Sleep hygiene refers to healthy sleep habits. Good sleep hygiene is important because of how crucial getting good sleep is for your mental and physical health, as well as your overall quality of life.
Your behaviors during the day — not just before you go to bed — can affect how well you sleep. Your food and drink choices, schedule, evening routine, and many other activities all play a part in your ability to sleep.
The term “sleep hygiene” can be a bit misleading, as it doesn’t include washing your face or brushing your teeth before bed. (But remember to do those things, too!)
Sleep hygiene is science-backed practice — during the day and before bedtime — that help creates the ideal conditions for healthy sleep, which can mean the difference between a restful night and a restless one.
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Sleep hygiene is as important as physical hygiene: it’s essential to our health, our well-being, and our longevity. Yet, despite its importance, many people struggle to get enough good quality sleep.
Poor sleep has been linked with negative effects on hormone levels, physical performance, and brain function. It has also been linked to obesity and an increased risk of diseases. Good quality sleep, alternatively, can help you maintain a healthy weight, avoid disease, and improve your health.
Some Habits That Can Improve Your Sleep Health:
1. Stick to a sleep schedule
Set aside no more than eight hours for sleep. The recommended amount of sleep for a healthy adult is at least seven hours. Most people don’t need more than eight hours in bed to be well rested.
Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, including on weekends. Being consistent reinforces your body’s sleep-wake cycle.
If you don’t fall asleep within about 20 minutes of going to bed, leave your bedroom and do something relaxing. Read or listen to soothing music. Go back to bed when you’re tired. Repeat as needed, but continue to maintain your sleep schedule and wake-up time.
2. Build a relaxing pre-bed routine
It’s challenging enough to sleep when you are stressed or anxious. And heading straight from your home office to the bed isn’t going to make for a successful transition either.
Creating a bedtime routine can help to relax your body and mind before bed. You’re basically telling your body, “Okay, we’re going to go to bed soon, so get ready.”
Some examples of activities you can include in your pre-bed routine include:
– Reading for half an hour (not on your phone or computer)
– Meditating for 10 minutes
– Journaling for 15 minutes
– Taking a nice warm bath or shower
3. Turn off electronic devices before you go to sleep
Electronic devices such as TVs, phones, and tablets emit blue light, which can reduce the melatonin levels in your body.
Melatonin is a chemical that controls your sleep/wake cycle. When your melatonin levels dip, it can be more difficult to fall asleep.
Devices that emit blue light can also distract you, keeping your brain alert. This may make it harder to fall asleep.
You might think that not looking at your phone close to bedtime is enough, but keeping your phone near your bed can disrupt your sleep, even if you’re not aware of it.
The message notifications, buzzing, and light that can suddenly pop on in the middle of the night can wake you up momentarily, leading to interrupted sleep.
In Short, using electronics before bed is not a good idea if you are trying to improve sleep quality. Try to switch off for 30-60 minutes before bed.
4. Use your bed only for sleep and sex
When you have a comfortable bed, it might be tempting to use it for reading, working, talking on the phone, watching TV, or other activities.
However, it’s important to use your bed for sleep and sex only. This helps strengthen your brain’s association between your bed and sleep, making it easier to fall asleep.
Reading may be one way you relax before going to sleep, but even books can be disruptive to your sleep if they keep your brain alert. Try reading on the couch before moving to your bed instead.
5. Include Physical Activity In Your Daily Routine
Regular physical activity can promote better sleep. However, avoid being active too close to bedtime.
Spending time outside every day might be helpful too.
6. Limit Daytime Naps
Long daytime naps can interfere with nighttime sleep. Limit naps to no more than one hour and avoid napping late in the day.
However, if you work nights, you might need to nap late in the day before work to help make up your sleep debt.
7. Regulate Your Room Temperature
The relationship between room temperature, body temperature, and sleep quality is not well-known to most.
Many of us try to make our sleep environment as cozy as possible, but this might actually be hindering your sleep more than it’s helping.
On average, the ideal temperature for sleeping is around 65 degrees Fahrenheit, though it does vary by a few degrees from person to person. So, you should spend some time finding the perfect spot on your thermostat.
8. Improve Your Eating Habits
Nutrition and mental health are closely linked. Generally speaking, healthier diets lead to better, deep sleep.
In particular, what you eat for dinner or close to bed can significantly impact your ability to get restful sleep.
You should avoid foods that include caffeine, such as chocolate, green tea, soda, and of course, coffee.
Alcohol is also known to reduce REM sleep, a crucial component of sleep that leaves you well-rested. So, it’s recommended that you not drink alcohol before bed.
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9. Limit Your Caffeine Intake
The effects of caffeine can last 3 to 7 hours after you consume it. This means that your afternoon cup of coffee may keep you awake and alert a lot longer than you’d like.
Although it’s usually best to limit your caffeine intake to the morning hours, keep in mind that everyone has a different tolerance to caffeine.
Some people may be able to stretch their consumption to midafternoon, while others might need to cut themselves off much earlier in order to fall asleep easily.
The less caffeine you consume, the more sensitive you may be to its effects.
10. Have A Comfortable Mattress And Pillow
Your sleeping surface is critical to comfort and pain-free sleep, so choose the best mattress and best pillow for your needs wisely.
Use Excellent Bedding: The sheets and blankets are the first things you touch when you get into bed, so it’s beneficial to make sure they match your needs and preferences.
11. Manage Stress Before Going To Bed
Thinking about things you’re worried about can keep you awake at night. To help prevent your worries from keeping you awake:
Write down your worries before going to bed to help get them out of your head.
If your to-do list stresses you out, write that down as well. Prioritize what you need to do tomorrow and the rest of the week, then try to relax.
Research suggests that a weighted blanket may help with anxiety and insomnia, and it may provide benefits similar to deep pressure therapy.
Try meditation before bed to help calm your mind.
12. Take A Warm Bath Or Shower
Not only is the water relaxing at the moment, but the drop in your body temperature as you cool down afterward may make you feel sleepy.
Try some gentle stretches to help your muscles relax and release tension.
Getting quality sleep doesn’t just feel good. It’s important for your health. It strengthens 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 also improve your mood and even your memory. While you 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 better comprehension and problem-solving skills.
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It’s also important to know that improving sleep hygiene won’t always resolve sleeping problems. People who have serious insomnia or sleep disorders like obstructive sleep apnea may benefit from better sleep hygiene, but other treatments are usually necessary as well.
In other words, even though it may be beneficial, sleep hygiene alone isn’t a panacea. If you have long-lasting or severe sleeping problems or daytime sleepiness, it’s best to talk with a doctor who can recommend the most appropriate course of treatment.
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