What is Sleep Hygiene?
A good night’s rest can make or break your entire day. If you are experiencing difficulty falling and staying asleep while also struggling with daytime sleepiness, you may need to evaluate your sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene involves your daily habits prior to sleep as well as your bedroom environment. Having strong sleep hygiene actions are important to your overall health and well-being. For example, anything you incorporate into your nighttime routine will impact how you sleep that night; Staring at a screen, eating, or drinking late at night can have a negative outcome. Focusing on a consistent and healthy routine while cultivating a relaxing environment are the first steps to achieving strong sleep hygiene.
4 Ways to Create Good Sleep Hygiene
Prioritize a Sleep Schedule.
Just like with babies, our bodies respond well to schedules. Circadian rhythms, natural processes within our body, follow a 24-hour cycle through physical, mental, and behavioral changes. Newborns do not have a set circadian rhythm. Their bodies do not understand the difference between day and night, giving new parents the exciting job of cultivating that schedule while extremely sleep deprived. One of the major factors that can affect your circadian rhythm is light from electronic devices at night which can confuse your biological clock. Creating a sleep schedule does not have to be difficult but the prioritization of sleep is key. Waking up at the same time every day will allow your body to become accustomed to your desired schedule and create a consistent sleep rhythm. While making changes to any schedule, it is important to do it gradually. Adjustments of only an hour or two will help your schedule naturally adapt.
Create a Realistic Nightly Routine.
The main point here is “realistic”. Your nightly routine should encompass a natural feeling of relaxation for you that does not feel forced or abnormal. It also needs to follow the same steps every night, reinforcing to your mind that it is time to go to sleep. An essential part of your routine is a 30-60 minute period of time that is device-free. The light from electronic screens can confuse your brain and disrupt your circadian rhythm, throwing your entire schedule off balance. Tossing and turning in bed is rarely helpful. After 20 minutes, if you are still struggling to drift off to sleep, get out of bed and focus on a calming activity in low light to relax your mind.
Examine Your Daily Habits
Your daylight hours can also directly affect the quality of sleep you experience at night. Being physically active and getting a healthy dose of Vitamin D can both encourage quality sleep while also benefiting your body in healthy ways. By contrast, stimulants and depressants can negatively affect the strong sleep hygiene you are cultivating. Smoking, alcohol, and caffeine can disrupt sleep and lead to health problems. If you prefer a late dinner, you may want to experiment with eating your larger meal early in the evening and keeping any bedtime snacks on the lighter side. When eating late, your food may not have time to digest before it is time to sleep, causing your body to focus on other things than relaxation and rest. It can also create issues like heartburn and acid reflux.
Use Your Senses
By focusing on the five senses, you can use this tactic to cultivate your nighttime environment to radiate relaxation. Starting with touch which includes all the physical aspects of your nighttime conditions. Your mattress, pillow, and bedding are vital to creating a night’s rest without pain. It is important to find quality items that reflect your idea of comfort. The temperature of your bedroom should stay around 65 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on your preferences. Lower temperatures aid in melatonin production and create an encouraging environment for deep sleep. For sight, try using blackout curtains or an eye mask to create a dark space without light to signal to your brain that it is bedtime. To address hearing, a sound machine or earplugs can be beneficial to drown out unwanted noises and distractions. Scents like lavender, chamomile, and peppermint can help to calm your mind and promote relaxation. While it may seem odd, there are also certain foods that can help to improve sleep. Kiwis, tart cherries, fatty fish, almonds, and rice are all listed by the Sleep Foundation as foods to help you sleep.
Creating good sleep hygiene can take time and is specific to the individual. While these tips may not work for everyone, it is important to keep an eye on the health of your sleep. When changes in your sleep hygiene do not deliver results, it may be time to contact your doctor or a sleep professional. Sleep centers are designed with the individual’s health in mind to not only discover the issue affecting their sleep but to also work towards a resolution. The staff at the Comprehensive Sleep and Breathing Disorders Center will use every tool at their disposal to aid in your journey to healthy sleep.