How to Have Good Sleep Hygiene For a Good Night’s Rest
Although brushing your teeth, showering, or washing your face seem like no-brainers in some of our bedtime routines, they aren’t exactly what is included when considering your sleep hygiene. While the term can be a bit deceiving, the truth is, laying down the foundation for a better night of rest may simply boil down to tweaking our daily (and nightly) habits. The human body isn’t designed to fall asleep in an instant following the overtaxing hours we spend each day amped up on caffeine; it's meant to gently unwind and unravel after the stressors of a long day. This is where sleep hygiene comes into play. Here is how to have good sleep hygiene for a good night’s rest.
- Sleep hygiene is the collection of all of the habits that make up a good nighttime routine such as setting down electronics thirty minutes before bed and creating a peaceful nighttime routine.
- Sleep hygiene is important to regulate your circadian rhythm, thus ensuring you get enough sleep to support both mental and physical health.
- Practicing good sleep hygiene is an all-day effort; habits that support a good night's sleep can take place all throughout the day.
What is sleep hygiene?
Sleep hygiene is a term thrown around to chronicle good sleeping habits. It could be the end-all-be-all to help you fall asleep quicker, stay asleep longer, and feel more rejuvenated when your 7 a.m. alarm clock disrupts your slumber. Overall, it entails a peaceful bedroom environment, daily routines, and nightly routines that support regular, undisturbed sleep.
Oftentimes, this looks like having a sturdy and stable sleep schedule, a cozy bedroom with ~moody~ vibes, an evening free from pesky disruptions, and a peaceful bedtime ritual that works for you and is tailored to suit your needs and preferences.
Let’s be clear though: it isn’t abnormal to have ebbs and flows in your sleep hygiene. The reality is that life happens! Making time to study (cram) the night before an exam, birthday dinner celebrations with friends, stressing before a corporate presentation, or taking care of the kiddos can all interrupt a dreamy, insta-worthy bedtime ritual. However, staying as consistent as possible can reap tremendous benefits to your body and secure you some serious Zs. It isn’t about perfection; it is about training your body for relaxation.
Our bodies all come hard-wired with a biological clock that works tirelessly to regulate each process in the body over a 24-hour cycle. This is called your circadian rhythm. One of the most important functions of this natural process is to notify your body when it is time to wake each morning, and when it is time to sleep each evening.
When this rhythm gets out of whack, you better have some Celsius and Red Bull on hand, because an irregular circadian rhythm is one of the biggest proponents of insomnia and all accompanying sleep issues. Fortunately, there is an easy solution. The best way to keep your biological clock in check is to practice strong sleep hygiene.
Why is it important?
Sleep hygiene is one of those terms that makes you think, “there’s a word for that?” However, the importance of properly preparing for a good night of sleep extends well beyond ensuring that you don’t have to double up on triple espressos the next day.
Caring for your sleep hygiene is necessary to replenish and support both mental and physical health. Getting a fulfilling night of sleep not only keeps your energy levels up, but it elevates your mood and staves off anxiety and depression.
Improving sleep hygiene is a critical component of a health strategy designed to raise awareness and substantially improve the significant public health crisis of insufficient sleep in America. According to the CDC, over one-third of Americans are not achieving the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep each night.
With that being said, research shows strong connections between sleep deprivation and declining mental health. Specifically, there have been studies done that reveal that lack of sleep improves the likelihood of negative thoughts and ideas, which in turn elevates the risk for depression and anxiety.
Further, when sleep deprivation becomes a long-term, consistent problem, seemingly healthy adults can come face-to-face with the unfortunate reality of an increased risk of hypertension, weight-related issues, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and gastrointestinal issues, among a plethora of others. Thus, if you are neglecting your sleep, even to partake in activities that support your well-being, it is possible that the lack of sleep is negating the health benefits you should be receiving.
How to improve your sleep hygiene
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to practicing good sleep hygiene. In fact, what is considered “strong” for one may not work at all for someone else. However, there are some general habits and behaviors that, overall, can have a direct effect on the quality of your sleep (and are supported by research!) Also, remember that according to the “rules” of sleep hygiene, a bedtime ritual shouldn’t start ten minutes before you plan to fall asleep. Sleep hygiene is an all-day effort. Let’s break down what a day of good sleep hygiene habits looks like.
Seems pretty counterproductive to start preparing for sleep as soon as you wake up, right? However, building habits that start in the morning and continue to impact you in the evening can be so important, such as getting your daily doses of caffeine out of the way first thing. Drinking caffeine too close to bedtime will tell your body to stay awake, thus disrupting your sleep cycle.
Further, if your schedule permits, try to partake in any high-intensity exercise before dinner time. Exercising before bed will keep your heart racing all evening! Additionally, try to set fixed wake-up times on both weekdays and weekends. This will get your body properly accustomed to falling asleep at a good time each night.
This one goes out to all my afternoon nap-takers! If you are an avid napper, it’s likely that your sleep schedule is pretty wonky, or that you’re consistently tired. Don’t get me wrong: naps can be a good thing. However, if they’re impacting your ability to fall asleep at night, feel refreshed during the day, or stay asleep throughout the night, it may be time to reconsider. I
f you do choose to partake in an afternoon cat nap, try to limit it to a quick, refreshing thirty minutes as per The Sleep Foundation’s recommendation. One of the key drivers of your circadian rhythm is also exposure to daylight. Sheryl Crow said it best: soak up the sun!
Here’s where some of your normal bedtime routines likely come into play. Keeping a consistent routine in the evening will directly impact your ability to fall asleep. Some habits to consider are building in a 30-60 minute window free from electronics, listening to music, stretching, reading, meditating, dimming the lights, lighting a candle, or listening to a podcast with your eyes closed. Whatever puts your mind into a state of calm, works! Avoiding grabbing a late-night snack though, as most of your eating for the day should conclude a few hours before bedtime.
When it comes time to actually rest your eyes at night, consider making your bed and bedroom a sacred space. Make sure the temperature is at a cool (but comfortable) temp that supports restful sleep. Ideally, research shows this is about 65 degrees. Further, block out any distracting light, drown out disruptive sounds with earplugs or fans, and find a calming essential oil mix to wind down. Remember: throughout the day, your bed should be used for sleep and intimacy only, and definitely shouldn’t be in the picture for entertainment or working purposes.
Sleep hygiene should be a working routine. It should require tweaking here and there, trial and error, and plenty of successes and failures. Overall, the most important thing is to find a routine that works best for you and try your best to stick with it. Going the extra mile to support your sleep can be one of the most effective things you can do for your overall health, as a healthy body cannot be healthy without being well-rested; sleep lays the foundation for overall health.
Written by Morgan Taylor
- Photo by Isabella and Zsa Fischer on Unsplash