Reading the word ‘sleep hygiene’ may put your brain in the dilemma of popping up with images of brushing teeth, bubble baths and a clean night suit. Well, showering before bed is the only sleep hygiene that you may be aware about but let us add some more points to your list.
A good night’s sleep is essential for each one of us and sleep hygiene plays a critical role in it.
Sleep hygiene refers to a set of practices, habits and factors that are necessary for a sound sleep. The rituals, behaviours, and norms you follow around sleep. It is a variety of different practices and habits that are necessary to have good night time sleep quality and full daytime alertness.
The importance of practicing good sleep hygiene is generally neglected. A healthy sleep is important for both physical and mental health. It enhances productivity and overall quality of life. Everyone benefits from practicing good sleep habits.
Besides working through the following tips, understand the amount of sleep required by your body. Many people are short sleepers while others are long sleepers. To understand your sleep nature, set aside enough time to realistically get at least 7 hours of sleep. If you do this for a few days and still wake up feeling unrested, gradually increase the number and this may be a sign that you are a long sleeper. On the other hand, if you step out of bed each morning after only 4 to 6 hours and still feel great, you could be a short sleeper. The “correct” amount of sleep is not an issue and may vary from person to person but what’s important is to feel well-rested and fresh.
There are some people that can be termed as long sleepers – such people require more than the recommended amount of sleep, often up to 9-10 hours of sleep. Short sleepers are people who require less than the standard recommended amount of sleep, which is less than 8 hours.
What is included in your good sleep hygiene checklist?
Most of us can benefit from improving at least one aspect of our sleep hygiene. Consider the following tips as your guide to getting a good night’s sleep. Sleep needs differ across ages and are especially impacted by lifestyle and health.
A list of points to be included in your sleep hygiene routine:
- Get some morning sunshine- This is important for individuals who may not venture outside frequently. Exposure to sunlight during the day helps to maintain a healthy sleep-wake cycle and sets the biological clock right. The sleep-wake cycle in our body is closely connected to our circadian rhythms. Our brain relies on sunshine during the day to recognize it’s time to be awake and alert. The more natural light the body receives, the more body stays in tune to the regular day-night rhythms, and the brain learns to associate the darkness that comes in the evening with falling asleep.
- Fix a particular time to go to bed- Since the biological clock in our body works according to our routine. It is advised to set and follow a regular sleep pattern. Avoid bedtime procrastination at night. Keep your sleep and wake times consistent throughout the week and weekends.
- No exposure to gadgets before two hours of sleeping- Limit screen time before going to bed. Some people prefer having televisions in their bedrooms, although watching TV right before going to sleep (or worse, during night time awakenings) is not a good idea.
Besides the intensity of the light, many of these devices find ways to either stress or excite you, whether they ping you with a frustrating work email or a happy Facebook notification. Refrain from using all electronics one full hour before bed, including television, computers, phones, e-readers, and tablets.
- Restrict daytime naps to 30 minutes- Napping in daytime does not make up for inadequate night time sleep. A short nap of 20-30 minutes can improve mood, alertness and performance. There is a ‘sleep debt’ created throughout the day which helps us fall asleep more easily and if you cannot fall asleep at night, catnap (afternoon short sleep) could be the reason.
- Stimulants are a big no- Stimulants like caffeine and nicotine should be avoided close to bedtime. And when it comes to alcohol, moderation is key. While alcohol can help you feel dizzy and is known to help you fall asleep faster, too much close to bedtime can disrupt sleep in the latter half of the night as the body begins to process the alcohol.
- Make a gadget free zone near bed- Working up late while staring close at computer screens and tablets shortly before bed is actually detrimental to sleep. The light from those screens tricks your brain into thinking it’s daytime again. The problem with these devices is that they all use blue light, the strongest wavelength of light that your brain perceives as sunlight. Keeping phones at a distance from your sleeping space helps to decrease the temptation to pick them up or check them if they are not directly next to the bed. Sleeping next to the phone or other electronic device is not advised but if it is necessary, turn off notifications or other audible sounds to minimize distraction or awakenings not related to sleeping.
- Exercise to promote good quality sleep- Even 10 minutes of aerobic exercise, such as walking or cycling, can drastically improve night time sleep quality. Avoid strenuous workouts close to bedtime. The effect of intense night time exercise on sleep differs from person to person, so find out what works best for you.
- Keep the sleep environment pleasant- Mattress and pillows should be comfortable. The bedroom should be cool and dark for optimal sleep. Cell phones, lamps and TV screens can make it difficult to fall asleep because of bright light so turn those lights off or adjust them when possible. Consider using blackout curtains, eye shades, ear plugs to avoid noises from machines, humidifiers, fans and other devices that can disturb your sleep.
- Say no to spicy food- Heavy or spicy foods, fat rich or fried meals, citrus fruits, and carbonated drinks can trigger indigestion for some people. When this occurs close to bedtime, it can lead to painful heartburn that disturbs sleep.
- Maintain a regular relaxing bedtime routine- A regular night routine helps the body recognize that it is bedtime and eventually the body is habitual to it. This could be as simple as taking a warm shower or bath, reading a book, or light stretches. If possible, try to avoid emotionally upsetting conversations and activities before sleeping.
These tips could help you get better sleep. Regarding sleep, it is crucial to differentiate between normal sleep and a sleep disorder. Those that fall into either a short or long sleeper category do not complain of or experience negative effects from their sleeping patterns. If you experience any negative side effects, consider talking to a sleep physician for diagnosis or for further information. Here’s wishing you optimum sleep levels with healthy naps!