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Sleep Hygiene - Sleep hygiene can be defined by your practices and habits that are conducive to your sleeping pattern on a regular basis. There are many factors that can cause us to miss out on our much-needed sleep such as stress, interrupted sleep-wake cycle, and even onset of sleep disorders such as insomnia, sleep apnea, poor sleep habits, and the like. When we miss out on our night’s sleep, various sleep deprivation symptoms can crop up such as daytime sleepiness, brain fog, mood swings, and even being more prone to accidents. Is there any way to help reduce the chances of this from happening? If you are wondering how to sleep better, you can start learning more on how having good sleep hygiene can be beneficial to you.
What is Sleep Hygiene?
What is sleep hygiene in the first place? If this is your first time hearing this, well, it’s quite simple really. Sleep hygiene refers to the various practices as well as habits that we do before bedtime in order for us to get a good night’s sleep. What’s so special about having a nighttime routine? Well, the bedtime rituals that we follow can help promote better sleep, which can benefit our overall mental and physical health. And since you are getting more restful sleep, you will find that you are more productive, alert, and energized the following day <1>. Do you wake up with a headache? Here's why
Importance of Sleep
Making time for sleep at the end of the day is necessary as there are numerous functions that require our body to be at rest such as muscle repair, rejuvenating blood cells and the like. Of course, there are numerous benefits associated with getting a good sleep at night such as:
Maintaining your weight
Sleep deprivation may lead to weight gain since our body needs fuel to function. And because we haven’t been sleeping properly, we rely on food to get us through the day. Unfortunately, this can lead to overeating which can increase the amounts of calories that we consume in the day. Having proper sleep means that you may be able to maintain a better weight on your part.
Enhancing concentration and productivity
If you are getting quality sleep every night, then you'll hopefully have fewer problems with concentrating on your work and your productivity levels can go up as well.
Reducing risk of heart problems and stroke
Another benefit of regular sleep is reducing your risk of stroke and other heart problems too. This may be due to the fact that there is less pressure being placed on your heart since your body is getting adequate amounts of rest, and that the rest of your organs are functioning better when you are getting quality sleep <2>.
A Guide to Building Good Sleep Hygiene
A lot of people assume that when you say sleep hygiene, it refers to brushing one’s teeth, taking a bath, and the like, but there is more to this routine than the ones mentioned already. If you are wondering how to sleep better or how to help alleviate certain sleep deprivation symptoms, try the following steps to build better sleep hygiene.
Minimize bright lights
When it comes to getting a good night’s rest, the first thing that you should do is to avoid exposing yourself to bright lights, especially in the bedroom. Dim the light in your sleeping quarters to set the mood for sleeping.
Follow a sleep schedule
Another example of sleep hygiene tips that you should try is to have a sleep schedule. This involves sleeping and waking at the same time every day, especially during the weekends. What this does to your body is to teach it that it is time to shut down for the day once you near the hour of your bedtime. Once you get used to this regular sleep schedule, you won’t even have to set your alarm anymore because your body knows it’s time to wake up already. Remember to wake up from sleep and go to sleep at the same time every day <3>.
Determine the number of hours of sleep you need
The hours of sleep that we need tend to change from childhood to adulthood. Children often need up to 12 hours of sleep, but as we get older, it tends to range from 7 to 9 hours of sleep. Although experts recommend that you get at least 8 hours of sleep, there is no fixed number of hours at all since our needs differ from one person to the next. Some can function easily even when they just had 6 hours of sleep. That being said, you need to find out how much sleep you need to feel refreshed and energized in the morning; discovering this will allow you to schedule your sleep and wake time properly.
Reduce daytime naps
There are times when we couldn’t help but take naps in the afternoon, especially when we’re feeling sleepy. Although taking 20 minutes to rest is not that bad, completing a full sleep cycle can actually prevent you from getting a good night’s rest later on at night. This can affect your circadian rhythm which can leave you exposed to insomnia or other nighttime disruptions.
