Sleep hygiene refers to behaviors that help promote good sleep. In a time when many of us are getting too few hours of sleep and are suffering from sleep disorders, good sleep hygiene is more important than ever.
Here are some staggering statistics:
- 50-70 million adults suffer from a sleep disorder
- 37.9% of adults report falling asleep unintentionally during the day
- 4.9% of adults report falling asleep at the wheel in the last month
- 35.3% of adults report getting less than 7 hours of sleep in the past 24 hours.
We’re exhausted. And it’s ruining our health, economy, and ability to lead functioning lives. We’ll discuss the impact of sleep deprivation on your health and what you can do to improve your overall sleep quality.
- The Impact of Sleep Deprivation
- Tips for Good Sleep Hygiene
- 1. Keep the same sleep schedule every day.
- 2. Go easy on the caffeine.
- 3. Exercise at the right time of day
- 4. Restrict your nighttime technology use
- 5. Limit your bedroom to sleep and romance (wink)
- What about reading in bed?
- 6. Create an ideal bedroom environment.
- 7. Use white noise or a fan if you can’t stand total silence
- 8. Invest in a good mattress.
- 9. Clean your room.
- 10. Create a bedtime ritual.
- 11. Talk To Your Doctor About Supplements
- Sleep Hygiene Matters To Your Overall Health
- If you’re looking for additional resources on sleep hygiene, check out these books:
The Impact of Sleep Deprivation
Before you go brushing off the severity of getting less than a solid 7-9 hours, let’s examine why that matters.
- Sleepy drivers are responsible for 1,500 fatalities and 40,000 nonfatal injuries in the United States every year.
- Sleep deprivation costs the US economy $411 billion annually.
- Sleep deprivation impairs your ability to be alert, focus, and solve problems.
- It leads to serious health problems like heart disease and high blood pressure,
- Lowers your sex drive
- Increases the likeliness of depression
- It makes your skin age more rapidly
- Makes you forgetful
- Sleep deprivation makes you gain weight and impedes your ability to lose it
- It may increase your risk of death.
- It impairs your judgment and ability to recall events accurately.
Did I mention that sleep deprivation is defined as anything LESS THAN 7 hours of sleep?
Want to dive deeper into the impact of sleep deprivation on your life? Watch the video below.
Additional impacts of sleep deprivation:
At this point, you may be running through a list of reasons why you can’t get the standard 7-9 hours of sleep every night.
Perhaps you’re stuck in a cycle of waking up groggy, slamming coffee or energy drinks, crashing, and then repeating throughout the day. Maybe that cycle is adding to your exhaustion and inability to make good choices.
Did you know that lack of sleep triggers the “munchies” much in the same way smoking marijuana does? When we don’t get enough sleep, the hormones that regulate appetite become all screwed up, and we are more inclined to overeat.
If you’re tired all the time, carrying around some extra weight, can’t seem to get your moods balanced, and are sick of shelling out the big bucks for expensive face creams and overpriced coffee, you need to start a better sleep hygiene routine.
Tips for Good Sleep Hygiene
If you’re tired of feeling tired, it’s time to proactively consider your sleep health. Fortunately, there are things you can do to improve your overall sleep hygiene and feel better immediately. Let’s dive in!
1. Keep the same sleep schedule every day.
I know this is going to make you scream inside. But you need to go to bed at the same time every day and wake up at the same time every day.
EVEN ON THE WEEKENDS.
Also, ditch the naps.
Listen, nothing used to please me more than curling up on the couch with a soft blanket and letting some Law & Order SVU marathon lull me to sleep at three in the afternoon. I get it. But it’s ruining your bedtime.
Keeping the same sleep schedule every day is important for sleep hygiene because it helps regulate the body’s internal clock or circadian rhythm.
Our bodies thrive on consistency, and having a consistent sleep schedule helps train the body to fall asleep and wake up at the same time every day. This consistency helps ensure that the body gets the appropriate amount of restorative sleep, which can improve overall health and well-being.
Additionally, having a consistent sleep schedule can improve sleep quality, reduce the time it takes to fall asleep, and reduce the likelihood of waking up in the middle of the night.
If you compensate for lack of nighttime sleep with an after-work nap, you’re guaranteeing you won’t get to bed at a decent hour. Power through and go to bed a little earlier. Your body will thank you for it.
2. Go easy on the caffeine.
According to science, the cutoff time for caffeinated beverages is 2 PM.
You got that? TWO. P. M.
When I first learned about that cut-off time, I thought, “Are you mad? How do I get through the late afternoon slump?”
But it makes sense if you think about it. But first, let’s unpack what caffeine is and does.
