WHAT IS SLEEP HYGIENE, ANYWAY?

Thanks to the proliferation of smartphones and other backlit screen-centric devices, it was only a matter of time until “Sleep Hygiene” became a buzzword.

Unlike most new additions to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, sleep hygiene isn’t just a fad. It’s always been important, especially to those who have trouble sleeping. It has just historically shown up in different ways.

If discovering that your laptop emits blue light happened to be your entry point to exploring sleep hygiene, that totally works, but there’s a lot more you can do to improve the quality of your sleep than imposing a cutoff on screen time.

Put simply, sleep hygiene is what you do to set the stage for the best possible sleep.

Benefits at Any Age

The drawback of all the screen-related conversations about sleep hygiene is that people who don’t use backlit devices can fail to realize it applies to them, too. Healthy sleep habits can benefit anyone, no matter their age, sleep disorder, or chronotype. Since childhood is the best time to instill lifelong sleep habits, and sleep quality tends to deteriorate later in life, it pays to share your knowledge of sleep hygiene with the whole family. So, don’t hesitate to start a conversation with your parents, or with the parents of little kids!

The Basics of Sleep Hygiene

Now that you know that sleep hygiene is just the stuff that makes you sleep better, you can start making improvements. The list goes on and on, but here are the basics to get you started before you turn in tonight.

Spend an appropriate amount of time in bed.

Don’t short-change your body’s chance to fall and stay asleep, but don’t lounge around during the day, either.

Read up on sleep cycles.

Improving your sleep starts with understanding how sleep works. The way you feel during the day depends more on the completion of sleep cycles than it does on the number of hours you sleep.

Eliminate long naps.

The benefits of short naps are well documented, but they’re no substitute for nighttime sleep cycles.

Put limits on stimulants.

You totally know what happens when you drink coffee after 5. Just like screen time, caffeine and other stimulants need off-limits hours.

Move your body.

If you want to get great rest, get that heart rate up. Whether it’s a 3-mile run or a walk around the block, start with what works for you and keep challenging your body.

Soak up some sun.

Natural light has an enormous impact on our circadian rhythms. If work or other circumstances stop you from getting outside during the day, look into a therapy light or another source of full-spectrum light.

Get into a rhythm.

Sleep is cyclical. It’s easier to get quality sleep when working with your body’s rhythm than against it. Go to bed at night and wake up in the morning at the same time each day. Stay on schedule as much as possible, even during nights you sleep poorly, to maintain your sleep-wake cycle. Adding a warm bath or soothing (caffeine-free) cup of tea to your routine can help, too.

Don’t lay in bed awake.

If you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t fall back to sleep, get up and do something relaxing until you’re ready to fall asleep. Avoid light by listening to a podcast or meditating. If you can’t help looking at the clock, hide it!

Engineer your environment.

How well you sleep has a lot to do with where you sleep. There are plenty of steps to be taken in this area.

• Light:

Avoid screens and sources of blue light late in the day. In the bedroom, turn off interior lights, and use blackout curtains to minimize exterior light.

• Sound:

Most people sleep best with minimal noise. To neutralize sounds you can’t control, try a fan or white-noise machine. To drown out snoring or restless pets, there are always earplugs.

• Smell:

It’s more important than you think. Incorporate essential oils like lavender and chamomile to promote sleep or eucalyptus oil to clear clogged sinuses.

• Temperature:

Make sure your bedding matches the season. When setting the thermostat, a little cooler (60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit) is better for sleep than a little warmer.

And then there’s your bed.

Your mattress factors into your sleep hygiene, too. No one can sleep well on a worn-out bed! When you’re waking up throughout the night for no reason, facing mornings with pain, or just powering through the pressure points caused by your mattress, it’s time to bite the bullet. Replacing your mattress every decade or so is normal, and the benefits to your body are completely worth it.

No matter what your budget or where in the continental United States you live, the sleep experts at A Goodnight Sleepstore can help you find your best night’s sleep – guaranteed.

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