What Is Sleep Hygiene?
written by sleep expert Lauren Hall
Sleep Hygiene Tips:
Many people often forget this but having healthy sleep habits and sleep hygiene is super important for your health and quality of sleep. Improving your sleep hygiene is one of the best ways to achieve better quality sleep.
But why is poor sleep hygiene bad for you?
Well having strong sleep hygiene can help provide consistent, uninterrupted sleep. Having an irregular sleep schedule can actually cause sleep disorders that disrupt sleep. Making the bedroom free of disruptions and a consistent sleep schedule, and building healthy habits during the day can help boost sleep hygiene.
We’ve all been there, staring at the clock, wondering whether you’ll ever fall asleep, or maybe you wake up thinking it’s time to get up when in reality, it’s only 3 am. Getting into the right sleep hygiene can help you achieve that quality sleep you’re craving.
Let’s delve into how to improve sleep hygiene with some changes you can do during the day and at night to help improve your sleep. Time for a regular sleep schedule and no more scrolling from Instagram until 1-2 am in the morning.
But enough of me rambling on, let’s jump in!
Why Is Sleep Hygiene Important?
So why is sleep hygiene so important, and why should you practice good sleep hygiene? Well, healthy sleeping sleep is super important for both your physical and mental health for many reasons. Having good sleep quality can help improve productivity and overall quality of life and sleep hygiene plays a key role in making that happen.
Having a healthy sleep-wake cycle is the first step to achieving good sleep hygiene, but having sustainable routines can make these healthy behaviors of sleep hygiene come naturally. However, bad sleeping habits are almost as easy to grip onto so practicing healthy sleep habits is super important.
Sleep quality is super important but getting enough sleep is also important. But how much sleep do you need? The average adult needs between seven to nine hours of quality sleep per night. But you can get nine hours and it still be fragmented sleep, which is why sleep quality is key.
Building routines and a good sleep environment can really improve your sleep patterns and help achieve a good night’s sleep. Plus, with higher quality sleep, you are improving your overall health at the same time. With the right sleep hygiene, you won’t feel like you need a nap before 2 pm– I know we all do.
Improving sleep hygiene has become an important part of public health strategy to counteract serious sleep disorders like insomnia in the US.
How Do You Practice Good Sleep Hygiene?
Putting together good sleep hygiene is maintaining an excellent routine to sleep well every night. You should start by optimizing your sleep schedule, creating a good routine before you fall asleep, and upkeeping good habits during the day can make your quality of sleep automatic.
You should also optimize your sleeping environment so when you go to bed; you feel relaxed rather than having a hundred different things going off in your mind. This should really help those that tend to have trouble falling asleep and find themselves lying awake until all hours of the morning.
Here are some sleep tips to help you achieve more restful sleep.
Set A Sleep Schedule:
Having a sleep schedule tells your body that your sleep is an essential part of your day, and it is time for your body to wind down for the day. It should help those who have trouble sleeping, as setting a routine can help tell your brain’s circadian rhythms that it’s time to fall asleep.
Here are a few tips for having a set sleep schedule.
Wake up at the same time every day: No matter whether it is a weekday or weekend, trying to wake up at the same time is the key to improving your sleep routine. Your body begins to get into the cycle of waking up at the same time, and it gets easier over time.
I know there’s nothing better than having a lay-in on the weekend, but it is super important for your sleep health to wake up at the same time. It allows you to maintain regular circadian rhythms and prevents you from feeling so restless and tired during the week where you need sleep the most.
Sleep should be your top priority: If you’re a college student, then skipping sleep to study, socialize or party is common. But this may be the reason for your ragged sleep schedule and the need for like a hundred coffees during the day.
Except for the occasional weekend of partying, you should try your best to set a time to rest, so you achieve consistent sleep and a consistent wake-up time. Having an irregular sleep schedule can create a sleep disorder which makes it even harder to have a quality sleep.
Make gradual adjustments: Instead of diving in the deep end and tackling a night shift, you should gradually make one to two-hour adjustments to your sleep schedule so you can easily settle into a sleep schedule.
