By Olivia Bricen, Vera Health Blogger
If you’re a self-care fanatic like me, you understand the importance of individual wellness. When you take time for yourself and prioritize your personal needs, you can give to others with much more abundance. There are many different ways to show yourself some love. A few of my favorites include eating nutritious meals, going to my favorite yoga classes, and applying face masks, but there is one regimen that I cannot live without, sleep hygiene.
Sleep hygiene consists of behaviors that encourage better sleep to make you feel more productive, energetic, and happy throughout the day. Think about your daily routine. Sticking to your routine can help you feel more stable, organized, and balanced. Does anyone else feel chaotic, disorganized, or anxious when their routine gets out of whack? Just like your daily routine, your bedtime routine is extremely important. Your quality of sleep affects your mental and physical state, so your overall functioning is heavily dependent on your sleep behaviors. Let’s look at some reasons that you should start a sleep hygiene routine to feel better inside and out.
Why Do I Need to Practice Sleep Hygiene?
Your sleeping habits affect your quality of life. Your personal well-being, relationships, and career can be affected by how much or how little you sleep. Practicing sleep hygiene can enhance your life and make you feel much better, especially if you have trouble falling or staying asleep.
Benefits of Healthy Sleep Habits
- Lessened risk of heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s
- Improved mood
- Higher energy
- Less anxiety and depression
- Strengthened immune system
- Improved memory
- Enhanced creativity
- Sharpened focus
- Higher productivity
10 Ways to Implement Sleep Hygiene
1. Start a consistent sleep schedule
One of the best ways to incorporate sleep hygiene is to follow a regular sleep schedule. Train your body to wake up and go to sleep at the same time each day, even on your days off. This will help your system learn when it’s time to go to sleep and when you should wake up, so you can feel refreshed, consistent, and centered.
2. Create a soothing sleeping environment
When you think about your sleeping environment, how do you feel? It is very important to maintain a comfortable, clean, inviting space that promotes relaxation during bedtime. Try to keep a cool temperature in your room and use blankets to stay warm. If your home is noisy, use earplugs to block unwanted sound. Eye masks and blackout curtains are also great for those who are sensitive to bright morning light.
3. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, or nicotine 4-6 hours before bed
Stimulants, like caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine can disrupt your ability to fall asleep when consumed too late in the day. Make sure to avoid these substances 4-6 hours before bedtime so you can fall asleep with ease.
4. Practice pre-sleep rituals
Incorporating pre-sleep rituals into your bedtime routine is another great way to tell your body that it is time to go to sleep. Try turning down the lights ahead of your bedtime, reading, stretching, drinking caffeine-free tea, taking a bath, meditating, or practicing breathing exercises before bed to calm your mind and body after a busy day. You could also try melatonin supplements, which are naturally occurring hormones that play a role in your natural sleep-wake cycle.
5. Do not watch your clock
Watching your clock when you’re trying to fall asleep can cause negative thinking patterns, like “I’m never going to fall asleep,” “I have such a busy day tomorrow. If I don’t fall asleep, I won’t be able to get everything done,” or “It’s so late, I have to be awake in 3 hours.” Checking the time is common for many people who have trouble sleeping, but this only disrupts your sleep even more.
6. Go to sleep when you are truly tired
Wait until you are truly tired before trying to go to sleep. If you have too much energy in bed, you may toss and turn and have trouble falling asleep. Don’t spend too much time in bed if you aren’t sleepy.
7. Get out of bed if you can’t fall asleep
If you can’t fall asleep after 20 minutes, it is best to get up and try again by engaging in calming behavior until you feel tired. You should avoid any stimulating behaviors, phone conversations or cleaning, which will wake you up even more. It is best to do something very boring, like reading a car manual, listening to audio from a stale tv show, or sitting by yourself in another room in the dark.
8. Use your bed for sleep only
Make your bed a sanctuary for sleep. If you eat, watch TV, or work in your bed, your brain will not associate your bed with sleeping. Move these activities outside of your bedroom to your living room, kitchen, or home office so your body can make a bed-sleep connection. Also, if you keep your bed made and have attractive bedding, you will be more drawn to your bed and feel more positive about your sleeping space.
9. Maintain your daytime routine
If you have insomnia or other sleeping issues, you should still try to keep your daytime routine as consistent as possible. According to the Centre of Clinical Interventions, avoiding certain activities because you are too tired can reinforce sleep disorders and create negative sleeping patterns.
10. Avoid naps
Afternoon naps can be enticing, but they can disrupt your sleep cycle and make it hard to fall back asleep at bedtime. Try your best to avoid taking naps during the day. If you are completely exhausted and don’t think you can stay awake until bedtime, limit your napping to an hour or less before 3:00 p.m.
Symptoms of Poor Sleep Habits
Sleep hygiene can reduce or diminish all of the following symptoms to help you feel less exhausted and burnt out. These symptoms are signs that you are not getting enough sleep:
- Lack of focus and concentration
- Decreased motivation
- Poor diet
- Depressed mood
- Weakened immune system
- Brain fog
If you feel any of these symptoms on a daily basis, make sure that you prioritize sleep hygiene to live a more fulfilling life.
Now that you know all about sleep hygiene, try it out and let us know in the comments below how you feel after getting more quality sleep. You’re not you when you don’t get enough sleep. Sleep hygiene can help you feel like yourself again so that you can put more positive energy toward yourself, your passions, and to others.
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