Practicing good sleep hygiene is the first step towards alleviating any sleep problem and ensuring a good night’s rest. Read on to learn what sleep hygiene is and how it can help improve your sleep.
What is Sleep Hygiene and Why is it Important?
Sleep hygiene is the term used to describe a set of routine habits or behaviors that can help you to get a full night’s sleep. The goal is to achieve a regular sleep and wake pattern seven days a week.
Everyone from children to older adults can benefit from practicing this method. If you have difficulty falling asleep or want to improve your sleep quality, try incorporating some of these habits into your routine for a better night’s rest.
How to Practice Good Sleep Hygiene
1. Establish a consistent sleep schedule
One of the best ways to regulate your circadian rhythm is to develop a consistent sleep schedule. A consistent sleep schedule means go to bed and get up at the same time every day, even on weekends or days off.
This regular rhythm will help keep your body clock synchronized so your body knows when it’s time to sleep at night and when to be awake during the day.
2. Get morning sunlight
Exposure to morning sunlight can help to regulate your biological clock and acts as a natural cue for when to wake up.
Once you’re up, open your window coverings or curtains to let the morning sun in. Getting the morning light will also help you to quickly fall asleep at night.
If you have difficulty accessing natural light in the morning, you can also look to purchase a light therapy box, which emulates both the color temperature and intensity of natural sunlight.
3. Exercise regularly
Regular exercise can contribute to more sound and restful sleep.
Research indicates that exercise can improve the symptoms of insomnia and increase time spent in deep sleep, which is necessary for the body to feel refreshed the next day.
Research also shows that poor sleep can contribute to lower physical activity levels as well, which can create an unhealthy cycle.
Aim for at least 15 to 30 minutes of physical activity daily. If you can’t set aside that much time, try several short sessions of activity throughout the day. Even small amounts of physical activity are helpful, but try to avoid this activity in the hour leading up to bed time, because exercise has a temporary stimulant effect which may cause difficulty initiating sleep.
4. Avoid caffeine
Caffeine is a stimulant that can keep you awake. So, it is best to avoid consuming any caffeinated beverages, such as coffee, tea, sodas, and chocolate drinks, for at least 4-6 hours before going to bed.
Similarly, smoking is another stimulant that can affect your sleep cycle, especially if you smoke too close to bedtime.
5. Don’t drink alcohol before bed
Although drinking alcohol can make you feel drowsy and help in falling asleep, it can disrupt you in the middle of the night as the body begins to process the alcohol, causing you not to sleep well.
6. Avoid eating a large meal close to bedtime
Eating heavy meals or foods that are hard to digest, like fatty foods, high protein or fiber foods, close to bedtime can cause indigestion or heartburn, which may interfere with your sleep. So, it’s best to avoid eating a large meal for at least 3 hours before lying down in bed.
Additionally, you should avoid eating anything that is spicy or contain high sugar content, such as cakes, cookies, candies, fruit juices, as all of these foods can affect your sleep.
7. Avoid drinking excess fluids prior to bedtime
It’s necessary to drink enough fluid at night to keep you from waking up thirsty, but don’t drink too much or too close to bedtime, or you could wake up during the night to use the bathroom.
8. Make your sleep environment comfortable
Having a comfortable sleeping environment is one of the important factors for a good night’s sleep. The ideal sleep environment is cool, quiet, and dark, so do your best to eliminate noise and light from your room.
If noise or bright light can not be avoided, eye masks and earplugs may be helpful. The temperature in the bedroom should be comfortable as well.
In general, the suggested bedroom temperature for optimal sleep is between 60°F (15°C) and 67°F (19°C). Anything below 54°F (12°C) or higher than 75°F (24°C) might disrupt your sleep, so be sure to adjust your thermostat.
A comfy bed is also very essential to get the best night’s sleep so make sure it is equipped with a comfortable mattress and pillows.
9. Relax your mind
If you can’t get to sleep, it’s best to get out of bed and do something that relaxes your mind.
You can try and find relaxation through meditation, listen to soothing music, reading a relaxing book, or perform some type of relaxing activity like yoga. Then, when you start feeling sleepy, you can go back to bed.