The word hygiene comes from the ancient Greek word for health. Today, hygiene means the daily behaviours, rituals, routines, and habits that keep us healthy.
Sleep hygiene is exactly the same thing: the daily behaviours that support a healthy night’s sleep. Like oral hygiene, sleep hygiene boils down to forming and keeping good habits, and changing or doing away with bad habits.
Sleep Hygiene - Why and How
Why does all this matter?
Sleep is the best (and only real) rejuvenator of mind and body. It is critical to brain health and the maintenance of good mental health.
Do you sometimes feel like you’re not as productive as you could have been during the day? Maybe you didn’t have the best sleep the night before. A good night’s sleep significantly boosts productivity. With a good night’s sleep you can:
- Improve your memory
- Recover from distraction faster
- Make fewer mistakes
- Use better decision making processes
- Slow burnout
Sleep is especially key in managing depression and bipolar disorder. Using ‘social rhythm therapy‘ (a consistent daytime schedule) is very helpful with the maintenance of mental health. The core practice is going to bed and waking up at the same time every day.
It is also good to be strategic about when activities happen during the day to support a good sleep (if you need coffee, make sure you have it in the morning as opposed to early afternoon; exercise later in the day rather than first thing in the morning).
Sleep prevents illness, because the immune system functions better when well rested. It also reduces levels of inflammatory proteins in blood, reducing risk for things like heart disease.
A healthy sleep-life is also linked to maintaining a healthy weight. Did you know that when you’re sleep-deprived you disrupt the management of a hormone called ghrelin (a “hunger hormone”) that tells your body to eat more, particularly sugars and carbs?
The short of it: long term sleep problems lead to a shorter life span, and a decline in mental health. A healthy sleep life significantly increases the chances of a longer life, improved quality of life, productivity, and mental health.
There are few other things we have control over in our lives, that have a bigger impact. Good sleep matters.
Changing habits is hard work. But when you understand the benefits of it, you will be more motivated to dig deep for change. When you think focusing on your sleep hygiene may be too much to add on top of your already busy plate, just remember the rewards.
Sleep has such a powerful impact on our overall health, sleep hygiene might be the ultimate hygiene.
Steps to take for optimal sleep hygiene
To get your sleep hygiene started on the right foot…
- Avoid long naps. Napping to recharge is a time-honoured practice with lots of benefits. But if you have a hard time falling asleep at night, and you take long naps during the day, you could be feeding an unhealthy cycle. Instead of taking a nap, make sure you are well hydrated and consider going for a short walk to give yourself even a mild-workout. These two behaviours might help you push through the late-afternoon sleepies, and make it even more likely you will fall asleep easily at night and stay asleep until morning.
- Maintain a regular sleep routine, as mentioned before, this is important in mental health and productivity. Avoid the weekend syndrome (staying up late and rising late, for 2 days of the week). Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, 7 days a week. Our inner party animal may be fine with swinging our schedules around like a piñata, but our bodies don’t cope well.
- Keep your bedroom quiet and comfy. Summer may be winding down but that doesn’t mean you don’t need to stay cool. Lower body temperature generally equals a better sleep. If you’re always kicking off the covers at night, check out these amazing cooling comforters and stop waking up hot and sweaty.
- Don’t stay awake in bed for more than ten minutes. If you are having a bout of insomnia, get up. It is better to be up and out of bed, reading a book, making lists of what is causing your head to be busy or stressed, than laying there getting stressed about not sleeping. All that does is create a feedback loop that makes the insomnia even worse. Get up, read or empty your mind, and go back to bed when you start to feel sleepy again.
- Use your bedroom for sleep. Your body needs to get the signal that you’re in bed to do one thing, and one thing only - sleep. Well... there might be the odd enjoyable (and very healthy) exception! If sleep is not an issue for you, reading a book (nothing with a screen) is also fine. If sleep is an issue and you want to read, cosy up in the living room. We want to habituate our body to the idea that our beds and bedrooms are sacred sleep spaces.
- Avoid waking up with body pain by investing in a body pillow. Unless you sleep perfectly straight on your back, we promise this will help you. Side sleepers take note; hip and shoulder pain will be a thing of the past with a luxurious organic body pillow, check them out.
- No phones, laptops, tablets, or watching TV (just no electronic devices at all is the best practice) in bed. Blue light emitted from these devices lowers your melatonin levels, interfering with sleep. Plus working or watching TV violates rule 5, and confuses our heads and bodies about what going to bed means.
Some Bigger Steps
The next bit gets a little trickier… but if you really want to get serious about your sleep hygiene, heed the following list:
- Avoid caffeinated beverages (especially after lunch)
- Avoid alcoholic beverages (especially after dinner)
- Keep up with regular exercise (all the time.)
I know, that sounds a little tougher for some... Avoiding that afternoon cup of coffee and evening glass of wine (or beer) AND fitting that run or gym session into your life takes some serious dedication. It will all pay off when you’re hitting the hay though. Most people sleep better if they change those three behaviours.
Food & Drink to help with your sleep hygiene.
The old wives tale is true. A glass of warm milk (any kind) before bed does help you sleep, however tea is the real MVP of sleep hygiene, try any of the following teas and/or snacks to help your shut-eye. And do your own research, this is only a snapshot. There are many more sleep-healthy snack and drink options out there.
- Passion fruit
Sleep Hygiene - A Life Changer
Is sleep hygiene just another health fad? No. In fact, the modern world is making sleep hygiene all the more important.
Blue light from all the device screens we use, lowers levels of melatonin; foods with a high fat content (especially processed) have been linked to experiencing broken, unsatisfying sleeps, and rude awakenings in the night. Perhaps you even get random social media notifications pinging and binging in the night.
All these things have a negative effect on that all-important good night’s rest.
The Dalai Lama said “sleep is the best meditation”, and the day always starts off better when you’ve had a refreshing and restful night.
Resthouse Sleep Solutions
126 Station Street, Duncan, BC, Canada V9L 1M7