If you keep tossing and turning in your bed, unable to get some quality shut-eye, know that you are not alone. Between 50-70 million US adults suffer from a sleep disorder. 37.9% even report falling asleep during broad daylight at least once monthly. 4.7% confess nodding off while driving at least one time in the preceding month.
Furthermore, a global survey found out that not one country that participated was getting a full recommended sleep of 8 hours. The average sleep these days stands at 6.8 hours. There are lots of concerns that surface with sleep deprivation, which brings sleep hygiene into the picture.
A lack of sleep culminates in health consequences both in the short-term and long-term. In the immediate aftermath, you may notice fatigue and a lack of productivity coupled with yawns. In the long run, dipping energy levels become the norm. Restlessness is also associated with a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and cardiovascular health concerns.
A poor quality of sleep also corresponds to danger. This is because sleepless drivers make for poor drivers, increasing the incidence of road accidents. In this regard, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reveals that drowsy driving lead to 44,000 injuries, 72,000 crashes, 800 deaths in 2013. All these factors set the foundation for sleep hygiene.
What Is Sleep Hygiene?
Sleep hygiene is a term that covers all the bedtime tips and tricks that help you sleep better. The word is often misunderstood as synonymous with cleanliness. The actual meaning of hygiene here is the set of habits, environmental influences, and habits that impact one’s health and subsequently his sleep.
The American Sleep Association defines this terms as, “behaviors that one can do to help promote good sleep using behavioral interventions.”
On the other hand, the National Sleep Foundation present the following definition, “Sleep hygiene is a variety of different practices and habits that are necessary to have good nighttime sleep quality and full daytime alertness.”
The Importance of Sleep Hygiene
The significance of behavioral intervention for better sleep lies in two essential factors. Firstly, as humans, we can be easily distracted, whether we know it or not. For instance, tangled bedsheets might be bothering you in getting sufficient zzz. Likewise, blue light emissions from your smartphone might be interfering with your internal biological clock or so.
Secondly, it is vital to practice sleep-boosting tips and tricks, as sleeplessness increases the risk of numerous health concerns. Some of these are:
- Chronic stress
- Heart disease
- Heart attack
- Memory loss
- Cognitive impairment
- Mood disorders
All these health issues caused due to a dearth of slumber point out the need for maintaining and following ways that encourage a good night’s rest.
Sleep Hygiene Tips
Here is an in-depth look at approaches you should follow:
It is critical to stick with a sleep schedule that follows a routine. Taking occasional naps in the day can disturb your sleep schedule and make it difficult to fall asleep. Therefore, you need to keep in mind that:
- Naps take down the ‘sleep dept,’ which is essential for easy sleep onset
- There is a certain amount of sleep that everyone needs in 24 hours, there is never a need for sleep more than that
- Naps decrease the amount of sleep that is needed the next night, possibly resulting in sleep fragmentation and difficulty in falling asleep
- It may lead to insomnia in the long run
If you cannot sleep, get out of your bed
If you wake up in the middle of the night or face problems in falling into the arms of Morpheus, then keep lying down in bed. Stay in bed, attempting to sleep, for no longer than 5-10 minutes. You need to know that
- By staying awake in bed, you are potentially encouraging negative thoughts to invade your mind.
- If you cannot sleep, then get out of bed and sit in a chair in dim light or in the dark
- Return to your bed once you feel drowsy again
- During these periods of wakefulness, keep the internet, your smartphone, and the television at bay, as they only alert your mind
If you wake up multiple times in the night, do not panic and wake up as per your schedule.
Maintain a sleep routine
This is an all-important tip for good quality sleep. Stick with your schedule even if you woke up in the night a couple of times. By avoiding naps during the day, you can also be able to maintain a better sleep schedule:
- Ideally, your sleep schedule should not be disturbed by more than 20 minutes, plus or minus
Prepare your bedroom for a sleep-inducing environment
Your environment greatly determines the quality of sleep that you can get. To this end, maintain a sleep-inducing environment as bedtime nears. You can:
- Maintain a cool, dark, and quiet environment that promotes sound slumber
- Use an eye mask, heavy curtains or blackout shades to block light
- Keep the temperature comfortably cool. This ranges between 60 and 75 Fahrenheit
- Make sure that you have a comfortable mattress and pillows
- You may also limit your bed activities to sleep only. Keep your laptop and other work materials outside. This will strengthen the link between sleep and your bedroom
Avoid caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and other recreational drugs
Caffeine and other recreational drugs are stimulants that make you more alert, leaving you more awake. You should avoid caffeine that is commonly found in coffee, chocolate, tea, and some painkillers for at least 4-6 hours before bed.
The same holds true for smokers. Research points out that they are unable to get a good restorative sleep, therefore, they only get light sleep as compared to non-smokers. Alcohol may put you to sleep immediately but works as a stimulant later on. Consequently, it tends to wake you up multiple time in your sleep. This declines the quality of sleep you get.
Hence, avoid all such drugs before bed. You should last take them in the evening time.
Pursue a pre-sleep bedtime routine
You can gradually transition from wakefulness to sleep by observing relaxing activities an hour or so before bed. Some of these measures include:
- Take a bath as it can be relaxing and drop your body temperature, which encourages sleep
- Read a book or practice relaxation exercises
- Dim the lights of your surrounding before going completely dark
- Avoid stimulating or stressful activities, for example, doing work or discussing emotional matters
Psychological or physical stress excites the secretion of a stress hormone called cortisol, which correlates with boosting alertness. If you’re stressed for some reason or another, try to write down your problem and then put it aside.
Avoid smartphones before bed
A vast majority of people tend to use their smartphone before bed. This is wrong, as the blue light emission from the screen of a laptop, tablet, smartphone, or other such electronic gadgets disrupts your internal biological clock.
Your internal circadian rhythm is responsible for scheduling sleep in the night hours and wakefulness in the daylight. However, the blue light from the screen tricks the internal clock into thinking that it is daylight instead of dark, which pushes away your sleep. In this regard, you should:
- Put your phone to silent or vibrate before you head to bed
- If possible, turn off your phone
- Do not turn to check your phone or any notifications if you wake up in the middle of the night
Light physical activity for as little as ten minutes can encourage sleep. It also enhances the quality of your sleep. So:
- Try some aerobic exercise
- Don’t do any rigorous exercise before bedtime
Some other steps for promoting improved sleep hygiene include:
- Have dinner several hours before avoid and avoid foods that cause indigestion
- Drink just the needed amount of fluid before bed so that you are not awakened in the middle of the night due to a need to go the washroom
- Limit your exposure to bright lights in the evening
- Try meditation before bedtime to promote relaxation
- Have a comfortable mattress
- If your pet wakes you up in the middle of the night, you might want to consider any options for keeping it out of your bedroom
- Keep electronics out of your room
- Fix your bedsheet before fetching zzz
Take home message
There are lots of people who experience difficulty in falling asleep. This problem is pretty grave as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has termed the concern, an epidemic. Therefore, it is best to maintain a good sleep hygiene so that you can sleep peacefully and slumber for the recommended hours. Following these tips can help you boost the quality as well quantity of your sleep. And such measures are the best solution for sleeplessness and certainly a better option than sleep aids, which may culminate in unwanted side effects.