a healthy and natural sleep-wake cycle.
Your sleep-wake cycle corresponds to Circadian rhythms that keep us aligned with the 24-hour day. It sends signals to parts of our body indicating when we should feel alert and when we are ready to sleep. You can learn more about how Circadian rhythms affect the body by exploring resources from the National Sleep Foundation.
4. Skip the Nap
Unless you are in dire need of a nap, try to skip taking long naps or naps that exceed 30 minutes during the day. Long naps can make you feel groggy or sluggish afterward, which is also known as sleep inertia.
Taking naps won’t make up for lost sleep. However, a short nap of 20 to 30 minutes can put you in a good mood and make you feel more alert.
5. Say ‘No’ to Stimulants
Before bed, try to stay away from stimulants such as caffeine or nicotine. These will give you energy, thereby keeping you up longer or disrupting your sleep.
On the other hand, moderation is the key to keep in mind when drinking alcohol before bed. Too much alcohol will make you fall asleep faster at first, but it will disrupt your sleep as your body gets to work processing it.
6. Watch What You Eat and Drink Before Bed
Drinking and eating spicy, sugary or citrusy types of drinks and foods can affect the way you sleep, especially if they don’t sit well in your stomach. For some, they could also cause indigestion that can lead to restless nights.
Along with this, you should also make sure that you do not eat too much or too little before bed. Eating too much can make you feel full and heavy, making you uncomfortable. Eating too little will result in distracting hunger.
Try to eat a snack before bed, such as crackers or popcorn, to keep you feeling fed but not overly full.
7. Be More Physically Active During the Day
Being physically active for even 10 to 15 minutes during your day will help you get better sleep at night. This could be any aerobic exercise, such as walking, cycling, weight training or anything else that interests you. Getting out and moving can help you to rest easy!
8. Create a Bedtime Routine
Lastly, creating a bedtime routine can help your body relax, wind down and get ready to sleep. A bedtime routine can include the following:
- A warm bath or shower
- A nightly skincare routine
- Reading a book or magazine
- Light stretching
- Meditating on the day’s events
However, you decide to go about your bedtime routine, avoiding negative thoughts or conversations is important. Being emotional or upset before bed can make falling asleep a hassle.
Why Is Sleep Hygiene Important?
Learning how to improve your sleep hygiene is the first step, but understanding why it’s important to continue these good habits is essential.
With good sleep hygiene comes good sleep. And good sleep helps to keep other parts of your life in order, such as:
- High productivity
- A greater overall quality of life
- Good awareness and alertness
- Stable mental health
- Great physical health, such as weight, appetite, hormones and a healthy immune system
So there you go! You now have the answer to the question, “What is sleep hygiene?” You also have some great tips on how to improve yours. Go change some habits and get the sleep that you deserve!