What Is sleep hygiene? Why does it matter?
Sleep hygiene is a series of routines, habits, and behaviors you partake in relation to your sleep. Unknowingly or not, each of us has our own rituals and behaviors which may impact our overall feeling of rest. Things like a 3 pm cup of coffee or sleeping in on the weekend to ‘catch up’ on sleep are examples of undesirable sleep hygiene behaviors. Sleep hygiene is important because it can either improve or reduce the quality of sleep you are getting. A few simple tweaks can really improve the amount of sleep you are able to get – whether that is 6 hours or 9 hours.
This list is a holistic approach to improving your nighttime habits and is not a simple one-step solution.
1. Develop a night-time wind down routine.
This can include:
- An Epsom salt bath
- Stretching or yoga
- Reading a book
Engaging in this series of behaviors will gradually signal to your body you are getting ready to go to sleep – and these behaviors will also aid in relaxing your mind and body.
2. Block out all light and noise.
Darkness acts as a signal to your body it needs to prepare for sleep. If you aren’t able to completely control your circumstances, then things like a sleep mask and earplugs will ensure that you are able to block out as much light and noise as possible. Alternatively, blackout curtains make a huge difference; also using masking tape to cover any small lights on chargers and cords.
3. Use a filter on electronics.
Blue light from electronics can mimic sunlight and throw off our body’s natural circadian rhythm. These kinds of devices can trick our bodies into thinking it is still light outside and we should, therefore, stay awake. Apps like f.lux can be installed to block out the high frequency wavelengths that may interfere with sleep.
4. Be mindful of the temperature in the room.
The ideal temperature for sleep is 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit. Keeping the room dark will aid in maintaining a cooler temperature, and a fan can be positioned near the bed as well.
5. Aim to fall asleep and wake up at a similar time each night.
Waking up at a similar time will help strengthen your body’s natural circadian rhythm. Our bodies are designed to rise with the sun and sleep when it goes down – and sleeping in on weekends can throw this rhythm off. The same goes for falling asleep at a similar time. You will find falling asleep will get easier as your body gets used to its new routine.
6. Move your body throughout the day.
Being active throughout the day is beneficial for many reasons, but getting your heart rate up during the day may actually increase the length and quality of your sleep. As little as 10 minutes of walking or cycling on a daily basis is enough to reap these benefits when done on a consistent basis.
7. Stop caffeine at 12 pm.
Our bodies are designed to have peak energy after waking up in the morning and should gradually drop throughout the day, ending in sleep at night. A stimulant like caffeine will cause an unnatural spike when consumed in the afternoon and may lead to a crash later in the day. Coffee and other stimulants are best when consumed in the first 30 minutes of waking up – when our bodies should be producing peak cortisol for the day! Try to limit other substances like alcohol or chocolate to 4 hours before bedtime if possible.
8. Write down a to-do list.
If you find it hard to fall asleep at night because your mind is racing with all of the things you need to finish tomorrow, take a minute to jot all of your thoughts down. Having a place to keep all of these thoughts is helpful because you won’t have to stress or worry about forgetting something – all of those thoughts will be waiting for you in the morning!
9. Worst case… use a supplement,
A supplement is just that – an extra bonus to an already healthy lifestyle. If you are really struggling to fall asleep at night, things like melatonin or CBD oil can help get your body ready for sleep. Of course, the goal is to be able to fall asleep without these products, but they can be particularly useful in the beginning when you are trying to get your body’s rhythm back on track.