What Is Sleep Hygiene And Why Does It Matter?
Most people know that sleep is essential for good health. Truly, getting enough sleep each night can result in positive cognitive effects, help curb weight gain, and even improve cardiovascular health.
Unfortunately, sleep doesn’t come so easily for some people. If you are part of the population that has difficulty falling asleep, then reexamining your sleep hygiene may prove beneficial. If it’s your first time to hear of this concept, read on to learn more about what it is and why you need it.
Sleep hygiene, simply defined, is the series of activities that we do before falling asleep. It can range from drinking a warm glass of milk, changing into pajamas, or even turning on a white noise machine. Some go shopping for sleepwear or a new mattress so they can finally experience a good night’s sleep.
But before you can improve the quality of your sleep, it’s important to get a better idea of why you may be having so much trouble falling or staying asleep in the first place.
Understanding Your Body’s Circadian Rhythm
The circadian rhythm is a 24-hour cycle that allows our bodies to recognize when it’s time to rest and when it’s time to wake up. Some even refer to it as a part of the body’s internal body clock.
When you stay up too late or sleep too little, your body recognizes this as an error in its circadian rhythm and thus resets it, preventing you from sleeping normally. This can result in sleep illnesses, fatigue throughout the day, and prolonged health problems in the future.
Tips For Improving Your Sleep Hygiene
Now that you know how your body’s circadian rhythm works, here are some things you can do to improve the quality of your sleep:
Create A Bedtime Routine for Sleep Hygiene
Every evening, do your best to stick to a regular bedtime routine. Doing so will help your body recognize that it’s time for sleep. The specific activities are up to you. They can include brushing your teeth, meditating, or changing into pajamas, among many others. You should also minimize any exposure to electronics during this time, as the added stimulus can cause you to stay awake longer.
Stick To A Regular Sleep Schedule
Sticking to a regular sleeping and waking time is important, as it allows your body to recognize exactly when it has gotten enough sleep each day. Do this often enough, and you’ll develop a regular sleep schedule, where you’ll start to naturally fall asleep close to your preferred bedtime.
Make Sure Your Bed Is Clean
Setting the scene for a good night’s rest is key to improving the quality of your sleep. Take the time to clean your bedroom, and pay special attention to your bed as you do so. Make it a habit to remove clutter and invest in quality sheets, blankets, and pillows. There’s nothing like crawling onto a clean bed and snuggling under soft, fresh blankets after a long day.
Block Out Unwanted Lights And Sound
A relaxed environment allows your body to recognize that it can rest without being disturbed. That said, exposure to bright lights can keep you awake at night. As such, you may want to invest in some blackout curtains to keep your room in total darkness. You can also buy some earplugs so that you can block out unwanted noise.
Avoid Caffeine And Alcohol At Night
Your diet also plays a factor in the quality of your sleep. If you can, try to limit your intake of stimulants such as caffeine. Stimulants may affect your adrenaline levels, causing you to stay awake unnecessarily. The same goes for alcohol. Though it is considered a sedative, drinking it before bed can also reduce the quality of your sleep, and can even cause insomnia and sleep apnea.
Don’t Eat Any Midnight Snacks
Avoid large meals, especially right before bed, as the digestive process can take a toll on your sleep. Sleeping on a full stomach can also interfere with your respiratory functions, making it even more likely that you’ll wake up in the middle of the night. Eating before you go to bed can also cause acid reflux, which can lead to sleep apnea and other serious sleep-related illnesses.
Do you find yourself counting flock after flock of sheep yet still toss and turn at night? If so, then you may need to reexamine your sleep hygiene.
Indeed, sleep is something a lot of people don’t prioritize enough. Though it is easily overlooked, a lack of good-quality rest can cause serious health issues down the line. Between the daily stressors of life and work, proper sleep hygiene may be the last thing on your mind. That said, you should put in the effort to improve your sleep hygiene. Your mind and body will thank you for it.