We all have that one co-worker who is always perky and upbeat no matter what’s going on. They likely turn work in well before the deadline, arrive early to staff meetings, and greet everyone with an enthusiastic greeting, all while having a positive attitude. It’s easy to wonder why they’re so on top of everything, while you’re regularly feeling sluggish by 2:00 p.m. So, what’s their secret? It could be something as simple as their sleep hygiene habits. In this article, we’ll go over what sleep hygiene is, how it affects sleep quality and ways you can improve your own sleep hygiene to get the best sleep every night.
Just like dental or personal hygiene, sleep hygiene is a set of rituals that you implement each day to get great sleep at night and feel alert and refreshed during the day. Everyone can benefit from putting good sleep hygiene practices to use because it yields higher quality sleep that you can count on every night. We’ll get more into the details of how to achieve great hygiene a little later on.
Why is Sleep Hygiene Important?
While you sleep, your mind and body are busy replenishing cells, restoring energy and rebuilding tissue. Without sleep, you wouldn’t have enough energy to accomplish basic bodily functions, much less get your forty-hour work week in. Getting enough sleep can provide many benefits for your physical and mental health as well. A proper amount of sleep has been known to lower your risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, obesity and Alzheimer’s. It also keeps your energy level up, improves your mood, and fights off anxiety and depression.
Inside, you have a biological clock that helps regulate all the processes in your body that happen over a 24-hour period. The processes, known as your circadian rhythm, tell your body when it’s time to go to sleep and wake up each day. When your rhythm is out of sync, you can have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep which can lead to insomnia and other sleep issues. The best way to control your circadian rhythms is by practicing good sleep hygiene.
How to Practice Good Sleep Hygiene
Now that you know what sleep hygiene is and why it’s important to your overall health, you might be wondering how you can create and practice good sleep hygiene behaviors. There are several easy to implement steps you can take each day that will have a direct effect on the quality of your sleep. Let’s look at a typical day and see how you can start incorporating changes to help you institute a better sleep regimen.
Starting in the morning, you’ll want to wake up and get that cup of joe out of the way. Consuming caffeine, alcohol or nicotine close to bedtime can stimulate your body to stay awake. By having your cappuccino in the AM, you’ll avoid disrupting your nightly sleep cycle. You’ll also want to get your exercise in no later than mid-afternoon. If you exercise too late in the day, your body won’t be fully ready to enter sleep by bedtime.
Once the afternoon rolls around, do you like to get in a daily nap? This could be a good or bad thing, depending on your sleep situation. You have a certain amount of time that you need to sleep to feel your best each day. For some, this means they take a little nap in the afternoon but are still able to sleep through the night and spend their day awake and refreshed. But if you are taking naps and find it impossible to fall asleep at night or stay asleep, you’ll want to cut out your daily nap. If you do want to nap, The Sleep Foundation recommends limiting daytime naps to 30 minutes.
Evening time often means thinking about that big work day tomorrow, but it’s important to take proactive steps to avoid thinking about these kinds of stressors. Thinking about work, money or stressful situations before bed can release cortisol and cause you to be alert instead of sleepy. In place of common stressors, try reading a book, doing a quiet activity (like a crossword or table puzzle), or writing in a journal to relax and wind down before bed. Try to avoid reaching for that late-night snack; it could give you just enough energy to keep you from falling asleep. Avoiding nighttime snacks will negate common nighttime disturbances like heartburn or indigestion that might keep you awake. You’ll also want to fight the urge to check your phone or turn on the TV right before you head to bed. The lights and information can be stimulating and keep you awake longer than your body would like. If you’re not feeling sleepy, try taking a warm bath. The rise and fall of your blood pressure will get your body in the mood to snooze.
Once you’ve finally made it to bed, make sure your bed is comfortable, and the room temperature is between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Your bedroom should be a sanctuary for sleep and romantic time with your partner only. You shouldn’t come into your room for entertainment or to do work. It’s also critical to make your bedroom as dark as possible. This includes drawing the blinds to reduce outside lights, turning off any LED lights, and even facing your alarm clock away from view. Finally, make sure you go to sleep at the same time each night, give or take 20 minutes, and wake up at the same time each morning. This allows your body to get on a sleep schedule by predicting how much sleep it can expect.
If your cat or dog loves to snuggle up with you in bed, but they toss, turn, and hog your covers all night, it might be worth getting them their own sleeping accommodations. When pets wake us during the night, they can throw our sleep cycle off balance, resulting in poor quality rest.
Keeping Up with your Sleep Hygiene
Sleep hygiene, like most things in life, requires daily maintenance and care. Make sure to create a routine and stick with it every day. Improving your sleep is the most important thing you can do for your overall health, so you want to give it the proper amount of attention each day. Stick to these sleep hygiene tips, and before long you’ll start feeling the benefits of great rest on a regular basis.