Letting your body get used to your new sleep schedule is super important. This is why many people who do night shifts one week and day shifts the next week tend to be sleep deprived as their sleep pattern is thrown out of the window; this leads to daytime naps and exhaustion.
Avoiding napping in the evening: Our body tends to drop in energy in the afternoon, making it tempting to take a daytime nap; while they are brilliant at giving you a little energy boost during the day, they can throw off your sleep schedule of an evening.
No napping for “20 minutes” and waking up 4 hours later not sure what planet you’re on– we’ve all been there. Instead, set the alarm and nap for no longer than 30 minutes to an hour maximum and try to keep it to early afternoon. This should prevent disrupted sleep at night.
Keep The Same Night Routine:
Having the same nightly routine can affect how easily you’re able to fall asleep. Having everything ready for when you go to sleep can help make the bedroom a relaxing environment for your brain, making it easier to achieve better sleep and helping you stay asleep during the night.
So here are a few tips to improve your nightly routine:
Keep your routine consistent at night: Our body loves a good routine, and keeping the same routine each night such as getting into your PJs, brushing your teeth, and getting into bed at a similar time can convince your brain that it is bedtime, so you can fall asleep much easier.
Many sleep professionals recommend that you have a warm bath or shower before bed; I know that this isn’t ideal for every night, but it works wonders for relaxing your body and tricking your mind into thinking that it is bedtime. You could have a warm shower most nights and then a warm bath once or twice a week with a bath bomb to help with relaxation.
Set 30 minutes to help wind down: Before you sleep, it is recommended that you calm your state of mind 30 minutes before bed, whether that is meditating before bed, practicing relaxation exercises listening to soothing music, and focusing on your breathing, or reading a book before bed.
This relaxing bedtime routine should help you fall asleep and help you with staying asleep.
Dim your lights before bed: In order to fall asleep, our body needs to start producing melatonin, which is a hormone that helps induce sleep. The bright lights in your room can help hinder this production, causing you to lay on your bed staring at the ceiling for hours trying to fall asleep.
I would recommend investing in a book light for reading in bed with a warm light color so your body can gradually start releasing melatonin and start to induce sleep. Did you know that reading before bed can reduce stress levels by up to 70%?? This is what causes you to fall asleep easier!
That being said, you should sleep in a room with natural light, such as sleeping with your blind open. I know what you’re thinking– what?? the blinds are there for a reason?? I don’t want to wake up to the sun shining in my eyes.
Well, instead, maybe invest in thin blinds which help let natural light through without blinding you. But why is this? Well, in order for our body to stop producing melatonin and produce serotonin, our body needs to be exposed to natural light. This is why Seasonal Affective Disorder affects so many people in winter.
While in the winter, it gets lighter later on in the morning, so our body produces serotonin much later and stops producing melatonin much later too. To help with this biological rhythm, many psychologists recommend a sunlight clock, so you wake up feeling refreshed.
I know this isn’t related to your night routine, but it can really help improve your sleep hygiene.
Turn off electronics at least 30 minutes before you sleep: Our phone and over devices produce blue light, which can also detriment the production of melatonin, so when your mom used to nag to turn your devise half an hour before you sleep, she is not wrong.
Your phones, tablets, laptops cause mental stimulation, so you might find yourself laying down staring at the ceiling, trying to shut off and go to sleep, and all you hear is playing a catchy song in your head over and over; this may be the reason why.
This is also why testing relaxation methods can help relax your mind; meditation, focusing on your breathing, and mindfulness can help put you in the right mindset for falling asleep. It can put you into the right state of relaxation for bed which can help combat sleep problems.
Try not to toss and turn: The best advice is to try not to toss and turn while you sleep. Instead, get back up, stretch, read and calm your body down before trying to sleep and turn. Tossing and turning can cause you to become restless and achieve a poor amount of sleep.
If worse comes to worst, then take some sleep medicine, but I would recommend trying natural ways to fall asleep first.
Build Healthy Habits During The Day:
It’s not all about building a healthy routine at night but what you do during the day has a lot to say about how well you will sleep at night. Our body runs on circadian rhythms; it is our 24-hour internal body clock that tells our body when we should be sleeping and when we should be awake.
