We all have nights where falling asleep, then staying asleep, seems impossible. These nights are usually followed by rough mornings and draining days, which can have a significant impact on our emotional and physical health. But if you have a positive sleep hygiene practice in place, the sleepless nights can become few and far between.
This article explains exactly what the term, “sleep hygiene” entails as well as 9 crucial sleep hygiene tips to help you consistently sleep better so you can have more fulfilling, productive days!
What is Sleep Hygiene?
Your hygiene is your set of practices for preserving your health, like brushing your teeth or washing your hands frequently. Sleep hygiene covers your habits and practices before going to bed, including your sleeping environment and your personal habits. Both of these factors can impact the amount of sleep you get each night, which in turn affects your health and well being.
How Much Sleep Should You Get?
A big part of sleep hygiene is getting enough sleep every night. Here’s the National Sleep Foundation’s recommended amount of sleep needed for each age group:
|Groups||Age Range||Amount of Sleep Needed per Night|
|Newborns||0-3 months||14-17 hours|
|Infants||4-11 months||12-15 hours|
|Toddlers||1-2 years||11-14 hours|
|Pre-school||3-5 years||10-13 hours|
|School Age||6-13 years||9-11 hours|
|Teen||14-17 years||8-10 hours|
|Young Adult||18-25 years||7-9 hours|
|Adult||26-64 years||7-9 hours|
|Older Adults||65+||7-8 hours|
Effects of Poor Sleep Hygiene
Your health and happiness are dependent on a consistent good night’s sleep. That includes getting the recommended amount of sleep preferably every night, or as many nights as possible. In the short term, poor sleep hygiene will affect your mental and emotional state as well as your immune system. In the long-run, chronic sleep loss can put you at risk for:
- Heart Disease
- Chronic Stress
Your sleep hygiene is something you can take full control of, which means these short-term and long-term effects can be prevented!
Sleep Hygiene Tips for Maximum Snoozing
As we mentioned, your personal habits and your sleeping environment are the two biggest contributors to your sleep hygiene. Here are 9 positive sleep hygiene tips to help you achieve a more peaceful sleep:
Limit Nap Times
The three o’clock slump is real, which can make laying down for a quick snooze all too tempting. But afternoon napping can decrease your sleep drive, making it harder to fall asleep at night. Therefore the best time to take a nap is between 1-3 PM or 6-8 hours after waking up.
If you do find yourself yawning and yearning for sleep during the day, make sure to limit your naps to 20 minutes to avoid sleep “inertia” or grogginess. Napping in short increments like this can actually improve your alertness and mood, and the quickness won’t disrupt your sleep drive at night. Try setting an alarm to make sure you don’t overdo your napping.
We’re all aware of the benefits that exercising has on our health, but activity at the wrong time of day can negatively affect your sleep health. Rigorous movement stimulates your endorphins, which can make it difficult to fall asleep. To avoid this, try making sure you’re done with your exercise routine at least three hours before bedtime. Conversely, 20-30 minutes of daily exercise helps balance circadian rhythm and improve sleep quality.
Avoid Certain Foods
Eating certain foods close to bedtime can be heavy on your stomach and trigger indigestion or heartburn, which can disrupt your sleep. It’s therefore important to finish eating 3 hours before bedtime and at least 4 hours before bedtime when eating meat. Before bed, also stay away from rich, spicy, fatty and fried foods.
If you’re craving a snack before bed, try foods high in amino acids, proteins, antioxidants or vitamins, like:
- Nuts and Seeds
Stay Away from Caffeine
There’s a reason why coffee is associated with our wake-up routine: it’s a stimulant that’s full of caffeine! Tea, chocolate, sodas and some pain relievers also contain caffeine. Make sure to avoid these at least four to six hours before bed so you can fall soundly asleep.
In general, everyone should stop drinking caffeine by 2 PM as caffeine peaks 30 minutes after consumption and has a half life of 5-8 hours.
Create a Relaxing Routine
For optimum sleep hygiene, try calming activities an hour before bed like light reading, taking a bath or performing light stretches. Avoid stressful activities like exercising, completing work assignments or engaging in heavy, emotional discussions. These can affect your alertness, which will make it harder for you to fall asleep.
Stick to a Sleep Schedule
Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day sets your body’s internal clock, which makes it easier to fall asleep and wake up rested. While they might feel like the right thing to do at the time, binge sleeping and pulling all-nighters will do more harm to you in the long run. Even on your days off, you should go to sleep and wake up at the same time to avoid oversleeping on Monday mornings and starting your week off on the wrong foot.
Keep Electronics Out of Your Bed
You should always mentally associate your bed with sleeping, and only sleeping! Bringing cell phones, tablets, laptops and gaming devices into your bed will be too stimulating and will keep you awake. Plus, the light that’s emitted from these devices can trick your body into believing it’s daylight, which will delay the response of melatonin (a hormone that promotes sleep). Hence, this blue spectrum light should be avoided at least 2 hours before going to bed.
Establish a Comfortable Sleep Environment
Your bedroom should be a place that welcomes relaxation and promotes tranquility. Quiet, cool environments are best for achieving this. If there are noise issues in your home, like loud neighbors or a snoring partner, try using ear plugs or a white noise machine to block out distractions. Blackout curtains and eye masks can be used to prevent light from seeping in, and you should always make sure your mattress, pillows, sheets and blankets are comfortable.
Soak Up the Sun
Light is a big contributing factor to how your circadian rhythm works, which is the internal clock that regulates your periods of sleep and wakefulness. To keep your rhythm on track, you should let the sun into your room in the morning and take breaks outside during waking hours to soak up some natural light.
Lack of light at bedtime helps your body wind down and enter a period of sleep. If you work night shifts and need to sleep during the day, it may be time to invest in blackout curtains or an eye mask.
We hope these sleep hygiene tips help you sleep and feel better! Be sure to subscribe to our emails for more tips on sleeping and living well.