Have you heard the phrase sleep hygiene before? It’s an important term to know when thinking about ways to improve your sleep health. The Sleep Foundation defines it as “a variety of different practices and habits that are necessary to have good nighttime sleep quality and full daytime alertness.”
Why is Sleep Hygiene Important?
While we do have coffee, tea, and other stimulants to jump-start our days, a full night of rest is the best medicine for optimal physical and mental health. Improved sleep hygiene can “improve productivity and overall quality of life…everyone can benefit from practicing good sleep habits.”
Getting too much, too little, or disrupted sleep leads to medical issues like fatigue, high blood pressure, and increased stress, among other things. But the good news is boosting your current habits and creating an area with the best sleeping conditions will significantly decrease your risk of these symptoms.
Be sure to treat your bedroom as just that, a place where you sleep! Using your bedroom for relaxing, doing work, eating dinner, or watching TV is considered poor sleep hygiene, because2 your mind associates the bed as a place of wakefulness. Sleep and alone time with your partner are the only things that should be happening in the bedroom.
Watch What You Eat
Be mindful that your diet can affect sleep. Heavy meals or those with high acidity, sugar, or spice can cause fitful rest. Try and eat lighter healthier dinners with lean meat or fish to help curb late night snacking. If you do want a snack before bed, consider a high-carbohydrate snack like toast or crackers, or a bedtime smoothie. These foods help trigger the release of serotonin, so sleep won’t be far behind.
Workout on Time
Keeping your workouts on an optimal schedule is great for your sleep. Any physical activity should take place no later than three hours before bedtime. Evening workouts cause us to be overstimulated when it’s time to rest, so shoot for morning workouts instead. You’ll feel more energized all day, and your body will be ready to relax come evening.
Think Dark or Dim
Once you’re finished with dinner and dishes, it’s a good idea to start dimming the lights in your home. This tells your brain that sleep is on the horizon, and you’ll naturally start powering down. If forced to sleep with light, make sure your room is as dark as possible. Once you get into bed, make sure your room is as dark as possible. Cover windows and shut doors as necessary, and put the electronic devices away.
Create a Pre-Bed Ritual
Now that you’re going to bed at the same time each night creating a pre-bed ritual is the next best sleep hygiene habit. Many sound sleepers suggest parsing the hour before bedtime into 20-minute segments, where you get everything ready for the next day, take a hot shower, and relax or meditate.
Avoid Lying Awake
If you find yourself lying in bed unable to drift off after 10 minutes, it’s recommended that you get up and try to relax somewhere else, like a chair in your office or on the couch. You can try and find relaxation through gentle breathing, meditation, or splashing warm water on your face. Steer clear of electronics or reading, as these will only keep your brain active.
Maintaining excellent sleep rituals and hygiene is a key part of cultivating great overall health and wellness. Happy sleeping!