Why is sleep hygiene important?
In our fast-paced, modern lives, many of us look forward to hitting the hay after a long day. But are we drifting off to restful slumber or simply passing out from sheer exhaustion?
If you’re experiencing sleep problems, it can impact every other part of your life. A lack of sleep leads to excessive or troubled sleep, which in turn can disrupt our natural waking/rest cycles. That’s why it’s crucial to minimize sleep disturbances and get the best quality of sleep possible. It all starts with proper sleep hygiene.
The Problem with Poor Sleep
Sleep is the time when our bodies rebuild cells, grow and repair tissues, boost immunity, and forge new memories. Without proper sleep, you are more susceptible to disease, mental illness, and injury. You will also find it hard to feel focused or energetic.
If you’re not feeling rested despite a full night’s sleep, or if you struggle to fall asleep at night, it can be harder to get up in the morning. Over time, this creates a “sleep debt” that can be hard to pay back. That’s why sleep issues can quickly multiply, causing a detrimental cycle that negatively impacts your health.
Conditions such as insomnia, sleep apnea, and Upper Airway Respiratory Syndrome can all be exacerbated by poor sleep behaviors, which in turn perpetuate these conditions. To avoid and treat sleep problems, you need to implement a strong sleep hygiene regimen.
What is Sleep Hygiene?
Sleep hygiene may sound like the ritual of a bedtime bath, but it’s actually a set of best practices to help you achieve restful sleep. In modern life, many of us stay up later than our ancestors did. Surrounded by artificial light and screens, our brains don’t trigger the release of melatonin, which is essential for good sleep. Add in the fact that many of us have hectic schedules and sedentary habits, and our bodies simply aren’t primed for a good night’s sleep.
Sleep hygiene helps us regain our body’s natural sleep behaviors. This way, we can drift off to sleep easily, enter regular REM cycles, and sleep long enough that our bodies can finish repairing and renewing themselves.
What’s Involved in Sleep Hygiene?
Sleep hygiene is – quite simply – a set of habits that anyone can implement for better sleep. If you’re experiencing a sleep disorder such as insomnia or apnea, good sleep hygiene is a key part of your treatment plan. Your primary goal is to avoid the behaviors that disrupt sleep.
Consistent Sleep Schedule
As much as possible, try to go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning. You don’t have to be accurate down to the minute, but your body needs to learn when you expect to sleep and rise. If you use a consistent sleep schedule for a few weeks, your cycles will naturally align. Your brain will release melatonin when it’s time to go to sleep, then cortisol to wake you up at the right time.
Lower the Lights
Humans are diurnal, meaning that our bodies naturally release melatonin when it gets dark. Of course, when we’re surrounded by artificial lights, our brains don’t know when it’s nighttime. The solution is to minimize the amount of light you encounter when bedtime approaches.
Dim your lights, pull the curtains, and avoid looking at bright lights. This includes the screens of your TV, smartphone, and computer! These devices emit blue light, which studies have shown to decrease melatonin.
Don’t Eat Large Meals Before Bedtime
We eat to gain energy, which means that you’re setting yourself up for poor sleep if you consume a heavy meal right before bedtime. Digestion is also an energy-intensive activity, not something you want your body to do during sleep. As a rule of thumb, avoid eating dinner less than 3 hours before bedtime. If you must have a bedtime snack, keep it low-carb and low-sugar.
Limit Caffeine and Alcohol
Most people know that coffee and soda will keep them awake, but did you know that alcohol can stimulate your body as well? Drinking any of these beverages right before bed can disrupt your sleep cycle. It’s best to stick to water or caffeine-free tea, and avoid any sugary drinks before bedtime.
Make Your Bedroom a Sleep Destination
Our natural cycles are heavily linked to places and memories. That’s why many of us struggle to get into “work mode” when at home, or tend to feel energized when we’re at the gym. By the same token, your bedroom should only be used for two things: sleep and sex. Don’t use your bed as a place to watch TV, do work, or other mentally stimulating activities. Treat your bedroom as a sanctuary for optimal rest.
Create a Nighttime Ritual
There’s no one bedtime routine that works for everyone. The key is to do things that are relaxing, not stimulating. Many people enjoy reading, knitting, taking a bath, and other low-energy activities. It’s always a good idea to do a gentle stretch or some deep breathing. Avoid doing puzzles, watching TV, discussing hot topics, or browsing social media.
Choose a few activities that you will always do before bed. These will compose a ritual that triggers sleepiness. Many people brush their teeth, wash their face, and so on. Whatever you decide to do, start your routine at approximately the same time every night. Your brain will naturally start releasing melatonin even if you weren’t feeling tired yet.
Sleep hygiene is one of the easiest ways to work toward resolving sleep problems. When we give ourselves an opportunity to unplug and unwind, we enable our body’s natural sleep cycle to take effect. Then, all we have to do is lie down and drift off for a restful night. Your sleep hygiene routine may take only half an hour, yet you’ll gain that many more productive hours the next day.
Struggling to address sleep issues or achieve quality sleep? At Benessair Health, we offer sleep management services to help you identify your sleep factors and create a good sleep hygiene regimen. Start your wellness journey” with Benessair Health. Book your appointment today and let’s get you rested up the right way!