Caffeine is a stimulant that can keep you alert and awake by blocking the action of a neurotransmitter called adenosine, which promotes sleepiness.
When you consume caffeine, it can increase your heart rate, blood pressure, and stimulate your central nervous system, making you feel more alert and awake.
But here’s the catch – caffeine can also interfere with your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle by keeping you awake at night.
This can happen because caffeine has a half-life of around 5-6 hours, meaning that it takes that long for your body to eliminate half of the caffeine you consume.
So if you drink a cup of coffee containing 200mg of caffeine at 4 pm, you will still have 100mg of caffeine in your system at 10 pm, which can keep you from falling asleep or disrupt your sleep quality.
Moreover, if you regularly consume caffeine throughout the day, your body can build up a tolerance to it, which means you may need to consume more caffeine to feel the same level of alertness and wakefulness.
This can lead to a vicious cycle where you consume more and more caffeine, making it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep at night.
What does it all mean?
Consuming caffeine, especially in the afternoon or evening, can negatively impact your sleep hygiene by interfering with your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle, making it harder for you to fall asleep and stay asleep at night. T
So it’s important to limit your caffeine intake and avoid consuming it close to bedtime if you want to improve your sleep hygiene.
3. Exercise at the right time of day
Exercise is critical to getting proper sleep, but there is a catch. You need to be mindful of the time of day you’re working out. The timing of your workouts can have a big impact on your sleep quality.
The best time to exercise for sleep health is in the morning or early afternoon. When you exercise, your body temperature rises, and it takes a few hours for it to return to its normal level.
This rise in body temperature can make it harder for you to fall asleep and stay asleep if you exercise too close to bedtime.
On the other hand, exercising earlier in the day can help you fall asleep faster and enjoy deeper sleep. I’ve started working out first thing in the mornings and, like clockwork, I start getting drowsy and ready to knock out at the same time every night.
Is it early than I’d like? Yeah, it is, but it appears to be what my body needs so I just roll with it.
4. Restrict your nighttime technology use
Your smartphone, TV, and laptop emit blue light that disrupts the production of serotonin in your brain and makes you more alert. Basically the exact opposite conditions you need for excellent sleep hygiene.
Additionally, using technology before bed can also keep your mind active and alert, making it harder to relax and wind down for sleep. Scrolling through social media, watching TV, or playing video games can all stimulate your brain and prevent you from feeling calm and sleepy.
So, what can you do to mitigate the negative effects of technology on your sleep quality?
One option is to establish a technology-free period before bed.
Try to avoid using any electronic devices for at least an hour before you plan to sleep. Instead, engage in relaxing activities such as reading a book, taking a bath, or practicing meditation.
If you absolutely must use electronic devices before bed, there are ways to reduce their impact on your sleep.
Many devices now come with a “night mode” feature that reduces blue light emissions, making it easier on your eyes and less disruptive to your sleep. You can also use blue light-blocking glasses to filter out blue light and protect your eyes.
You can either commit to shutting off your devices an hour or two before bed, or you can buy some blue light-blocking glasses to wear at night if you can’t power down in time.
5. Limit your bedroom to sleep and romance (wink)
Good sleep hygiene means creating positive sleep associations. Your bedroom should be the place where you sleep and get busy. That’s it.
Create an environment that is conducive to that. Take out the television (if you have one in there), remove any distracting technology (that includes your cellphone if need be), and only use the room for its intended purposes.
Don’t crawl into bed with a snack and binge-watch Netflix. Please.
If you are particularly inclined to check your phone while in bed, then it needs to go in another room, and you should kick it old school and buy an alarm clock. (I can feel your separation anxiety from here.)
But ask yourself this – what’s more important? Staying current on your Instagram feed or waking up with the ability to form a coherent sentence?
What about reading in bed?
Okay, so here’s the thing.
If you struggle to get to sleep (defined as taking longer than 10-15 minutes to drift off), then try shutting down the TV and phone and doing some reading in a different room before going to bed.
I always read in bed before I sleep, but I rarely have a problem falling asleep. Staying asleep has been my struggle.
It’s really up to you and how bad your sleep issues are currently. Proper sleep hygiene is not a one-size-fits-all science. You decide where the wiggle room exists based on your needs.
6. Create an ideal bedroom environment.
Your bedroom sets the tone for good sleep hygiene. You need to make sure your bedroom is A. dark and B. set to a cool temperature.
You should aim to keep your bedroom between 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature range is optimal for sleep because it allows your body to cool down and promotes deeper sleep.
Crank up the A/C before going to bed.
Next, work on lighting.
My husband and I slept without curtains for an entire year and paid for it dearly. Because we were drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes right up until bedtime, our sleep quality suffered even more.
