WHAT IS SLEEP HYGIENE?
Sleep hygiene involves setting healthy habits and standards for your sleep routine and environment to encourage quality, consistent, and uninterrupted sleep.
Strong sleep hygiene includes more than just your bedtime routines, but also involves maintaining healthy habits throughout the day to support and regulate your circadian rhythms and improve your quality of sleep!
Education around sleep hygiene is incredibly important and valuable, as improving sleep habits comes at almost no cost and no risk, facilitating better sleep and improving overall health.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO HAVE POOR SLEEP HYGIENE?
Poor sleep hygiene and habits yield low quality sleep, and can breed further challenges with mental health, cognition, and other health problems! The consequences of poor sleep hygiene can include trouble feeling tired or falling asleep, high amounts of sleep disturbances, difficulty waking up or feeling well-rested, and exhaustion throughout the day.
While sleep hygiene is subjective to your preferences and routines, here are some tips you can add or adapt your habits to so you can optimize your sleep hygiene.
HOW CAN YOU PRACTICE BETTER SLEEP HYGIENE?
SETTING A SLEEP SCHEDULE
Having a regular sleep routine will normalize your circadian rhythms and help your body feel tired more consistently and easily. This includes designating a fixed bedtime and wake-up time, and limiting napping during the day when possible. For some naps can help reenergize throughout the day, but many find sleeping at odd hours can throw off our bodies natural rhythms and keep you from falling asleep at night. If naps are an essential part of your regular routines, try deciding on a nap cut off time that works for you, like the early afternoon.
ESTABLISHING NIGHTLY ROUTINES
Preparing for bed with consistent routines makes it easy for you to signal to your body when it’s time to sleep! Try incorporating the following into your nighttime routine to make winding down for the night easier on your body:
Keep a consistent routine. Repeating steps every night like putting on PJs, brushing teeth, or setting out essentials for the following day, will reinforce in your mind that it’s time for sleep!
Put away electronics and dim the lights. Unplugging from our phones and other devices will reduce mental stimulation that can confuse your brain and prevent natural sleepiness. Bright and blue lights from screens can reduce our body’s ability to produce melatonin and weaken your body’s signals for bedtime.
Find a few ways to unwind. Whether it’s trying out meditations, music, or mindfulness there are many relaxation techniques that can help you feel more ready for bed.
PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR DAILY HABITS
Your nighttime habits and bedroom environment aren’t the only factors that influence sleep hygiene. Sleep deeper and more soundly by regulating your Circadian rhythms with the following tips:
Get some sun! Prioritizing sun and natural light exposure early on will help reinforce circadian rhythms throughout the day. Getting Vitamin D every day will encourage better quality sleep in the long run.
Get active! It can be hard to carve out time for exercise each day, but incorporating any activity, even walking, will make it easier to feel tired at the end of the day.
Avoid evening or late afternoon caffeine. Energy drinks, stimulants, and caffeine can have lasting effects on your alertness and energy levels throughout the day and confuse your body’s internal clock.
Limit eating and drinking late. Eating dinner too soon before bed or consuming alcohol can disrupt sleep later on. While alcohol can make it feel easier to fall asleep, your quality of sleep and number of sleep disturbances worsen when you drink or eat too much before bedtime.
MAKE YOUR BEDROOM PERFECT FOR YOUR IDEAL SLEEP
Your sleep environment should be as comfortable and conducive to quality sleep as possible. Keep in mind what’s most comfortable for you can vary greatly from what’s best for someone else, so it can be helpful to evaluate the following in your bed and bedroom for your optimal sleep.
Find your ideal mattress and bedding. You may prefer a firmer mattress to a softer one, but consider also your pillows, blankets, and all bedding aspects to make sure they match your preferences and promote your best quality sleep.
Limit noise interruptions. Noise can keep you up and cause frequent sleep disturbances if you’re sensitive or a light sleeper; earplugs are an easy way to limit excess stimulus and sleep deeper.
Keep out the light. Bright lights and sunny windows can also easily interrupt sleep, try a sleep mask or covering up light sources that tend to keep you from sleeping or wake you up too early.
Pay attention to temperatures. Your bedroom temperature can influence your quality of sleep if you’re finding yourself too hot or too cold when you should be sleeping! Try checking your thermostat or heater situation before bed to make sure changing temperatures won’t keep you up.
Treat your senses! Lastly, try incorporating calming scents into your environment to put your mind even more at ease before bed. Lavender and other scents that soothe can help you feel more relaxed and ready for sleep.
MAKE GRADUAL ADJUSTMENTS
Making too many changes at once can confuse your sleep schedule and throw your rhythms too far off their usual course. To ease your body into healthier sleeping habits, you can always try shifting a few habits at a time to more easily and gradually adjust.
For more reading on sleep hygiene and quality habits, go to https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/sleep_hygiene.html or https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-hygiene
Irish, L. A., Kline, C. E., Gunn, H. E., Buysse, D. J., & Hall, M. H. (2015). The role of sleep hygiene in promoting public health: A review of empirical evidence. Sleep medicine reviews, 22, 23–36. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.smrv.2014.10.001
Koulivand, P. H., Khaleghi Ghadiri, M., & Gorji, A. (2013). Lavender and the nervous system. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2013, 681304. https://doi.org/10.1155/2013/681304
National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Division of Population Health. (2016, July 15). CDC - Sleep Hygiene Tips - Sleep and Sleep Disorders. https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/sleep_hygiene.html