Sleep Hygiene: Tips To A Restful Sleep

For most, when they hear the words “good hygiene” they immediately think about showering and washing their hands.

According to the World Health Organization, hygiene refers to “conditions and practices that help to maintain health and prevent the spread of diseases”. When it comes to sleep, this means developing healthy patterns through consistent sleep hygiene practices.

Science has proven unequivocally that sleep is necessary for good health. Restful sleep is the most consequential contribution that we can give our bodies, even more than diet and exercise. Fortunately we’re in even more control of our sleep than we know and it starts with good sleep hygiene.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, 35% of Americans report the quality of their sleep as only poor or fair while 20% of Americans do not wake feeling refreshed over a seven day period.

Do you know that many of the routine choices you make while awake have a profound impact on how well you sleep? If you wake up feeling tired, start by addressing your sleep hygiene which includes:

BEDROOM ENVIRONMENT:

  • TEMPERATURE: Ideally 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit is recommended. Our body temperature falls during sleep and a cool room will help you settle into and maintain sleep.

  • NOISE: While you sleep, your brain still registers sound. Noise can cause you to wake, move, shift between stages of sleep as well as change your heart rate or blood pressure. Earplugs may provide a solution if your environment is noisy.

  • TECHNOLOGY: The bedroom is for sleep and sex, not computers and TV. The blue light emitted by screens restrain the production of melatonin, the hormone that controls your sleep/wake cycle making it harder to fall and stay asleep

  • DARKNESS: Any extraneous light in your bedroom can send wake-up messages to your brain impacting the quality of your sleep. A sleep mask could block out unwanted light.

  • LIGHT: Upon awakening, get as much sunshine or light as possible. Light tells your brain that it’s time to be up which in turn affects your circadian rhythm.

PERSONAL HABITS:

  • CAFFEINE & NICOTINE: Coffee, tea, colas, and chocolate contain caffeine while cigarettes contain nicotine. Both are stimulants that interfere with the body’s ability to fall asleep and should be avoided 4-6 hours before bedtime.

  • ALCOHOL: Avoid alcoholic beverages 4-6 hours prior to sleep. While alcohol may make you feel drowsy, it wears off in about four hours and is associated with disrupted sleep patterns.

  • MEAL TIME: Avoid heavy meals before bedtime as they can cause indigestion, and have the potential to interrupt your sleep.

LIFESTYLE CHOICES:

  • EXERCISE: Working out helps you fall asleep more quickly and improves sleep quality. It is generally recommended not to exercise right before bedtime as it might increase body temperature and endorphin levels which are disruptive to sleep.

  • NAPS: Ideally it’s best not to nap so as to ensure that you are sleepy when you go to bed. If you can’t make it through the day, naps should be less than an hour and before 3 PM.

  • PRE-SLEEP: Develop a ritual that allows you to wind down an hour before bedtime.

  • SLEEP TIME: Establish a consistent bedtime and wake time ensuring a minimum of 7 hours of sleep.

Remember, you are in more control of your sleep than you know. Start by focusing on your sleep hygiene.

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