Sleep hygiene is a bit of a confusing term. Some may think it is a sleeping disorder similar to sleep walking where the victim unknowingly showers while they sleep. Others may think that it’s a neurosis someone may suffer from that makes the person change their sheets every night before going to bed. As helpful as showering while sleeping may be, and how annoying it would be to change the sheets each and every night, sleep hygiene is neither of these two things. Sleep hygiene is a set of good habits to accomplish to prepare for a great night’s sleep.
I know how busy life can get and that we all have demanding schedules. What I am going to suggest for optimal sleep hygiene is not adding more on to your plate, rather I am going to suggest changing the times or eliminating certain things from your daily routine. You don’t have to take on every suggestion, but you’ll definitely want to try a few of the options to see if they help you relax, which prepares you for restful sleep.
Remember when you used to have a bedtime? I do, my mom would put me to bed at the same time every night when I was younger as she tucked me into bed with my Winnie the Pooh stuffed animal. Now that I’m in the real world with a real job (yes, being the Snooze Director is a real job), it’s just as important to have a set bedtime. Good sleep hygiene starts with having a set bedtime and wake up time that you adhere to everyday (even on the weekends). Your body will grow accustomed to relaxing more easily as it gets used to falling asleep and waking up at the same time everyday.
Do you already pump iron at the gym? That’s great, but do you go after work or later in the evening? That’s not so great. You’ll want to get your workout done first thing in the morning or complete it no later than three hours before bedtime. Right after finishing your workout, your body will experience an endorphin high that gives you an energy boost, which is why it is highly recommended to run through your exercise regimen first thing in the morning.
I remember when my mom used to help me get ready for bed, the routine consisted of a bath, putting on pajamas, reading a book together and then Winnie the Pooh and I were off to dreamland probably half way through reading Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. It’s just as important to have a relaxing bedtime routine even as an “adult,” (I still haven’t come to terms that I can refer to myself as an adult). Taking a hot bath or shower before bed will relax your muscles and ease your way into restful sleep. Turn off all electronics at least an hour before bed and read a book instead or listen to relaxing music.
Now here are some things to avoid in your daily routine that promote quality sleep. While napping can be helpful getting you through your day (if you have the opportunity to), just make sure that you don’t nap too late in the day. You’ll also want to keep your nap less than 20 minutes, so that it won’t mess with your sleep cycle. Having caffeine after 2pm is a big no-no; caffeine stays in your system for a long time and can turn your sleep cycle upside down. Don’t forget that caffeine isn’t just a regular cup of coffee; it’s also in tea, decaf beverages, soda and chocolate. If you’re having a hard time without your afternoon coffee, try drinking a cold glass of water or get up and walk around the office for an energy boost. Lastly, if you think that night cap is helping you sleep, that’s not entirely true. While studies have found that those with alcohol in their system fell asleep quickly, their quality of sleep was nothing to brag about. Drinking too close to bedtime will keep your body up at night, which decreases the quality of sleep you’ll get because you spend less time in the REM stages of sleep. As a rule of thumb, finish your alcohol consumption no later than three hours before bed.
All of these suggestions are to reduce stress and ease your mind and body into restful sleep. Giving one or two of these a try each night will help you get to sleep quicker and stay asleep for longer. Don’t forget the importance of a supportive mattress, when it comes to getting a great night’s sleep. A mattress that was purchased more than eight years ago might not be properly supporting your body and will promote tossing and turning each night, which decreases the quality of sleep you get. The body benefits tremendously from quality sleep. Making a few small changes to your daily routine will help maximize the benefits of sleep for your body and mind.
Contributor: Emily Barrett