How many times do you crawl into bed after work, or a long day, and try to sleep immediately? Do you find yourself regularly closing the lid on your laptop or shutting off your screen as you lay down? These are all bad examples of sleep hygiene.
Sleep hygiene is a simple yet important concept. The best way to guarantee a great day is by getting a good night’s sleep, and building the two basic rules of sleep hygiene—environment and habits—into your daily life is guaranteed to better your life. Here’s how.
Why Is Sleep So Important?
According to the Mayo Clinic, the amount of sleep you need per night varies by age. Adults require 7 to 9 hours of sleep, but factors like sleep deprivation, pregnancy and quality of sleep may mean you need more at certain periods in your life.
Spending even a few sleepless nights will affect your health in many ways. You can expect decreased immunity, problems with memory retention, high blood pressure, weight gain, and low sex drive. With less sleep also comes increased risk for other diseases, including heart problems and diabetes. When you get enough sleep, the opposite is true: your body and mind flourish.
What Is Sleep Hygiene, Anyways?
Now that we’ve covered the importance of sleep, let’s talk about sleep hygiene. It’s simple but vital, especially in a modern world with stress and screen-time overloads.
Sleep hygiene means optimizing your sleep environment (aka the bedroom) and your nightly habits to get more, and deeper, rest. Improving sleep hygiene comes with no risk and can be very inexpensive, even free.
If you find yourself getting sleepy often during the day, are struggling with mental health problems or are often irritable, you’re probably not sleeping well at night and need to focus on getting more rest. Having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep can also be signs you need better sleep hygiene.
How To Increase Sleep Hygiene
Here are seven simple ways to increase sleep hygiene at night.
- Set your sleep schedule. Going to bed and waking at similar times every day, even on weekends, helps your body and brain set a schedule. You’ll begin to feel sleepy at the same time every night, making it easier to get to sleep. Try moving back your bedtime, and moving up your wake time, by 15-30 minutes per day until it’s where you want or need it to be. Drastic changes can be difficult to make and could set you up for failure and frustration.
- Follow a nightly routine. What are your favorite relaxing things to do before bed? Skincare, showering, stretching or reading can all help us unwind, and signals to our body it’s time to rest when we do them repeatedly. Find a wind-down routine that works for you and stick to it.
- Plan your day ahead of time. If you find yourself worrying about work, tasks or studies, planning your day the night before could help. When you get everything out of your mind and onto paper you know it’s there, and you won’t forget it, allowing you to take your mind off those tasks. Write your agenda or to-do list down before you sleep!
- Cut off screen time. Turning of screens 30-60 minutes before bed creates a buffer without blue-light stimulation or work worries before resting. Screens and work, or even social media or movies, can stimulate our brains in the wrong way and make it harder to get to sleep. Add some dedicated screen-free time into your nightly routine.
- Exercise and cut down on alcohol and smoking. Our daytime activities affect sleep long after they’re over. Getting enough exercise during the day makes it easier to rest at night, and both alcohol and smoking can make it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep. If you’re getting up because you drank too much or are hungover the next day, how rested can you expect to be?
- Create a haven. Is your bedroom tidy and clean, or does looking at it remind you to clean? Are your sheets and bedding clean and comfortable? How hot or cool is your bedroom at night? All these factors play into our sleep and ability to relax, so create a place you truly want to be that encourages relaxation. Extra plants, calming oil diffusers with gentle scents like lavender, and even a white noise machine can improve your nightly sleep.
- Make sleep a priority. If you constantly struggle with sleep, nothing will change until you change your behaviors and habits. It doesn’t take a lot of effort, but sleep hygiene can drastically improve your life. Resolve to make proper sleep a priority in your life and reap the health benefits daily!
After a long day, the best thing you can do for yourself is rest up. With a stressful, anxious world this has never been more important. Remember not to be frustrated with yourself when you’re tired, anxious, or irritable. Instead, focus on increasing sleep hygiene to address these problems, a little at a time. After all, small habit changes over time add up to big benefits!