While it may sound basic and straightforward, many people are not fully aware of what sleep hygiene is and what it entails, and those who have a clue rarely practice it. The lack of knowledge in this regard explains the rising cases of sleep-related problems in America, such as insomnia and sleep apnea.
FACT; did you know that up to 30 percent of American adults experience chronic insomnia?
In the most basic terms, sleep hygiene refers to habits that support good sleep. Adopting these habits does not only help you to wake up feeling fresh and rejuvenated, it also works to boost physical and mental health, consequently improving productivity and overall quality of life. Taking small but tangible steps toward practicing good sleep habits can set you on a path to realizing happiness and success in life.
From sleeping on a comfortable mattress to keeping a stable sleeping schedule, here are seven ways you can practice good sleep hygiene.
Develop a healthy sleep/wake cycle
Having a sleep-wake pattern is one way to train your brain and body to sleep and wake up at fixed times through a healthy waking/sleeping routine. Below are some tips to help you develop a healthy and sustainable sleep/wake cycle;
• Keep a consistent sleeping routine – Develop and follow a fixed waking and sleeping schedule throughout the week, even during the weekends. This will help you maintain a routine that is essential in promoting sleep hygiene.
• Avoid daytime naps – Although helpful in regaining energy during the day, daytime naps can alter your sleeping pattern for the short term and long term as well. If necessary, limit them to early afternoons, and make sure not to overdo them.
• Make gradual adjustments – If you want to change your sleeping/waking schedule, do not do it all in one whoop as it can affect your ability to adjust healthily and successfully. Instead, make small changes of, say 3 hours, over a period of time.
• Prioritize sleep – Even under the pressure of finishing an assignment or whatever other deadlines you are rushing to beat, always create time to get sufficient sleep. Just the way you set the alarm to wake up on time, set one to make sure you sleep on time.
Create a sleep-inducing environment
The atmosphere in your bedroom goes a long way in determining the quality of sleep you get, a reason you should set a conducive environment for sleeping. You can achieve such an environment by keeping your bedroom within the temperatures of 60-75 Fahrenheit. The room should also be well ventilated, free of noise, and if you have a pet that keeps you awake, keep it out of the room.
Equally important in creating an atmosphere that induces sleep is to invest in a comfortable mattress that regulates temperatures, supports the alignment of the spine, and generally promotes good sleep. For sure, good sleep hygiene begins in the bedroom, so make the changes you need to achieve a sleep-inducing atmosphere.
Avoid certain foods and drinks before bed
Caffeine and nicotine are some of the substances that should be avoided before bed. The mentioned stimulants contain substances that charge the brain, thus affecting your ability to fall asleep. Some substances that contain nicotine and caffeine include;
- Certain medication
- Some sodas such as cola
It is also advisable to avoid alcohol intake 3-4 hours before bed as it increases the number of nightly awakenings, consequently affecting the quality of sleep.
Create a bedtime routine
Creating a bedtime routine and sticking to it works to signal the brain that napping time is nigh. The routine you adopt depends on what makes you feel relaxed; it could be soft music, yoga, a warm shower, meditation; the list is endless since there is no blueprint for what a definitive routine is. In other words, you are free to follow a routine that suits you as long as it does not involve anything that induces stress, like having emotional conversations and work-related activities.
Exercising regularly not only improves the quality of sleep but also boosts your overall health. Here, exercises do not have to be intense and vigorous; a one-hour aerobic exercise per day can greatly help balance the body’s hormones, which is essential in regulating your sleeping behavior.
Try to finish your exercises at least three hours before going to bed. More importantly, adopt an exercise routine that takes into consideration sleep hygiene so that every time you hit the gym (or the road), you know besides keeping fit, you are trying to achieve a more sustainable sleeping behavior.
Balance meal and fluid intake
Most of us are guilty of taking heavy meals before bed time, which often results in late night bathroom visits due the discomfort induced by the digestion taking place. To be on the safer side, eat your dinner several hours before going to sleep. Also, avoid too much fluid intake so that you won’t need to relieve yourself multiple times during the night. Furthermore, if hunger strikes in the middle of the night, opt for light meals that won’t affect your sleep, perhaps milk or carbohydrates.
Cultivate healthy daily habits
Practicing good sleep hygiene is not only about altering your bedtime routines; it involves incorporating daily habits that help build a ‘culture’ geared toward eliminating poor sleeping behavior and adopting sustainable routines that favor sleep hygiene. Scientifically, positive behavior during the day helps maintain the circadian rhythm, limiting sleep disruptions during bed time.
There are numerous ways you can cultivate healthy habits during the day; for instance, getting daylight exposure can keep your circadian rhythm working optimally, making it easier to fall asleep. Moreover, prioritize physical activities as they cause fatigue that serves as a catalyst for falling asleep. By adopting daily healthy habits, good sleeping hygiene becomes part of your existence.
Practicing good sleep hygiene is a prerequisite to living a healthy and productive life. Remember, you do not need to make sudden changes to your current routine; with small and actionable steps, you are sure to see improvements in your sleep hygiene.
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