In this new series of Healthy Habits blog posts, we'll provide valuable insights into creating healthy habits that promote a healthy life, including aspects of physical fitness, mental well-being, and emotional balance. Whether you're a beginner or already have some experience with healthy living, this series will provide the tools and inspiration you need to create lasting change in your life.
The first blog in this series will be focused on sleep hygiene. While the term may feel a little clinical, "sleep hygiene" is simply the practice of developing healthy habits and routines to promote restful and rejuvenating sleep.
We all know good sleep is essential for overall health and wellness. During sleep, the body repairs and rejuvenates itself, and the brain consolidates memories and learning. Lack of sleep has been linked to a range of health issues, including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and mental health problems like depression and anxiety. Good sleep also plays a crucial role in regulating mood, increasing productivity, and improving cognitive function.
Despite all of the evidence practically begging us to get a good night's rest, many of us still struggle to catch the zzz's we need on a regular basis. Luckily, building a good sleep hygiene routine is an easy step towards facilitating the rest you need for your body and mind to work their best. So, grab a warm drink, get comfortable, and let's dive into the dos and don'ts of sleep hygiene together!
Sleep Hygiene Dos
Maintain a Consistent Sleep Schedule
One of the most important things you can do to improve your sleep hygiene is to establish and maintain a consistent sleep schedule. This means going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, even on weekends. Doing so helps regulate your body's internal clock, making it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep at night. Following a sleep schedule will help you feel more refreshed in the morning so you have the energy to enjoy your day.
Create a Sleep-Enhancing Environment
If you're one of those people whose bedroom also functions as dining room, office, and playroom, it's time to say no to the extracurricular bedroom activities and create your ideal sleep sanctuary! You can enhance the quality of your sleep just by making sure your bedroom is a place of peace and comfort. Keep your space cool, dark, and quiet. Consider investing in blackout curtains, a comfortable mattress and pillows, and a white noise machine to block out any outside noises that may disturb your sleep. You can even get extra fancy with it and buy yourself some nice pajamas for a luxuriously comfortable sleep experience.
Practice Relaxation Techniques
Practicing relaxation techniques before bed can help calm your mind and body, making it easier to fall asleep. Some techniques to try include deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and meditation. Even just a few minutes of mindful breathing can help us deactivate any stress in our body and trigger the body's relaxation response. Remember, just like any exercise, relaxation takes practice! If you've been operating at a 10 all day, teaching your body and mind to turn it down to 1 before bedtime will take time. Practice short, guided 5-minute breathing exercises or meditations using a meditation app like Calm or Simple Habit to help you get started.
Establish a Relaxing Bedtime Routine
What you do before bedtime is a key part of promoting restful sleep. Doing the same thing each night before bed will signal to your body that it's time to wind down and fall asleep soon. And the best part is that your bedtime routine is unique to you! Spend some time thinking about what activities put you in a state of calm and try different things to find your ideal bedtime routine. If you have kids, create a family bedtime routine that you perform together - this can create an environment of healthy sleep for the whole family! Some bedtime routine activities to try: reading, cuddling with pets, sharing highlights from your day, taking a warm bath or shower, or performing self-care rituals like a skincare routine.
Incorporate Physical Activity into Your Day
Regular physical activity has been shown to improve sleep quality, so make sure to incorporate exercise into your daily routine. Even just 30 minutes a day can reduce stress and anxiety, improve mood, increase body temperature, and help regulate the body's internal clock - all things that promote restful sleep.
Try Different Products to Promote Good Sleep Hygiene
With today's cultural focus on self-care, there are tons of good sleep products that can help banish your insomnia and get some restful sleep. Some extras to incorporate into your sleep hygiene routine might include:
- Aromatherapy diffuser - use calming essentials oils like lavender and chamomile
- Sleep mask - try a satin one for extra comfort
- Sleep headphones - perfect for those who like to fall asleep to soothing nature sounds or soft music
- Weighted blanket - like a cozy hug while you sleep
- White noise machine - for when you need to block out the rest of the world
- Blackout curtains - ideal for nightshift workers or anyone who likes an extra dark room
Sleep Hygiene Don'ts
Alcohol & Caffeine
Caffeine and alcohol can both disrupt your sleep cycle, so it's important to avoid consuming them before bedtime. Caffeine can keep you tossing and turning all night, while alcohol may help you fall asleep initially but can lead to disrupted sleep later in the night.
It's not just the kids that need to lay off the screens! The blue light emitted by electronic devices can interfere with your body's natural production of melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate sleep. To promote restful sleep, avoid using electronic devices for at least an hour before bedtime. If you absolutely must do some scrolling before bed, use your device's warm light setting or purchase a pair of blue light-blocking glasses to wear at bedtime.
Big Meals & Spicy Foods
Heavy, spicy, or high-fat foods can cause indigestion, which can disrupt your sleep. To promote restful sleep, avoid consuming these types of foods before bedtime.
Nicotine is a stimulant that can interfere with your sleep cycle. If you smoke, it's important to avoid smoking before bedtime to promote restful sleep. (And we suggest not smoking at all - but that's a topic for another blog post!)
Exercising Before Bed
While daily exercise is a great way to promote overall health and wellness and improve sleep quality, exercising right before bed is a don't. Exercising too close to bedtime can stimulate your body and make it harder to fall asleep. If you like a good nighttime workout, aim to finish up at least 90 minutes before bedtime so your body has enough time to wind down.
Napping during the day can be a great way to catch up on missed sleep, but keeping naps short and sweet is important. Long naps can interfere with your body's natural sleep cycle and make it harder to fall asleep at night. Ideally, naps should be limited to 20-30 minutes and taken earlier in the day, preferably before 3:00 pm. If you find yourself consistently needing to nap during the day, it may be a sign that you're not getting enough quality sleep at night.
While sleep medications can be effective in helping you fall asleep and stay asleep, they come with potential risks and side effects and should always be used with caution. Sleep medications can be habit-forming and may interfere with your body's natural sleep cycle over time. It's important to speak with a healthcare provider before taking any sleep medications, as they can help determine the underlying cause of your sleep issues and recommend appropriate treatment options.
Ready to catch some zzz's?
In a world brimming with health and wellness tips, good sleep hygiene might seem like just another buzzword, but we promise that changing up your sleeping habits can help you achieve more restful nights and a better feeling of overall well-being. With a little effort and attention to sleep hygiene, you can improve the quality and quantity of your sleep and wake up feeling refreshed and rejuvenated each morning. Sweet dreams!