OK, you’re probably thinking, “what the heck is sleep hygiene?” and you wouldn’t be alone. In short, sleep hygiene means “having both a bedroom environment and daily routines that promote consistent, uninterrupted sleep,” according to the Sleep Foundation. I’ve always been fairly intense when it comes to sleep hygiene. I’m just one of those people who thrives better when the conditions are right and my routine is on track. Keeping a regular sleep schedule, making your bedroom comfortable and free of disruptions, following a relaxing pre-bed routine and building healthy habits during the day can all contribute to ideal sleep hygiene.
Here’s what bad sleep hygiene can look like:
- Having a hard time falling asleep
- Experiencing frequent sleep disturbances
- Suffering daytime sleepiness
- An overall lack of consistency in sleep quantity or quality can also be a symptom of poor sleep hygiene.
What habits can affect your sleep hygiene:
- Background noise
- Temperature extremes
- Uncomfortable bedroom
- Excessive napping
- Excessive time in bed
- Irregular bedtimes
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Stimulating activity prior to bedtime
- Caffeine, alcohol, fluid intake prior to bedtime
What you can do to fix it:
Avoid the late night snack attack
Snacking too close to REM is a big no-no. Keep your stomach acids from wrecking havoc on your sleep and don’t eat after dinner. Even better, plan to eat your dinner as early as possible. Eating before bedtime can cause indigestion or heartburn, which will definitely impact your sleep patterns. Plan ahead and make sure your dinner has protein and carbs that won’t burn off quickly so it “sticks to your ribs” until bedtime.
No more Netflix lullaby
Falling asleep to electronics is one of the most common sleep hygiene disruptors. Unplugging prior to bed is important, but it doesn’t end just at your cell phone. Falling asleep to a movie or Netflix keeps your brain active and can disrupt your sleep cycle when left on. Plug in your phone in a separate room and opt for a more traditional alarm clock so you’re not tempted for that pre- and post-sleep scroll.
Prioritize your bedtime routine
There’s a reason why we insist on a bedtime routine for children, but we can benefit as adults as well. Establishing a regular time to go to sleep and to wake up, even on weekends and holidays, is important. Make your routine something to look forward to. Take a warm shower, do your skincare routine and light a candle before snuggling into your bed for lights out. Whatever brings you that feeling of peace prior to dreamland, make it part of your routine.
Ditch bedroom distractions
Good sleep hygiene starts with the perfect setting that has no distractions. That can mean a cool, dark location that contains a sound machine or sound-free depending on your preference. But you know what else causes unintentional distractions? Clutter! Your sleeping space has to be clutter-free. Start small with any eye sores distracting your mind: stacks of books, laundry piles or trash that can easily be thrown away. This is a sacred place, so don’t let it become another out of control storage spot.
Make your bed a haven
Your sleeping surface is critical to comfort and pain-free sleep, so choose your mattress and pillow wisely. Then of course, your bedding is key. The sheets and blankets are the first thing you touch when you get into bed, so it makes sense that you’ll want to be excited about your bedding.
Stay out of your room
If you live in a small space, this can be easier said than done, but it’s important to try. 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, because your mind associates the bed as a place of wakefulness. Sleep and sex are the only things that should be happening in the bedroom.
Getting quality sleep is important for your health: it strengthens your immune system, helps you maintain a healthy weight and lowers your risk for serious health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. Good sleep can improve your mood and even your memory. Good sleep hygiene sets the stage for a restful night when your body heals and restores itself. Sweet Dreams!
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