It goes without saying that the feeling of good rest is irreplaceable. Even the world’s best coffee is no substitute for quality sleep. Our own experience proves that sleep hygiene is important, but what is the science behind it?
In this article, we’ll explore good sleep hygiene— what it is, what the benefits are and how to get it.
What is sleep hygiene?
Sleep hygiene is the practice of building and maintaining sleep habits that are restful and promote an overall healthy lifestyle. Sleep hygiene includes not only the amount of sleep, but the timing of sleep, the sleep environment and the quality of rest.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, good sleep hygiene includes getting seven or more hours per night for adults.
What happens when I sleep?
According to the Sleep Foundation, vital processes occur every time you fall asleep. This is a critical time for your mind and body to rest, health and re-energize. When you’re asleep, your cardiovascular and immune systems are being reinforced and your metabolism stabilizes.
Moreover, during sleep your muscles relax, your brain goes through phases of activity and rest and your hormone levels fluctuate. Failing to get adequate sleep interferes with all these systems, causing problems in your life even if you don’t notice them.
What’s at stake when you don’t get good sleep hygiene?
It’s clear that a high quality and quantity of sleep helps us function. What’s at stake when the opposite occurs? Cleveland Clinic states the following negative effects when the body and mind don’t get the shut eye they need:
Decrease ability to concentrate and stay alert
Tiredness during the day
Difficulty processing and storing memories
Added stress to relationships
Lower interest in normal daytime activities
Increased chances of poor driving and car accidents
The following are all possible results from chronic lack of sleep:
High blood pressure
Impaired immune system functioning
Lower sex drive
We’ve all felt the ill effects of restless nights and know from our own experience how sleepiness changes our mood and our ability to function in work, relationships and daily life. When left unmanaged, chronic sleep can have even more devastating consequences.
How to improve sleep hygiene
If you’re looking to avoid the negative consequences of poor sleep and capitalize on all the pros of sufficient rest, you’ll want to check out these sleep hygiene tips that you can implement tonight.
1. Make sleep a priority
Too many of us don’t get the slumber our bodies so desperately need and it’s usually because we feel that other things are more important. While you shouldn’t have to sacrifice healthy habits (like socializing, work or exercise) for the sake of sleep, there are definitely things you’ll need to cut out to make good sleep happen.
2. Make a stable schedule
For quality sleep to happen, sleep needs to be uninterrupted and consistent. This means going to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning. While this may be feasible and happen naturally during your work week, your schedule on days off may need to be shuffled to accommodate stable sleep.
When a person is exposed to bright light, it’s a signal to wake up and stay awake. If necessary, use dark curtains or an eye mask to help you get in the mood for sleep.
4. Follow bedtime rituals
Just like babies learn to anticipate bedtime after a bath or storytime, adults learn patterns that cue the brain to sleep, even if it happens unconsciously. Even a simple routine of brushing your teeth and reading for five minutes can create some strong neural connections between behavior and upcoming rest.
5. Change your daytime habits
Good sleep hygiene isn’t just about what you do at night. Your habits during the day have a big effect on how easily you will fall asleep and how sound your sleep will be. If you’re looking for daytime sleep hygiene tips, you’ll want to exercise early in the day, drink enough fluids, avoid caffeine and sugar late in the day and get good daytime sunshine.
Good sleep hygiene is an essential tool that you’ll use for the rest of your life. The benefits will start impacting you after the first night you implement them, and benefits will roll out for years to come. The sooner you start, the better you’ll feel.
If poor sleep has impacted your mental health, you’re not alone. Sleep hygiene affects the body and mind. If you’ve been struggling with a sleep disorder, insomnia or poor mental health due to sleep issues, Pyramid Online Counseling can help.
Take the first step in your journey to whole-person healing. Reach out today.