With around 25% of all Americans suffering from insomnia, as well as other sleep-related issues, more and more people are looking for ways to get a better rest at night. Sleep hygiene limits nightly interruptions and allows you to fall into a deep sleep sooner. With just a few changes in your schedule and lifestyle, you too can experience the benefits of good sleep hygiene. So, what is sleep hygiene and how does it help? Here’s what you need to know.
What Is Sleep Hygiene And How Does It Help?
Sleep hygiene is a behavioral practice for developing good habits surrounding sleep schedules which, in turn, produce a higher-quality night’s sleep. It’s been found that everything in your day, from what food you eat for dinner, to what time you wake up in the morning, can have a direct impact on your ability to sleep at night.
Consider a child’s bedtime rituals. Maybe it’s dinner – bath – bed. As this pattern is repeated day after day, their body becomes accustomed to the routine and starts to wind down on its own. However, as we grow older we leave behind the childhood schedules and become less disciplined about bedtimes. Maybe it’s a light-night movie with friends or an exam that we need to cram for. But either way, bad habits begin to form.
When these habits aren’t addressed, poor sleep hygiene begins to take control and you find yourself struggling to sleep and wondering why you’re always so tired. You can fix this is by developing new, better habits.
While every individual is different, there are some best practices that will help you get a better night’s sleep.
How To Develop Sleep Hygiene Habits
While it may take some time to develop better habits and routines, the reward is well worth the effort. Here are some tips to help get you started!
1. Keep a consistent sleep schedule
Your body has an internal clock. It lets you know when it’s time to wake up, time to go to sleep, etc. Keeping a consistent sleep schedule is important for your body because it helps set your clock. Going to bed at the same time every day will help get your body used to that routine. You won’t have to toss and turn for hours waiting until you get tired anymore!
2. Begin winding down early
Just like a runner has a cooldown job after their run, you should have a cooldown time after your day. Don’t go straight from the hustle and bustle to bed. Set a routine for yourself each night that helps you unwind and relax. Maybe you can relax to some evening yoga or a nice bubble bath. Whatever it is, find a way to slowly start unwinding before you go to bed each night.
3. Unplug at least an hour before bedtime
Limiting your screen time is an effective way to help your sleep hygiene. Studies have shown that the blue light that devices emit can decrease your body’s melatonin levels. Melatonin is the “sleepy hormone” that helps you feel tired and stay asleep. Limiting this hormone is a great way to get restless sleep. So don’t let TV or late-night Amazon shopping be the way you unwind.
Doctors have found that regular exercise helps improve your overall health, including the ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. A healthy body has an easier time setting its circadian rhythm. If your day is packed, there are exercises you can do from your work desk, but if possible, try exercising outside. Sunshine and fresh air are another great way to help your body since natural light will help regulate your sleep cycle.
Note: Try not to exercise within 2 hours of going to bed. Elevating your heart rate will make it harder to relax and drift off to sleep.
5. Put down the 3rd cup of coffee
Okay, maybe you aren’t a coffee drinker, but most everyone has some go-to source of caffeine. From tea to energy drinks, to caffeinated sparkling water (it’s a real thing), but caffeine can have harmful effects on your body if taken in too high doses.
Caffeine can affect you 3-7 hours after consumption. So that midafternoon pick-me-up may actually be doing more harm than good by negatively affecting your sleep hygiene. Try to keep the caffeine limited to before lunchtime if possible. That will help you get to sleep earlier, which makes you feel more rested, which means you won’t need as much caffeine.
6. Limit stress
With over 77% of Americans experiencing stress that affects their physical health, it’s no wonder so many people have a hard time sleeping. This may seem a lot easier said than done. After all, if removing stress were that easy, everyone would do it, right? Not necessarily.
You can eliminate many sources of stress with practice and conscious effort.
Here are a few potential stressors you may be able to remove.
- Don’t go over scenarios in your head. Thinking through stressful items over and over (which won’t change anything) is just putting your body under unnecessary stress. Take time to think through positive blessings instead.
- Long To-Do lists are often a source of stress for people. If your To-Do List seems daunting, start with the small projects and get them knocked out of the way.
- Being late stresses most people out. Setting a schedule and giving yourself plenty of time to get ready and show up on time is a great way to limit this potential stress. Limit delays by giving yourself a buffer and leaving 5-10 minutes earlier than it would take to get to your destination.
- Clutter in the home can make you go crazy. When you’re feeling overwhelmed by clutter, focus on the little things. Making the bed, taking out the trash, folding the towels, etc. are all great little tasks that will help limit the stressful oppression that clutter brings into your life.
- Stop comparing yourself to other people. Find inspiration in the achievements of others but resist comparisons. You have your own story, your own goals, your own achievements. Remember that everyone has their ups and downs, successes and failures, and comparing yourself to others only diminishes your own incredible accomplishments.
While there are many factors that can contribute to poor sleep hygiene, following the above tips is a great way to develop better habits and sleep routines. Once you’ve made good sleep hygiene a part of your daily life, you will be able to experience the blessings and benefits of a good night’s sleep!
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