Here are some tips:
Getting daily sunlight is super important to help our circadian rhythms run normally; this can help our body encourage quality of sleep at night. However, when a study was set where a man stayed in a cave for 32 days with no natural light, the results found that his circadian rhythm only altered an hour.
However, getting daily sunlight will still help promote a good circadian routine, so you’re more likely to fall asleep at night time. Regular exercise can also help make it easier to fall asleep at night, along with all the other health benefits that come with regular exercise.
If you’re looking for a reason to stop sleeping, then maybe improving your quality of sleep is a good enough reason. Nicotine stimulates the body in a way that can be really disruptive to sleep, so this is why smoking is correlated with many sleeping problems.
Alcohol is also another culprit. I know what you’re thinking, but I fall asleep better when I have alcohol? Well, while it may make it easier to fall asleep, when you have alcohol, you are less likely to reach those deeper sleep stages, which are the most enriching stages, so you wake up feeling restless and hungover.
You should also try to cut down on caffeine in the afternoon and evening, pretty obvious, right? Caffeine is a stimulus that keeps your brain working overtime even when you want to rest. So if you consume a lot of coffee during the day and wonder why you can never sleep, that’s why.
This can also become an endless cycle as you drink coffee to wake up, but the reason why you feel tired is that the caffeine is affecting your sleep at night.
Don’t consume heavy meals before bed. You’ve probably heard this before, but is it actually true? Believe it or not, it is, is because when it’s time to fall asleep, your body is still digesting food which can disrupt sleep and make you feel uncomfortable when it comes to falling asleep. So keep midnight snacking light.
Other Ways You Can Optimise Your Sleep:
Your bedroom environment can make or break your sleep quality; in order to fall asleep more easily and quickly, your room needs to be optimized to promote a calming environment. This can vary from person to person, but there are a few tips to take poor sleep hygiene to a calming one.
Choosing the right mattress and pillows: Having the right mattress and pillows is super important for achieving restful sleep. There is nothing worse than sleeping on a mattress that doesn’t offer the proper support and pain relief; you’re more likely to toss and turn, which is a no-no.
You should base your mattress on your sleeping position and preference, but what is the best sleeping position to help ensure you have the best night’s sleep? Well, it depends on your health, needs, and wants. But don’t worry, I broke it all down in a separate article.
You’ll also want to be sure that you have comfortable sheets and blankets; after all, they are the first thing you touch when you get into bed, so if you relate them to relaxation, then this can help improve your quality of sleep and help you achieve better sleep.
Sleep at a cool temperature: Did you know that in order for your body to fall asleep, it needs to drop 1-degree Celsius in temperature? Well, this is why sleeping in a cooling environment is so crucial, as feeling hot and sweaty while you sleep is not only uncomfortable but makes it harder for your body to fall asleep.
So you want to find a cool and comfortable temperature in your sleeping environment to help your body as best you can to fall asleep.
Sleep with a thin blind: You must think I’m nuts for suggesting this, but sleeping in a room that lets in natural light can help improve quality of sleep by helping your body produce serotonin as the sun rises rather than when your alarm goes off, and you get ready.
That being said, you should block out light from devices like your alarm clock unless it is a sunrise clock (which can help with SAD), as these little lights can be little distractions that can damage your quality of sleep.
Block out the noise: It is recommended that you block out noise when you sleep as it can help you fall asleep much easier. Many specialists suggest you also sleep with white noise or a fan to help block out noises like traffic going past or the noise of sleeping with a snoring partner.
Pairing this with some calming scents can really help promote a relaxing environment for you to sleep in; this, paired with a regular schedule, can help you get to sleep easier and stay asleep so you can reach those deep sleep stages and REM– the stage where you dream.
But why do we dream? Experts are still not 100% sure why we dream but it is related to our fourth sleep stage, REM sleep.
So there you have it, just changing a few things in your routine can massively help your sleep hygiene having good sleep hygiene is the real secret to blissful, restful sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, these tips are the best way to achieve the most enriching night’s rest.
Plus they’re not rocket science, just a few changes to your sleep routine can make the world of difference to you and your health. Give a few of these techniques a go today and you’ll notice your quality of sleep improving even after a few weeks!
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