Experts tell us that sleep is essential for mental health, can boost our productivity and overall quality of life (Suni). If that wasn’t enough, appropriate sleep hygiene can also cut down on daytime sleepiness and even help treat some cases of insomnia.
While that sounds nice, what does sleep hygiene actually mean? Sleep hygiene means creating the optimal habits and environment to fall asleep quickly and stay asleep. These habits look different for everyone, and takes some exploration and discovery to find what works for you in your specific situation. Below are some guidelines to consider to get the most out of your sleep at night.
Establishing a consistent wake time. What time do you need to wake up each morning in order for you to enjoy your coffee and make to work on time?
Establish a consistent bedtime. Based off of your optimal wake time, what time should you be going to bed? Some people get by on as little as four hours of sleep, but for the rest of us, we average somewhere between six to eight hours. Sometimes even more. You may need to start adjusting your bedtime in smaller increments (eg. 15-minute increments) towards your ideal sleep time. Adjust every three days or so until you are able to fall asleep at the optimal bed time and still wake up feeling refreshed and ready for the day.
Next, it is time to look at your sleep routine. Or the activities you engage in that tells your body, ‘it’s time for sleep!’ Common activities include: getting into comfortable pajamas, brushing our teeth and dimming the lights. Maybe you use the restroom, and clear your nose so you breathe better at night. Whatever it is, these activities can condition your body to let it know when it is time to start relaxing for sleep.
Now let’s look at your environment– Light is one of the strongest indicators to our brain that it is time for sleep. Dimming the lights and especially fluorescent lights or light from electronic devices can signal to our brain that it is time for sleep. Professionals recommend setting aside electronics as much as a full hour before bedtime to give your brains time to release enough sleep hormones to make you tired before bed. If this is unreasonable, shoot for 30 minutes before bed and consider using a ‘night mode’ option or at least turning down the light on your screen before bed to at least reduce your exposure to light.
Last but not least, Consider your daytime activities. What we do during the day can effect your body’s ability to sleep at night. Things like taking a walk, or exercising during the day can help your body work of any lingering stress hormones that keep you awake at night. While activities like, evening coffee breaks, alcohol or late afternoon naps can mix your sleep signals and keep you tossing in bed at night.
For more information on activities that can help, check out sleepfoundation.org or sleepeducation.org for more many more ideas get the most out of your ‘pillow time.’ With so much information about getting good sleep out there, you should be sleeping better in no-time. However, if you find yourself still struggling to stay asleep or fall asleep within 20 minutes consider talking to your doctor or getting professional help.
Suni, eric. “What Is Sleep Hygiene?” Sleep Foundation, 11 Mar. 2022, https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-hygiene
Pacheco, Danielle. “Can Electronics Affect Sleep?” Sleep Foundation, 1 April. 2022, https://www.sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/how-electronics-affect-sleep
“Healthy Sleep Habits.” AASM Sleep Education, Aug. 2022, https://sleepeducation.org/healthy-sleep/healthy-sleep-habits/
This blog was brought to you by guest blogger Julia!