What is Sleep Hygiene?

Sleep hygiene is a newer term used to describe one's commitment to investing in the quality and consistency of their sleep. As infants, many of us had routines and ways in which our parents would prepare us for sleep. Some infants are given warm baths, sung a song, or read a book before being tucked into bed. Sleep hygiene is a similar list of activities done to wind down and prepare for rest. You may consider incorporating a new sleep hygiene habit to see how it improves your overall health and wellness. 

What Is Sleep Hygiene?

Sleep hygiene is a series of activities one cultivates to help promote quality sleep. These behavioral interventions usually are conducted at the same time every night and morning, in an effort to develop a sleep routine conducive to better quality sleep. People who have good sleep hygiene are consistent and prioritize quality sleep.

What Are Healthy Sleep Habits?

Below are 3 things to try when creating your sleep habits:

Set The Stage In Your Bedroom 

Keep your room dark. You can use blackout curtains to avoid light disruptions from cars. Lights tell your body to be awake as lights resemble the sun. You want to avoid any miscommunication to your brain. Creating a comfortable, relaxing space for your body and mind is essential. Many people remove tv's from their room so that their body associates their room and bed with sleep only. The majority of people also sleep better when the room temperature is 60-67 degrees, so adjusting your temperature to meet your comfort needs is important.

Be Consistent

When creating your sleep habit, it's most beneficial to be consistent—being consistent with going to bed every day and waking up the same time each morning gives you optimal rest. Do similar activities each night to prepare and reaffirm to your body and mind that it's almost time for sleep. 

Go to bed tired. This concept may seem a little strange, but to get the most out of this, you need to be ready for sleep when you go to bed. Sometimes bedtimes need to be adjusted depending on your biology or what personally works for you. Many sleep experts have often recommended napping, however, naps can also hinder your sleep when it's time to go to bed for the night. Getting enough activity throughout the day is also important when preparing for sleep. An exercise routine can benefit you in more ways than just your waistline. Exercise helps you sleep better and stay asleep longer throughout the night. 

What Is Sleep Hygiene in Mental Health?

There is a great connection between sleep hygiene and mental health. Formulating these sleep habits helps to ease certain anxieties about getting enough rest, waking up on time, or pacing the floor. Once you've established a consistent routine you can fall asleep easier and with less stress. Your mental health deteriorates with the lack of proper sleep, causing increased anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive tendencies. Sleep deprivation has been found to alter personality and one's brain chemistry. 

When you are stressed or struggling mentally, you experience sleep disturbances and dreams that manifest your worries in your sleep. If you can resolve any issues from the day, it is best to do so before going to sleep rather than waiting until the next day. The quality of your sleep heavily depends on how you conducted your day.  

What Are Examples of Poor Sleep Hygiene?

Many people spend their evenings relaxing in front of their tv watching their favorite shows. Though there is nothing wrong with watching a moderate amount of tv, doing so late in the evening can greatly affect the quality of your sleep. Below are some examples of poor hygiene habits that damage sleep:

  • Leaving the tv or radio on during sleep
  • Temperature is too cold or too hot
  • Drinking caffeine too late in the day
  • Uncomfortable bed, pillow, or blankets
  • Sleeping too much
  • Taking too long of a nap during the day
  • Inconsistent bedtimes 
  • Not getting enough exercise during the day
  • Sitting around too much 
  • Drinking alcohol before bed

What Are Examples of Good Sleep Hygiene?

Incorporating good sleep hygiene habits will improve your sleep and enhance the way you feel during the day. With proper rest your body will be able to work just as it should. 

Sleep hygiene doesn't look the same for everyone. People who make it a point to create good sleep habits usually avoid similar things like:

  • Eating large meals before bed - It is recommended to eat 2 hours before bed. Eating earlier in the day rescues your chances of digestive upset and indigestion at bedtime. 
  • Dimming the lights and avoiding screens 1 hour before bed - Many things we do in a day are meant to engage us and draw our focus. Avoiding screens like phones, TVs, and video games 1 hour before bed helps our brains and our eyes wind down for rest. 
  • Limit your caffeine - intake to just your morning coffee. Studies have shown you may feel the effects of caffeine from 3-7 hours after drinking it. Drinking caffeine too late in the day can keep you up at night even if you want to be asleep. 

Why Is Proper Sleep Hygiene Important?

Proper sleep hygiene is important for your body's self-regulating processes. With the help of the sun, our body knows when it's time to sleep and when it's time to be active. When we bypass that first yawn or other cues that our body is ready for rest and power through another episode of your show you could be doing more damage than you realize. By altering your circadian rhythm, your body cannot replenish and restore cells required for basic bodily function. A full night's sleep can decrease your risks of stroke, diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimers, as well as cancer. The importance of sleep hygiene habits also helps promote balanced moods and ward off depression and anxiety. 

What Are Proper Sleep Hygiene Tips

In addition to the sleep hygiene tips provided above, if you are someone who struggles with watching the clock in bed and lying awake may try getting up out of bed and sitting in a chair. While your lights are still off, sit in a chair and let your mind wander until you are tired. Once you are tired, you can return to bed and hopefully fall asleep. Getting up and going into a lit room or watching tv will only signal your body to become more awake. 

Getting fresh air is also essential to do in your bedroom. The bedroom can often become the most stuffy room in the house. By opening windows during the day, you can allow the stale air to exit and fresh air to fill your room before bed. If it is cold where you live you may want to invest in an air purifier that removes viruses, bacteria, allergens, and odors from the room. Quality air can affect your sleep as well as your health. 

How Can I Improve My Sleep?

If you have gotten stuck in unhealthy habits that disrupt your sleep and drain your energy it is not too late to create a new healthy habit. So many people are stuck in unhealthy cycles that leave them feeling tired and drained the next day. By incorporating a new sleep hygiene routine for just three nights, you should begin to feel the positive effects. Within three weeks you will begin to wish you learned how to improve sleep habits a long time ago. Establishing a sleep schedule is how to love and care for yourself properly.