Sleep hygiene: From tossing and turning to catching some Z’s
Day) dreaming of a morning where you wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day? Good sleep can be challenging to come by without the proper tools and mindset to set yourself up for success. Let’s make this dream a reality with the help of proper sleep hygiene.
What is sleep hygiene?
Do you ever pay attention to your nightly habits? Do you stay up late watching TV or drink caffeine after dinner? Your behavioral and environmental practices throughout the entire day can play a role in how well you sleep at night. Irregular patterns and routines often cause some sleep problems.
Sleep hygiene, in particular, looks at certain activities and habits you keep up throughout the day and before going to bed. The way you set up your bedroom and how you treat it can even affect your sleep. First and foremost, it’s important to understand how important a good night’s sleep is for your well-being.
What are some surprising benefits of good sleep?
You’ve probably heard of the benefits of good sleep, like improving productivity and concentration. However, you may not know that quality sleep can actually maximize athletic performance by allowing your brain to enhance motor skills, reaction time, and problem-solving skills. Take a look at a few more lesser-known benefits of good sleep.
May help you maintain or lose weight. Hormones and motivation to exercise affect your ability to lose weight, and sleep has a big influence on those two factors. Studies show that adults who sleep fewer than seven hours per night had a 41% increased risk of developing obesity.
May strengthen your heart. Low sleep quality and duration: two things that could affect your risk for heart disease. Research also shows that shorter bouts of sleep can increase the risk of high blood pressure, especially for those with sleep apnea.
Affects sugar metabolism and type 2 diabetes risk. Sleep deprivation (getting fewer than six hours of sleep) can cause physiological changes like decreased insulin sensitivity. The higher your insulin resistance is, the higher your chance of developing type 2 diabetes.
Increases inflammation. Sleep is a key regulator for your central nervous system, specifically your stress-response system. Loss of sleep is known to activate inflammatory signals, leading to higher levels of prolonged inflammation.
Supports a healthy immune system. Sleep allows your body to rest and reset. Studies show that people who slept fewer than five hours a night were 4.5 times more likely to develop a cold than those who slept more than seven hours.
Some signs of poor sleep hygiene include having a hard time falling asleep, experiencing daytime sleepiness, and enduring frequent disturbances while sleeping. If you’re experiencing any difficulty sleeping, reach out to one of our sleep centers or a Baylor St. Luke’s primary care physician to help you determine the root of the problem.
What are ways to help you sleep better?
Put yourself in the best position to get a good night’s sleep—this is the key to good sleep hygiene. These are not strict requirements for you to follow. You get to figure out which of these tips works best for you. It may take some time to see the adjustments you desire and don’t forget to make gradual changes. It doesn’t need to be an all-or-nothing effort.
1. Set your sleep schedule.
Have a fixed wake-up time. We all wait for the hallowed weekend when we get to sleep in a little later. However, waking up at different times each day can reduce the quality of your sleep. Try creating a consistent sleep schedule from weekdays to weekends.
Make sleep a priority. Sleep allows your body to recuperate, so it should not be sacrificed for things like exercise or socialization. It’s important to find the balance between things in your life.
Make gradual adjustments. If you want to shift your sleep schedule, don’t do it all in one fell swoop. Instead, take small steps toward a sleep pattern you want.
2. Follow a nightly routine.
Budget time for winding down. It’s beneficial to get your mind in the right state to fall asleep. Set aside 30 to 60 minutes to allow yourself to focus on getting into a state of rest.
Unplug from technology. Before you try to fall asleep, step away from technology to begin winding down. Do something that is relaxing, to get your mind ready for sleep.
Don’t toss and turn. Your bed should be a comfortable place where you’re able to relax. If it’s taking you longer to fall asleep, try reading a book, stretching, or something else that calms you in low, dim lighting.
3. Cultivate healthy daily habits.
- Get daylight exposure. Sunlight is one of the key drivers of the body’s circadian rhythm. The function of the hormones for this rhythm encourages quality sleep.
- Enjoy physical activity. Regular exercise can make it easier to sleep at night and provides a host of other health benefits.
- Cut down on caffeine in the afternoon and evening. Caffeine is a stimulant and can keep you wired when you’re trying to sleep. Avoid caffeine later in the day, and be aware if you’re drinking too much of it to counter for lack of sleep.
- Restrict in-bed activity. Your bed should be for sleeping or winding-down-before-bed activities, not for working from home. Build a link in your mind between your bed and sleep.
4. Optimize your bedroom.
Have a comfortable mattress and pillow. Your sleeping surface is important! You should be able to feel comfortable and pain-free at night.
Set a cool yet comfortable temperature. Find what suits your preferences, but opt for a colder temperature, around 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
Block out noise and light. Use blackout curtains or an eye mask to reduce the light that interferes with your sleep. You can also drown out unwanted noise with a fan or a white noise machine.
The concept of sleep hygiene is important for everyone to consider, but what it looks like for each person could be completely different. It might be a trial and error process to figure out what works best for you, but if you’d like some help, schedule an appointment with your Baylor St. Luke’s primary care physician. If you are experiencing other sleep problems like sleep apnea or insomnia, you can reach out to a St. Luke’s Health sleep center.