Sleep Hygiene: Benefits of Good Sleep Hygiene, & How To Fix Bad
If you often have trouble sleeping, wake up feeling tired, and feel sleepy during the day, It may be time to consider changing your sleep hygiene. Generally, your behaviors during the day and before bedtime can significantly impact your sleep. The medications you take, what you eat and drink, and how you schedule your days can either promote healthy sleep or lead to sleeplessness.
So, what is sleep hygiene?
Sleep hygiene refers to a set of healthy sleep habits that support quality sleep and can improve your capacity to fall asleep and stay asleep. Even a few slight changes can mean the difference between a restless night and sound sleep. These include dietary and lifestyle habits that align with your body's natural rhythm, and also psychological settings like revenge bedtime procrastination among others.
Want to improve your sleep? Below, we explore why sleep hygiene matters and the adjustments you can make to your lifestyle and attitude for healthy sleep.
The Importance of Sleep Hygiene
Establishing and practicing strong sleep hygiene throughout the day influences the quantity and quality of sleep you receive every night. It also plays a major role in your mental and physical health. As you sleep, your body and mind are busy restoring energy, rebuilding tissues, and replenishing cells. This gives you enough power to accomplish essential body functions, process situations effectively, and make thoughtful decisions.
When it comes to physical health, a proper amount of sleep can help you lower your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes, maintain a healthy weight and improve your overall quality of life. Some other benefits include:
- Improved immune system
- Enhanced muscle repair
- Sharper memory
- Increased energy levels
Remember, the quality of sleep you get each night impacts how you look and feel during the day. That's why healthy and strong sleep hygiene is so important.
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Bad Sleep Hygiene: What Happens If You Don't Maintain Healthy Sleep Habits?
It's not uncommon for people to have ups and downs in their sleep hygiene. As long as you're getting quality sleep and following healthy habits, the occasional interrupted or late night sleep pattern is normal. However, it becomes a concern when lack of a good night's sleep affects your daily routine and overall health.
The right amount of sleep varies from one person to another, but the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommend that adults should get at least 7 hours of sleep each night. Note that, aside from quantity, it's vital to consider quality of sleep. Without high-quality sleep, you'll feel tired the next day, irrespective of how many hours you've slept.
Low quality sleep may involve;
- Breathing difficulties like sleep apnea
- Waking often during the night
- An uncomfortable bed
- An environment that's too cold, hot, or noisy
Symptoms of Sleep Deprivation
The main signs and symptoms of poor sleep include excessive daytime drowsiness and daytime impairment, such as slower thinking, mood changes, and reduced concentration. Feeling extremely tired is among the hallmark symptoms of sleep deprivation.
If you're experiencing excessive daytime sleepiness, you may feel drowsy and have difficulty staying awake even when you need to. At times, this results in microsleeps, in which you doze off for a couple of seconds.
Other symptoms include;
- Mood changes
- Reduced sex drive
- Difficulty focusing and remembering
Generally, your signs and symptoms depend on the extent of your sleep deprivation and whether it's chronic or acute. Stimulants, such as caffeine can also mask the signs of lack of sleep, so it's vital to note how you feel when using these substances.
Effects of Lost Sleep On the Body
The effects of poor sleep can be severe and far-reaching. In the short term, sleep disruption can increase stress, reduce the quality of life, cause emotional distress and lead to cognitive deficits. Sleep-deprived individuals are most likely to struggle in work and school settings or experience mood disorders that may affect personal relationships.
When sleep deprivation becomes a long-term problem, you could face an increase in weight-related issues, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes mellitus, among others. Remember, sleep plays a pivotal role in the effective functioning of all body systems.
That's why a persistent lack of a good night's sleep creates a major risk to mental and physical health. Because of these adverse consequences, it's wise to address underlying health issues that could be affecting the quality of your sleep and work with your physician to develop a healthy sleep hygiene protocol.
Sleep Hygiene Tips: How Can You Practice Good Sleep Hygiene?
Now that you understand what good sleep hygiene is and the reason why you need sleep in the first place, you might be wondering how effectively you can incorporate good sleep habits into your lifestyle. But first things first, think about the various factors that can interfere with your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep — from unexpected challenges, like illnesses to work stress and family responsibilities. It's no wonder that high-quality sleep is sometimes elusive.
While you might not have control over these factors, you can adopt behaviors that encourage better sleep. Let's take a look at simple tips that can help you get a good night's sleep.
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Keep a Consistent Sleep Schedule
Sticking to regular sleep times and wake up times every day may sound like a drag. However, it comes with many health benefits that will allow you to enjoy the restful sleep you deserve. Of course, it's a bit hard to maintain a consistent sleep schedule, but once it becomes a habit, you'll find yourself feeling better both mentally and physically.
The human body functions on a 24-hour internal clock, which regulates the body's day and night processes. Waking up and sleeping at the same time each day reinforces your internal clock (sleep cycle), thus making it effortless to fall asleep and stay asleep. What's more, it normalizes sleep as a vital part of the day and gets your body and brain accustomed to receiving the amount of sleep you need. However, things are slightly different when it comes to infant sleep as sleep in babies typically involves changes in sleeping patterns based on the stage of growth.
On the other hand, an inconsistent sleep schedule disrupts your sleep cycle, and when your schedule is erratic for an extended period, you expose yourself to various health problems. These include slow reaction times, irritability, sleep disorders, and heart disease. That said, try to have a fixed wake-up and sleep time, irrespective of whether it's a weekend or a weekday. Also, consider making some lifestyle changes that will enable you to start getting sleepy earlier.
