Chances are good that you have a coworker or friend who’s always perky, energetic and ready to go. If you are tired as soon as you wake up, ready for a nap by mid-morning or sluggish and looking for a caffeine fix by early afternoon, you might wonder what your friend’s secret is. Their secret could be good sleep hygiene. Knowing what sleep hygiene is, why it matters and what you can do in order to fix yours could help you sleep, look and feel better.
What Sleep Hygiene Means
Sleep hygiene refers to the set of rituals or activities that you do around bedtime. It also includes the things that you do throughout the day in order to encourage a good night’s rest. Just like good dental hygiene promotes great oral health, good sleep hygiene promotes a great night of sleep.
Why Sleep Hygiene Is Important
Sleep is when your body handles all of its maintenance, repairs and housekeeping types of activities. While you sleep, your body repairs cellular damage from pollutants and exposure to harmful chemicals. Your body also rids itself of waste products while you sleep. Your sleep hours are also when your body releases growth hormone for generating replacement cells, healing wounds and boosting immune system functions. Sleep restores your energy and lowers your risk of heart disease, diabetes and obesity. Your body has an internal clock that controls your sleep cycles. Sleep hygiene helps with the regulation of that clock so that you can fall asleep quickly and stay asleep until you need to get up in the morning.
How to Practice Excellent Sleep Hygiene
Much like there are multiple steps to good dental hygiene, sleep hygiene also involves multiple steps throughout the day and at bedtime. As you go through your day, have sleep hygiene on your mind. Here are a few ways that you can practice excellent sleep hygiene throughout your day.
- Morning: Drink your coffee or tea within an hour of waking up. This gives your body enough time to metabolize the caffeine. Exercising before noon also helps you have a more restful night’s sleep.
- Afternoon: If you like to take an afternoon nap, limit it to 30 minutes. Too long of a nap disrupts your circadian rhythm. According to the National Institute of General Medical Science, “Circadian rhythms are physical, mental, and behavioral changes that follow a daily cycle. They respond primarily to light and darkness in an organism’s environment. Sleeping at night and being awake during the day is an example of a light-related circadian rhythm. Circadian rhythms are found in most living things, including animals, plants, and many tiny microbes. The study of circadian rhythms is called chronobiology.” Switch to decaf coffee or herbal tea, and avoid energy drinks or caffeinated foods.
- Evening: Spend time relaxing. Avoid dealing with things that cause stress, such as paying your bills online, reviewing your taxes or thinking about work. Eat a small dinner. Skip the bedtime snack. Take a warm, relaxing bath or shower instead. Don’t take an evening drink. Alcohol interferes with sleep. Put your phone or laptop away. The bright screen of a smartphone, computer or television stimulates your brain and makes you more alert.
- Bedtime: Make your bedroom as dark as possible, using room-darkening drapes and blocking light sources. Set the thermostat to 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Reserve your bedroom for sleep and intimacy so that your brain associates it with rest and relaxation. Go to bed at the same time every night.
Maintain Your Sleep Hygiene Routine
Once you have a good sleep hygiene routine in place, practice it every day. Maintaining the routine signals to your body that it’s time to go to sleep. Improving your quality of sleep is the best investment you can make in your overall health.