Sleep Hygiene: Tips on Developing Better Sleep Habits

What is sleep hygiene and how can it affect your overall health and well-being? Sleep hygiene is comprised of different habits and practices that are important to achieve high-quality sleep at night and prevent daytime sleepiness. When the body is getting enough sleep, you are more productive at work, the quality of your life improves and you feel energized all day long.

Sleep deprivation increases the risk of chronic diseases and mental illness. It’s also one of the most common causes of road accidents worldwide.

The Importance of Better Sleep Hygiene

Observing good sleep habits ensures maximum rest at night. That said, the amount of sleep a person needs will vary according to age, lifestyle, and state of health. But generally, adults must get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep at night while children should get 10 hours of uninterrupted sleep for optimum health. As for the proper length of sleeping time, you must not get too little or excessive sleep.

Image used under Creative Commons from Joe Green

Signs of Poor Sleep Hygiene

Some of the most common signs of poor sleep hygiene include persistent sleep disturbances, daytime sleepiness, sleep deprivation, and low quality sleep. If you keep waking up feeling tired or you spent the night tossing and turning in bed, evaluate your sleep routine and improve your bedtime habits to improve sleep quality.

Good Sleep Habits to Keep in Mind

Limit Nap Time to 30 Minutes

It’s tempting to sleep the afternoon away but don’t. Even if you’re sleep deprived, napping will not make up for inadequate sleep at night. If you must nap, taking a 20 to 30-minute siesta should be enough to refresh the mind and improve alertness. Longer naps will only make it a struggle to sleep at night.

Say No to Stimulants

Certain types of foods and drinks contain stimulants that make it hard to fall asleep or stay asleep at night. Coffee, tea, sports drinks, energy drinks, alcoholic beverages, and cigarettes – all these may disrupt nighttime sleep. Do not drink caffeinated beverages or smoke cigarettes so close to bedtime. Although alcoholic beverages may induce sleep, booze will disrupt sleep later in the night because the body is processing the alcohol.

Regular Exercise

A healthy lifestyle is a must for high-quality nighttime sleep. You don’t have to wear yourself out in the gym to improve sleep. Light exercises such as biking, walking, and jogging will do wonders for your sleeping habits. Even better, you can work out as little as 10 minutes per day and you’ll reap the benefits at night! The key to better sleep through exercising is to determine the intensity of the workout that works exactly for your body.

Healthy Diet

It’s alright to indulge every now and then but doesn’t eat greasy, fried foods on the daily or you’ll suffer the consequences at night, tossing and turning in bed. Stick to healthy meals rich in vitamins and minerals. If you can, avoid foods that could trigger indigestion or hyperacidity an hour or two before bed time, such as spicy foods, citrus fruits, and carbonated drinks.

Image used under Creative Commons from Arya Ziai

Healthy Sleep-Wake Cycle

The body is able to wake up and fall asleep when exposed to natural light and darkness, respectively. As such, it’s important to get adequate exposure to sunlight during the day and keep your bedroom dark at night to maintain a healthy sleep-wake cycle.

Stick to Regular Bedtime Habits

To achieve a restful slumber, you have to help the body recognize cues that it’s time for bed. Develop a routine that will ease you to sleep starting with a warm shower or bath. After bathing, read a book or perform light stretches to relax the muscles. Do not engage in rigorous activities and/or emotionally charged conversations before bedtime otherwise, the rush of adrenaline and cortisol will make sleep virtually impossible.

Create the Perfect Sleeping Environment

The bedroom must be conducive for sleeping. Apart from having cushy pillows and sheets as well as a cozy bed, keep the room temperature nice and cool for optimal comfort. Keep mobile devices – including smartphones, tablets, laptops, video games, PC, and even the TV – off limits if possible to encourage sleepiness. Consider using blackout curtains and orthopedic pillows for uninterrupted sleep or earplugs to eliminate annoying nighttime noises.