Create a Relaxing Bedtime Routine
Having a relaxing bedtime routine before bed can significantly reduce inadequate sleep hygiene and increase the chances of falling asleep. Not to mention, keeping a consistent sleep routine will help your body recognize that it's time to "switch off" when you start the routine.
Start your routine approximately 30 to 60 minutes before going to bed. But whatever you do to feel relaxed, make sure it doesn't involve devices. Some perfect ideas include;
- Taking a relaxing bath or shower. If you don't feel like taking a full bath, simply washing your feet in hot water will help
- you relax and improve your sleep.
- Reading a book
- Listening to soothing music as you focus on your breathing
- Doing some gentle stretches to release tension and help your muscles relax
Note that exercising before bed isn't recommended as it can increase body temperature and mental alertness. Consider doing it during the day instead.
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Incorporate Physical Activity Into Your Routine
Exercise is among the best science-backed methods of improving your sleep and health. It enhances all aspects of sleep and has even been used to minimize symptoms of insomnia.
Engaging in moderate aerobic exercises can increase the amount of deep sleep (slow-wave sleep) you receive. It can also help decompress your mind and stabilize your mood, a crucial cognitive process for naturally transitioning to sleep.
While most sleep studies focus on aerobic exercises during the day, picking an activity you like can help you stick with it. For instance, participating in an active yoga class or powerlifting can raise your heart rate, thus creating the biological process in your body and brain that leads to better quality sleep. Just be mindful of timing and stick to moderate-intensity activities when exercising before bed.
Watch What You Eat Before Bed
Optimal sleep starts with a stomach that isn't too empty or too full. Eating late at night can negatively affect the quality of your sleep and the natural release of melatonin and HGH.
That said, avoid eating heavy and overly spicy meals a couple of hours before bed. If you feel hungry during this period, consider eating a light snack instead.
When it comes to fluids, you shouldn't consume caffeine minutes before you drift off to sleep. As stimulants, taking caffeinated drinks such as tea, coffee and soda can make it quite hard to fall asleep and negatively affect your sleep quality.
Also, refrain from taking alcohol during the night as it is known to increase or cause the symptoms of snoring, sleep apnea, and disrupted sleep patterns. Plus, alcohol consumption at night alters nighttime melatonin production and minimizes the natural nighttime elevations in HGH (human growth hormone), both of which play a crucial role in your circadian rhythm.
Optimize Your Bedroom
Aside from habits, the sleep environment and setup are essential factors in getting restful sleep. To fall asleep more quickly, you must create an environment that supports sleep. Although what makes a sleep environment inviting varies from one person to the other, these sleep tips will help you make your bedroom calm and disruption free:
Set your bedroom temperature - Body and bedroom temperature profoundly affect sleep. It's often hard to get restful sleep when it's too warm or cold. For most individuals, a bedroom temperature between 15.6°C and 19.4°C (60°F and 67°F) is ideal for sleep. But keep in mind that fine-tuning your bedroom temperature greatly depends on your habits and personal preferences.
Invest in a comfortable mattress and pillow - Several factors affect your overall health. While exercise and diet are the obvious ones, the quality of sleep you get plays a part, too. That's why you need to invest in a solid mattress, which will ensure you get better, deeper, and uninterrupted sleep. When shopping for a new mattress and pillow, make sure you go for those that can maintain their structural integrity. Latex and memory foam products are viable options to consider. You should also ensure that your sheets and blankets match your needs and preferences.
Down out noise and block out light - If you have trouble falling asleep because your room gets flooded with too much light, consider using an eye mask or blackout curtains to keep it as dark as possible. And if you have noisy neighbors, wearing a pair of ear plugs can help you sleep without disruptions. Eye masks and earplugs can also help you get a restful sleep while traveling. Some sleepers use white noise machines to drown out annoying sounds.
Limit In-bed Activities
When you have a comfortable mattress and excellent bedding, it might be tempting to use your bed for working, reading, watching TV, and other activities. However, it's crucial to restrict in-bed activities and only use your bed for sleep and sex. This helps build a link in your brain between sleep and bed, making it easier to fall asleep.
Go to Bed Only When You Feel Tired
If you don't feel tired, don't lie on your bed while tossing and turning. This may only make you frustrated, thus keeping you awake even longer.
A good rule of thumb is to get up if you don't sleep within 20 to 30 minutes of going to bed. Once you're out of bed, try doing a relaxing activity that will help you unwind, such as reading on the couch until you feel tired enough to head back to bed.
Limit Daytime Naps
Individuals who find it hard to fall asleep should avoid naps during the day as this can affect their sleep pattern, making them prone to waking up and staying awake during the night. If you need to nap, limit it to 30 minutes or less. It's also best to avoid napping later in the afternoon (after 3 p.m).
Learning more about sleep and how it works can help you know key lifestyle changes that can give you the restful and comfortable sleep you deserve
Getting the Quality Sleep You Need
Needless to say, the effects of having poor sleep hygiene can be very harmful. Fortunately, improving your sleep hygiene and following through with the tips mentioned above can help you get a better night's sleep. However, not all sleep problems can be easily treated with simple changes in the sleep environment or routine.
So, if your sleep difficulties don't improve even after making specific lifestyle changes, you should consider following up with your doctor or a sleep specialist. They can accurately pinpoint the issue and suggest a viable treatment plan
Gabe is the newest member of The Sleep Shop team. If you like the design of The Sleep Shop, give Gabe a thumbs up. He’s a digital marketing and design guru and the brains behind the design and SEO of The Sleep Shop. He also won’t say no to testing a ton of mattresses either, and helps on almost every mattress review.