Sleep hygiene is a term that is used when discussing ways of improving sleep health. In essence, it refers to a variety of practices and habits that ensure healthy sleep patterns at night, which on the other hand, ensure full daytime alertness and increased energy levels.
The importance of sleep hygiene
While a cup of coffee or tea can give us a brief energy jolt in the morning, there’s no better medicine for optimal physical and mental health than good night’s sleep. Improved sleep hygiene is aimed to enhance productivity and quality of life in and out of work. Sleeping too much or too little, as well as disrupted sleep can lead to medical conditions like fatigue, high blood pressure, stress, etc. However, the good news is that the process is reversible.
Make it consistent
Going to bed at the same time every night is a perfect start for improving your sleep habits. Try to stay within 20 minutes of your planned bedtime, even on weekends and days off. Going to bed at the same time every evening also makes your wake-time more consistent every morning. As a result, you will get up feeling rested and ready for the new day. Apart from Apple’s bedtime feature for the iPhone, which suspends all the alerts and notifications from a set time in the evening to a set time in the morning, there are many other sleep apps you can use to improve your sleep hygiene.
Dispense with stimulants
Much more challenging than sticking to consistent bedtime is to curb caffeine consumption. While many of us consider the afternoon coffee or tea an essential of the workday routine, any caffeine consumed after 2 PM is bad sleep hygiene. In the same way, smoking and alcohol before going to bed not only disturb your sleep, but also make you groggy in the morning. The last cigarette and beverage shouldn’t be taken later than three hours before bedtime.
Turn off the devices
Computer monitors, phones, and TVs emit blue light which slows serotonin production in the brain, making us more alert and less likely to go to sleep. Turning these devices off, or using a blue light filter feature where enabled allows your body to produce melatonin according to your bio-clock, so you feel sleepy at the right time.
Make bedroom changes
The bedroom décor can make or break your sleep hygiene. By making just a few changes, you can turn your bedroom into an ultimate hibernation cave. Change the shades or drapes to a darker colour, as the outside light is often the reason why people have problems sleeping. A comfy rug made of natural fibres will dampen the footsteps, which is especially important if you share the bed with your partner who has different sleep habits. While too many pillows can put your spine in a misaligned position, having enough of them can also help you take the position that makes you most comfortable.
The bedroom is for sleeping
Your bedroom should remain the room where you sleep. If you use your bedroom for telecommuting, eating dinner, watching TV, or simply chilling out, your mind will learn to associate it to a place of wakefulness which keeps the brain more-less active. Doing other things in the bedroom apart from sleeping and spending time with your partner is considered bed sleep hygiene.
Pull your diet together
Heavy meals, as well as those with high acidity, sugar, or spices, can cause fitful sleep. Instead, try having light and healthier dinners, focusing on lean meat or fish, and the late night snacking will disappear. If you really must have a snack before going to bed, take a piece of toast or rice cake. High carbohydrate content will trigger the release of serotonin so the sleep won’t suffer.
Reduce time lying awake
If you have a habit of lying in bed unable to fall asleep after 10 minutes, try getting up and finding a more relaxing position in your armchair or on the couch. Try breathing slowly, meditating, or splashing warm water on your face. Don’t reach for a book or electronics, as these will only fire up our brain.
Maintaining good sleep hygiene is critical to improving our physical and mental health, as well as the overall happiness. With these easy-to-apply tips, you too can enjoy the benefits of good night’s sleep starting from tonight.
By Lilian Connors.