The easiest win here?
Blackout curtains. If you do nothing else, invest in high-quality blackout curtains for your bedroom. You have a few options.
Personally, I cannot sleep in a room with complete blackout curtains. Actually, let me rephrase that. I can’t WAKE UP in a room with complete blackout curtains.
I need SOME light. You have three options for your curtains that will still produce optimal space.
In addition to providing the perfect lighting conditions for sleep, these curtains will help make your home more energy efficient, so you can lower some bills. Win-win.
7. Use white noise or a fan if you can’t stand total silence
I have slept with a fan running for background noise since I was a teenager.
There’s something about total silence that drives me nuts. I’m also incredibly sound-sensitive. A lot of free white noise apps loop the same sound, and my ears instantly pick up on the pattern and can’t get to sleep.
You want your room to be quiet, but if silence makes your sleeping troubles worse, you need to invest in the right kind of ambient sound.
8. Invest in a good mattress.
A high-quality mattress is one of the best investments you can make for yourself.
If you’re known for taking whatever is available at the lowest possible price point, I’m not judging. I’ve historically gone to Ikea and gotten the cheapest option that didn’t feel like a brick.
Not great, folks. It’s time to upgrade.
When my husband and I moved abroad, the amount of money I spent on my mattress was equal to what I spent on our kitchen stove, refrigerator, and washing machine combined. And I have zero regrets.
If you have the ability, get yourself a quality mattress. It’s worth saving up for if you don’t.
9. Clean your room.
Clutter is so detrimental to our mental health which is why I religiously make my bed first thing every morning because it adds an instant sense of calm to my world.
Good sleep hygiene means creating a bedroom that is warm and inviting. So it is with love that I tell you to PUT YOUR SHIT AWAY.
You don’t have to be a Marie Kondo disciple (oh, how I wish!), but at the very least, put your laundry away, take dirty clothes and put them in the hamper, tidy your shelves, and keep your floors clear.
10. Create a bedtime ritual.
A bedtime ritual is anything you do every night to set yourself up for quality sleep. Examples of this include taking a warm bath, meditating or praying, reading for pleasure, listening to soft music, or writing in your journal.
Here’s my bedtime ritual:
- Wash my face and brush my teeth
- Meditate for ten minutes
- Read a book for 30 minutes to 1 hour
- Select sleep music
- Lights out
I do these things without fail every single night, even when I don’t feel like it.
You have to decide what will relax you and then commit to doing it every night. My suggestion is to start small.
Do the obvious things like washing your face and brushing your teeth, and then choose one calming activity to do.
Once that becomes second nature, build on your habit by adding another step (if you want to).
11. Talk To Your Doctor About Supplements
There are some widely known supplements out there that can help your overall quality of sleep. The thing about supplements, though, is they affect everyone differently and can interact negatively with other medications.
If you’re thinking of trying supplements, check in with your doctor first to ensure they’re safe for you to use.
A few commonly used sleep supplements include:
It’s also important to note that supplements are not magic pills. If your overall sleep hygiene is bad, these won’t help you much, but they can support healthy lifestyle changes geared toward helping you get better sleep.
Sleep Hygiene Matters To Your Overall Health
If you’re not familiar with my work (or couldn’t tell by my website name), I focus on sobriety. So why am I writing about sleep and sleep hygiene?
Because it matters.
Everyone needs high-quality sleep to function properly, have a healthy mind and body, and look his or her best.
It doesn’t matter how many or few your struggles may be.
For those struggling with addiction and/or mental health issues, sleep is particularly important because without it, our mental health cannot improve, and our body cannot properly heal and repair itself.
Sleep deprivation is one of the worst things that can happen to someone already in an emotionally fragile state.
Even if you’re not struggling with those problems, sleep hygiene can be the difference between being effective at work or just skating by.
Look at the routines of highly successful people, and you will notice a commitment to exercise and high-quality sleep.
Plus, it’s easy to get caught in an exhausting sleep deprivation/caffeination loop. You need to get off that train immediately. These strategies, while simple, can help.
And then….? Watch out, world!
If you’re looking for additional resources on sleep hygiene, check out these books:
- The Sleep Revolution by Arianna Huffington
- Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker, PhD
- The Promise of Sleep by William C. Dement, MD, Ph.D
- The Sleep Solution by W. Chris Winter, MD
Reading books about sleep before you go to sleep as part of a routine to get better sleep? It’s deliciously meta!
Want to learn more? I recommend following Andrew Huberman’s work. You can find him on YouTube or wherever you listen to podcasts. He is relentless in his pursuit of sleep solutions and renowned neuroscientist.
Here’s one of his videos. They’re long but a treasure trove of information: