Are you having trouble getting a good night’s sleep? Then we need to talk about sleep hygiene. Unfortunately a lot of us have never heard of sleep hygiene. That’s a shame because our sleep hygiene has a huge impact upon our ability to sleep. The more you learn about sleep hygiene, the easier it’ll be to take some actionable steps to finally improve your sleep.
Sleep Hygiene in a Nutshell
Sleep hygiene consists of all of the behaviors and environmental factors that affect your sleep. This covers a lot of ground. Some of the behaviors and environmental factors may include what time you go to bed, if you eat anything before going to bed, or the temperature of your bedroom.
Sleep hygiene can be broken down into 4 factors:
- Your Sleep Schedule
- What You Consume
- Your Environment
The 4 Factors in Detail
All four of these factors play an important roll in both your ability to sleep, as well as your quality of sleep. Let’s dive into each of these 4 factors of sleep hygiene.
Your Sleep Schedule
Many people with sleep problems have a bad habit of not going to bed at a regular time. It’s usually for a frivolous reason, like a television show that’s on late, a night out with friends, or it’s the weekend. The trouble is that your mind and body can’t adjust from an off-night back to a regular night. You must be consistent in your sleep schedule.
Your mind and body crave consistency. It’s recommended that adults get 7 to 8 hours of sleep nightly. To obtain enough hours of sleep, you need to schedule a time to go to bed and a time to wake up. This needs to happen everyday so your mind and body have a much easier to shutting down for a good night’s rest.
Creating a consistent sleep schedule is a great way to improving your sleep hygiene. Block out 7 to 8 hours of your night for sleep. Then stick to your regular bed-time appoint. Before you realize it, your body will behave like clockwork. In fact you’ll wake up right before your alarm goes off.
What do we mean by “activity” in reference to sleep hygiene? For the sake of this article, “activity” will be in reference to the things we do and think about in and out of bed. Our choice of activities will either greatly reduce or enhance our sleep hygiene.
A common physical activity that gets mentioned is exercise. Exercise is great for your health. But exercising too late in the evening will keep your body aroused and prevent you from falling asleep at night.
Overthinking and stressing out are activities that great hinder our sleep hygiene. They tend to wind-up our minds and keep them running all night long. Over-thinking and stress usually occur when we’re working on a difficult problem, going through a troubling life-event, or even when we’re “trying” to fall asleep.
Sometime we’ll force or try to coerce ourselves into falling asleep. This mental act stimulates us even more. Instead of focusing on going into sleep, it’s better to just relax, let go and let sleep happen. And it will.
The Things That You Consume
What we consume before we go to bed often undermines our sleep hygiene and any chance of sleep. Think about all of the things that you eat, drink, and the drugs that you take. The different things that we consume in our lives affect us in different ways.
For example, many of us consume a lot of caffeine and other stimulants throughout our day. Despite the brief boost of energy and the long, drawn out crash that we experience, the stimulants that consume still linger within our system. Thus if we consume too many sugars or too much caffeine, all of that will ultimately disrupt your sleep and/or keep you awake at night. My best advise is to try to limit the amount of caffeine that you consume throughout the day. Also give yourself at least 4 to 5 hours to burn off the stimulants before you go to bed.
It’s a similar story whenever we eat a big meal or consume a midnight snack. Your body still has to convert that food into energy and then use it. Unfortunately, when you’re attempting to sleep, your body isn’t smart enough to pause your metabolism. It still has to burn off the food that you’ve consumed. Guess what happens? That’s right, you’re up half of the night. Try to avoid that late-night snack. If you’re hungry, eat something light like a cracker with some peanut butter on it. Also try to eat your meals 3 to 4 hours before your bedtime.
Both prescription and over-the-counter drugs can disrupt your sleep. Taking certain drugs close to bedtime or at an increased dosage can possibly keep you awake at night. If you notice any differences in your sleep after a change in your medication, you should contact with your doctor.
The Environment You Sleep In
Where you sleep greatly affects your sleep hygiene. Noises, bright light, and all sorts of annoyances help to make sleep a struggle. Some of these annoyances you can help, like for example lighting and temperature. Others not so much. A snoring spouse or a busy street.
What you want to achieve is an optimale environment that’s beneficial to your sleep hygiene. That means, no lights, a comfortable bed, no arousing noises, and a comfortable temperature for sleep. If possible, make every effort to achieve this. For example, if there are too many bright LED lights from the many electronics in your bedroom, consider purchasing eye mask.
Understanding Sleep Hygiene is Key
The more you learn about sleep hygiene, the easier it’ll be to improve your sleep. You’ll be able to focus on the all important factors, sleep schedule, activity in and out of bed, your consumption, and your sleep environment. It’s understandable if there are certain things that you can’t help, for example the outside noise you hear while sleeping in a motel. But there are always ideas to try that might help improve your sleep hygiene.
Not sure what to focus on? You may want to consider taking a sleep hygiene test. The great thing about a sleep hygiene test is that it’ll help bring your attention to the issues interfering with your sleep.