Your alarm goes off in the morning and all you want to do is roll over and head back for more Zzzs but you get up grudgingly and coffee is the first thing you reach for. You experience waves of drowsiness throughout the day and you fall into bed at the end of the day exhausted. However, at 2 a.m. insomnia strikes and you toss and turn and doze off in intervals of fitful sleep. Rinse and repeat day after day and night after night. Does this sound like you?
If so, read on to learn about sleep hygiene and how it can affect your quality of sleep. Even if this doesn’t sound like you, managing sound sleep hygiene offers tremendous life benefits.
What is Sleep Hygiene?
According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep hygiene is “a variety of different practices and habits that are necessary to have good nighttime sleep quality and full daytime alertness.” You are probably somewhat aware that phone usage, television viewing, and carb intake in the evening can affect your body’s natural cues to prepare for sleep. But, do you know how in combination they can sabotage sleep cycles setting you up for reduced restful and restorative sleep?
Your Lifestyle Correlates With Your Sleep Hygiene
As humans, we go through our lives attempting to maximize input into our days and our sleep often takes a direct hit as a result. The 24/7 technology driven world we navigate in also plays a role. How you go about your day does correlate to how you sleep at night, a domino effect if you will.
Here is how you can make some adjustments to your routines to help your body be at its most optimal as it prepares for its nightly reset.
- Limit your use of technology 1-2 hours before bed, opting for listening to relaxing music, reading a book or meditating instead. And though exercising is important, keep any physical activity scheduled for during daytime hours as exercising a few hours before bedtime makes it challenging for your body/brain to recognize that it is time to settle down and unwind.
- The sleep-wake cycle, known as your circadian rhythm, is important to consider when improving your sleep hygiene. If your cycle is consistent and you wake up and go to bed around the same time everyday, your sleep quality will be better for it. Fluctuating bedtime and wake times can throw your sleep cycles into a tizzy. Maintaining consistency is vital to keeping the hormones that regulate sleep cycles in check.
- Monitor your diet, reducing heavy foods/meals to earlier in the day. An overload on your GI system requires energy to process which although can make you feel lethargic doesn’t lend itself to the type of sleep that leaves you feeling refreshed in the morning.
- Naps are a great self-care activity, however, avoid taking long naps late in the afternoon. 15-20 minute early afternoon naps won’t affect your natural sleep rhythms but anything longer may throw off your sleep cycle.
- Natural light is so important for improving sleep. Early morning sunlight exposure increases your feeling of alertness and exposure to natural light during the day battles drowsiness. Sunlight signals your brain that it’s daytime and you should be awake. Something as simple as eating your lunch outside and keeping your curtains open can help. In the winter months, a light therapy box can help bring the sunlight to you that might be lacking on those cold gray days.
- Weighted blanket therapy is another resource you can try. The weighted sensation, otherwise known as Deep Pressure Stimulation, helps the release of serotonin which promotes a calm and peaceful feeling. This stimulation works wonders for the nervous system by invoking the “rest and digest” response, or, the parasympathetic nervous system.
It can take several months for any changes to improve your sleep, but your body will adjust and you will notice better and more robust sleep patterns and who doesn’t want sweet dreams.