What Is Sleep Hygiene and How Can You Practice It?
By Contributing Author, Kate Harveston
Many Americans complain that they don’t get enough sleep. While you might lead a hectic life, your bedroom habits can impact the quality of your rest. It’s crucial to make the most of whatever limited time you have for catching your Zzz’s.
Sleep hygiene refers to the habits you create that either promote or adversely impact the quality of your slumber. The best part is, you have total control over these factors — so get on the path to better rest today.
Why Does Sleep Hygiene Matter?
If you don’t get sufficient shuteye, you risk your life and the lives of others. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that as many as 6,000 deaths may occur annually as the result of drowsy driving. Tens of thousands of others suffer severe injuries and financial harm. An accident is a very unpleasant wakeup call.
Sleeplessness hinders your productivity while you’re on the clock and can even hurt your relationships.
When you feel fatigued, it’s nearly impossible to perform at your peak, and you’re at a greater risk of making errors that you wouldn’t otherwise.
Additionally, untreated sleep conditions like sleep apnea can be precursors to underlying health issues such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Tips for Practicing Sleep Hygiene
Now that you understand how critical it is to get a good night’s rest, how can you improve your chances? The following techniques can help you stop tossing and turning and ease into dreamland.
Keep a Regular Schedule
Like it or not, human beings are creatures of habit. This dynamic means you’ll sleep better if you go to bed and wake up at roughly the same time daily — including on weekends. This action programs your body to go into downtime mode during particular hours of the day.
If your soul rebels at the idea of losing Sleep-In Sundays, get up and make yourself a cup of chamomile and read the paper for a bit before heading back to bed to laze about. You may even find you just decide to stay up and move on with your day!
Most electronic devices emit blue light wavelengths. While lights like LEDs are popular in modern light bulbs due to their environmental friendliness, exposure to any light can impact levels of melatonin. However, blue light proves the most troublesome.
In one experiment, researchers compared exposure to 6.5 hours of blue light to a comparatively bright green light. The blue light suppressed melatonin production and circadian rhythms twice as much.
Set up a docking station outside of your bedroom and power down your devices at least 30 minutes before retiring. Keep electronics out of the bedroom — including televisions. If you use your cellphone as an alarm, invest in a traditional model for your bedside table. You can still set an extra-loud alarm on your phone in another room if you’re a heavy sleeper.
Cool It Down
You might find it challenging to return to sleep if you wake up drenched in sweat during the night. Before you turn in, turn down your thermostat. Your body temperature naturally cools as bedtime approaches. Plus, studies indicate that temperatures between 60 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit help your body produce melatonin.
If you have concerns over your energy bills and you don’t want to open a window due to safety concerns, buy a fan. The white noise from this device can also help block the sound of noisy roommates or children.
Time Big Meals and Vigorous Exercise
Are you planning to go out for Italian? If only a hearty slice of lasagna will hit the spot, the time it so that you finish eating several hours before bedtime. Your body needs energy for the digestion process, which can keep your metabolism going and make it hard to sleep.
Also, try to avoid strenuous workouts in the late evening or as night falls. The activity raises your body temperature, making it harder to get to sleep. You can feel free to perform gentle yoga stretches in bed, though.
Avoid Caffeine Late in the Day
If you work a traditional nine-to-five schedule, research indicates that you should avoid drinking coffee after 2 p.m. If you work a non-traditional schedule, you’ll need to adjust the timing accordingly.
Also, keep individual physiological differences in mind. Some people are more sensitive to caffeine than others, so try pushing the time back to 1 p.m. or earlier if you don’t get relief.
Create a Ritual
What do you do before your head hits the pillow? Inventing a wind-down ritual can help ease you into dreamland. Maybe you prefer to unwind with a novel and a cup of chamomile or valerian tea. Perhaps a hot bath will relax your muscles. Create a routine that reminds your body, “We’re getting ready to turn in for the night.”
When you get sufficient rest, you benefit your mental and physical health and your energy levels skyrocket. Improve your life today by bettering your sleep hygiene!