Invest in a good mattress
Another tip to consider for your sleep hygiene checklist is to purchase a good mattress. Sagging mattresses can make it difficult for you to find a good sleeping position, which in turn can make you toss and turn at night. Finding the right kind of mattress for your preferences will help promote a good night’s sleep since your body is well supported no matter what position you sleep in <4>.
Avoid caffeinated drinks
If sleeping has become elusive lately, you might want to consider the amount of caffeine that you drink every day. Caffeine is a type of stimulant that perks your mind up for a few hours, which means that drinking coffee close to bedtime is not recommended as you might spend the rest of the night awake. But if you think that caffeine is only found in coffee, you should check your tea, soda, and even chocolate for that matter: they may also contain small amounts. If you want to fall asleep, limit your intake of caffeinated beverages during the day and at night.
Don’t watch your clock
Some people can’t help but stare at the clock when they are in bed and trying to sleep. Unfortunately, habits like this can do more harm than good because you’re feeling stressed that time is ticking and you’re still wide awake. The best thing to do is to turn the clock face away from your bed, so you won’t be tempted to stare at it.
Work out early in the day
Exercise should be done earlier in the day rather than later in the evening to help prevent sleep problems. Keep in mind that exercise is an example of stimulating activities that will leave your mind wide awake which is something that you should avoid especially when nearing bed time. Working out means that your body is releasing cortisol which is a type of stress hormone that may prevent you from falling asleep lead. If your morning schedule is already full, make it a point to exercise at least three hours before you hit the sack <5>.
Pay attention to your food intake
That is, if you are doing work related stuff, watching TV, and the like. The idea of the bedroom is to be the place where you can relax and go to sleep or have some intimate moments with your partner -- and nothing more. If you are the type of person who does their work in bed, or choose to watch TV while in the bedroom, you are already changing the feel of the environment in your space. This can prevent you from having a good night’s sleep, thus causing poor sleep on your part.
Stay out of your bedroom
If you want to practice good sleep habits, then you might want to add this tip to your list. Eating large meals close to bedtime can make it difficult for you to fall asleep. If your diet consists of foods that are spicy, sweet, or too oily, it will be harder for your stomach to digest it close to bedtime. A better option would be to have a light dinner that consists of fish or even lean meat to prevent your late-night snacking. If you are still feeling a bit hungry, go for a light snack instead such as toast or crackers <6>.
Cut back on your gadget use
Blue light being emitted from your computer screen, smartphone, or tablet can cause sleep restriction because it activates your stimulus control. The problem, however, is that most of us tend to bring our devices to bed, thus the light coming from the screen disrupts our sleep patterns. If it is time for sleep, make sure that you turn off your devices, or at least hide it in your bedside table drawer to prevent the light from bothering you.
Turn down the noise
Are you wondering how to sleep better when the noise down the street is bothering you? Well, perhaps you should invest in a noise canceling machine or one that emits white noise that can reduce the sounds coming from outside.
Try Cognitive behavioral therapy
For those who are suffering from mental issues such as anxiety and depression, undergoing cognitive-behavioral therapy can help alleviate your condition and help you fall asleep too. Sleep experts will be able to guide you through each session on how to change your habits and your mental state in order to sleep better at night.
Another tip on improving your sleep quality through your sleep hygiene is to learn meditation practices. Relaxation techniques can involve breathing techniques, doing light yoga, or listening to chants while staying still. Meditation helps remove the stress that you are feeling while easing the tension in your muscles too.
Install night lights
For those who tend to get up at night to use the bathroom, rather than turning on the main lights in your bedroom, install night lights instead. These lights have a softer hue and will not cause you to wake up because of exposure to bright light. This way, you don’t have to worry about falling asleep after a trip to the bathroom. Sleep Hygiene Resources: <1> National Sleep Foundation; What is sleep hygiene?. <2> Health Line; 10 Reasons Why Good Sleep Is Important. <3> Sleep; What is Sleep Hygiene. <4> Tuck; Sleep Hygiene, February 22, 2018. <5> Harvard, Healthy Sleep; Twelve Simple Tips to Improve Your Seep, December 18, 2007. <6> Sleep Score Labs; 10 Tips to Improve Your Sleep Hygiene, Leah Perri, August 10, 2017.
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