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Sleep Hygiene: What Is It?

When you wake up in the morning and roll out of bed, do you feel well-rested and ready to conquer your day? Or are you tempted to hit the snooze button and keep your eyes closed for several more hours due to exhaustion? While common culprits of poor sleep include insomnia, anxiety, or simply not getting into bed at a reasonable hour for the recommended 8 hours of shut-eye, the main offender may be your sleep hygiene.

What is sleep hygiene?

Sleep hygiene, despite its name, doesn’t have anything to do with actual physical cleanliness, but rather is defined as “behaviors that one can do to help promote good sleep using behavioral interventions” according to the American Sleep Association (ASA).  Changing small habits and behaviors in the hours leading up to when your head hits the pillow can improve your sleep health and help you feel more rested upon waking (we’ll chat more about improving habits and behaviors for practicing sleep hygiene down below!).

How can you improve your sleep hygiene?

Create a calm environment

Preparing your bedroom for sleep is an essential step in creating a successful sleep hygiene routine. Take a look around your room and make a mental note of things that could be causing extra stress or could be impacting your sleep. For example, if a street light shine directly into your window at night, or the sun rises directly into your bedroom, consider investing in some black-out curtains, or move the bed to a new position in the room out of direct contact with the light. Extra clutter like baskets of dirty laundry or piles of books that need to be put away could keep you mind running at night thinking about the next day’s tasks. Move any unnecessary clutter out of the room, even if it’s not something you can take care of right away, to avoid visuals that could keep you awake.

Remove time from the equation

While we can’t negate time out of the equation completely (wouldn’t it be neat if we could pause the clock while we slept?) removing analog clocks, digital alarm clocks, cell phones and watches out of your line of sight is a great alternative. If you’re a clock-watcher or if watching the time tick by while you’re trying to fall asleep stresses you out, removing the trigger (clocks) can help you focus more on actually falling asleep and less on watching the minute hand move forward.

Skip that 2nd cup of coffee

The smell of a pot of fresh coffee brewing is sometimes the main motivator to get us out of bed in the morning, but it can make it harder for you to fall asleep if you consume too much, or drink it too late in the day. Caffeine can delay the timing of your body clock (a.k.a. your circadian rhythm), and consuming caffeine too close to bedtime can reduce the total amount of sleep you can get while your brain and body process the caffeine stimulant. Coffee isn’t the only drink you may consume that has caffeine! Watch out for over-consumption of caffeinated sodas and even some teas.

Pump some iron (or take a walk!)

Exercising in the morning can not only give you a rush of feel-good endorphins to fuel your day, but it promotes sleep! Your exercise of choice doesn’t have to involve a gym either (unless that’s what you like!), and could feature taking a walk around the block, going for a swim, or a calm yoga session. Try to avoid any intense exercise right before bedtime, as the endorphins being released by the body give you extra energy and could make it more difficult to relax and fall into a deep sleep. Those REM (rapid eye movement) cycles are important!

Screens are the sleep enemy

Most of us look at screens all day, whether it be our work computers, televisions, or cell phones, but according to the National Sleep Foundation, blue light emitted can suppress the release of melatonin (the hormone that helps make us sleepy) making it harder to fall asleep. When you use devices that emit blue light close to bedtime, it increases your alertness and can delay the onset of REM cycles, causing you to wake up groggy and with brain fog. If you must use these devices near bedtime, consider purchasing blue-light blocking reading glasses that create a barrier between your sensitive eyes and the screen.

Routine, routine, routine

It can be hard, but maintaining a regular sleep schedule or routine is one of the best ways to prepare your body for sleep. Going to bed and waking up around the same time every day gets your body clock in the groove of settling down before your nightly shut-eye, and helps your body get ready to meet the day when you wake up. According to the American Sleep Associate, ideally your sleep schedule would remain the same (with a 20 minute addition or subtraction) every night of the week. Sometimes this may not be possible, and on the weekend you may be tempted to stay up finishing a good book or the latest episode of your favorite show, and that’s okay! What matters is trying, even if you can’t do it exactly every time.

Set a timer on that 3pm nap

While it can be oh-so-tempting to curl up in your bed during a free afternoon, it could negatively impact your nightly sleep routine. According to Verywell, adults are most commonly tempted to take a nap between the hours of 1pm and 3pm when there’s a natural lull in the circadian rhythm of your body. If you’re excessively sleepy during the daytime, a nap may be a temporary fix, but it may be a symptom of an underlying issue, like sleep deprivation at night. If you do want to take a nap, try to limit it to a 30 or 45 minute to give you a quick boost without negatively impacting your night’s sleep, and ultimately how you feel the next day.

Pamper yourself

When you think of the ultimate relaxing activity, what comes to mind? Maybe a face mask, a soak in a hot, lavender scented bath (or both!) comes to mind. Maybe reading a book and sipping on a cup of caffeine-free herbal tea sounds right up your alley. Whatever it may be, take the time to pamper yourself before bed with a calming activity that helps you relax. Relieving muscle tension and the mental strain of our day-to-day lives may be one of the best ways to help you ease into a restful night and a more productive day when you wake.

Thank you for visiting Cheerful Hearts by LauraBeth Ryan, a person that can help you with sleep hygiene and to relieve stress and anxiety online life coach. We hope that you’ve found this blog helpful in taking the first step in improving your sleep hygiene! If you or someone you know needs a personal empowerment coach, contact LauraBeth today.

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