Getting a good nights sleep is important, but so is sleep hygiene! Having a solid game plan in place before you head off to bed is paramount to a great nights sleep. So, why is sleep hygiene important?
Sleep hygiene is important because it helps give your body and mind the correct amount of sleep they need to function at their optimal levels. Practicing good habits before you go to bed will leave you waking up more energetic and ready to take on the next day.
Proper sleep hygiene is just as important to your well being as any other form of hygiene. Like washing your hands after going to the restroom or brushing and flossing your teeth each day, sleep hygiene is a series of practices that are beneficial to your overall health.
More than maintaining your overall health, good sleep hygiene helps prevent diseases as well by gives your body the rest it needs to fight off illnesses or infections. Lack of sufficient sleep not only exhausts your body but can weaken your immune system. After a year like 2020, we can all agree on the importance of doing whatever it takes to keep a strong and healthy immune system.
Why is Sleep Hygiene Important?
Every single person has had one of those nights where they don’t get enough sleep and have to suffer through the next day. Whether they spend the next day grumpy, dopey, or just plain sleepy, a bad night’s sleep can ruin an otherwise promising day. Luckily, with good sleep hygiene, those drowsy days can be few and far between or – if practiced consistently – nonexistent.
Executing on a game plan to improve your sleep hygiene is the first step to success. It won’t be an overnight change, but a long term change that improves every day.
Lets look at some of the benefits of practicing good sleep hygiene.
What are the Benefits of Sleep Hygiene?
Getting enough sleep each night can be a real mood booster and physically improve your entire body as well.
Good sleep hygiene promotes effective sleep which improves your attitude (more than coffee ever could – if you can believe it). Irritability is a common symptom of not getting enough sleep. Lack of rest will cause your body to feel tired and drained of the usual energy needed to get through the day. Similar to toddlers, we are all prone to fits and bouts of screaming when we are exhausted. However, with plenty of sleep, a person’s mood improves because they are well-rested and full of energy.
Exhaustion greatly affects a person’s mood, but perhaps more worrisome is that it also affects a person’s judgment. Without rest, the brain is not working at its highest capacity. This causes judgment to be impaired and often leads to people making mistakes they wouldn’t otherwise make with a well-rested mind and body.
An Example of Sleep Hygiene Benefits
For example, an overly tired person with impaired judgment may make an error at work or – an even more dangerous and potentially fatal error – decide to drive without realizing they are too tired to safely operate a car. Good sleep hygiene allows you to rest and recuperate. By consistently practicing good sleep hygiene, a person’s brain is rested and able to make sound decisions.
Functional abilities are also improved by good sleep hygiene practices. With a well-rested brain and body, a person’s coordination can function correctly. Additionally, the brain is refreshed and ready to learn or apply previously learned skills. A good night’s sleep is a crucial part of preparing for an academic exam because an energized brain can recall and analyze information better than a fatigued one.
Essentially, if you want to be a nicer and smarter person, practice good sleep hygiene.
What is a Good Pre-Sleep Routine?
A good pre-sleep routine is one that relaxes and prepares your mind and body for sleep.
According to The Science of Sleep, a good pre-sleep routine makes the transition from awake to asleep easier and consequently resulting in a better night’s sleep.
Establishing a consistent schedule is part of a quality sleep hygiene routine. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends setting a bedtime that allows for at least seven hours of sleep each night. They also suggest maintaining your sleep schedule on weekends or even while on vacation. Sleeping in may feel great for a day, but the effects of your interrupted sleep cycle may leave you wishing for another vacation.
Some recommended pre-sleep activities include taking a bath, reading a book, or practicing relaxing exercises like yoga or sleep-promoting stretches. Surprisingly, watching television can even promote sleep by allowing the body to relax. However, all electronic screens should be turned off for at least half an hour before going to sleep.
What are Bad Pre-Sleep Habits?
Bad sleep habits are patterns you should avoid if you want to get a good night’s sleep.
One of the most common bad pre-sleep habits is looking at an electric screen right before bedtime. Smartphones, televisions, computers, and other electronic devices all stimulate the brain rather than relaxing it and preparing your body for sleep. Experts from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommend turning off electronic devices thirty minutes before bedtime to allow time for your brain to decompress before actually falling asleep.
Another common bad habit is consuming caffeine or alcohol before bedtime. Since it is a stimulant, caffeine in your system will make falling asleep difficult and cause you to get a lighter sleep than you would get without caffeine in your system. Alcohol is another substance to avoid before bedtime. While it is a depressant and may seem like a good idea to encourage sleep, it will stimulate the body a few hours after consuming and interrupt your sleep according to Harvard Medical School.
Exercising in general – if done earlier in the day – can promote better sleep. However, exercise late in the day or even right before bedtime is another bad habit to avoid. This is because working out stimulates the body and causes your brain to be more alert, not more relaxed, and ready for bed.
Napping in the afternoon can also cause sleep to be elusive come bedtime because it throws off your schedule and decreases your sleep drive. Experts recommend napping before 5 p.m. and only if you desperately need sleep. Anything after will make falling asleep at a reasonable bedtime difficult.
How Can My Bedroom Encourage Sleep?
In addition to having a bed, there are a few other things you can do to make your bedroom more conducive to sleep.
While on the topic of beds, it is recommended that you replace your mattress every ten years.
Here are a few other ideas on how to make your bedroom a room that encourages sleep:
- Set the thermostat to a cool temperature. A cooler, yet still comfortable, environment will promote better sleep.
2. Use a white noise machine to drown out any outside noise that may disrupt your sleep.
3. Air-purifying house plants with relaxing scents like lavender can also promote better sleep and improve the quality of air in your room.
What Happens to My Health if I Don’t Get Enough Sleep?
Like air, water, and food, sleep is something your body must have regular amounts of sleep to maintain a healthy equilibrium.
Experts recommend getting at least seven hours of sleep a night.
The Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard has found that there is a link between lack of regular sleep and long-term health conditions. Chronic diseases like obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and mental illnesses have been linked to long periods of insufficient sleep.
While lack of sleep doesn’t guarantee you’ll acquire a chronic illness, the research is clear that insufficient sleep is harmful to your overall health.
Arguably the easiest way to improve your health, go to sleep.
What are Sleep Disorders?
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention website defines sleep disorders as conditions that cause people to have sleep-related difficulties.
Many people suffer from sleep disorders, here are four of the most common ones:
Insomnia is a sleep disorder that causes people to either not be able to fall asleep or not be able to stay asleep, leaving them extremely drowsy during the day. This condition can be the result of depression, anxiety, side effects of medications, drug and/or alcohol abuse, or some other underlying illness.
Narcolepsy is characterized by excessive sleepiness during the day. Also called “sleep attacks,” narcolepsy can be extremely dangerous as it can occur during random circumstances such as walking or even driving.
Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) is a sleep disorder where the legs have aches, pains, or even “creeping” sensations when they are still, and the uncomfortable feelings can only be relieved by moving the legs. Because of this, RLS makes it hard for people to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Sleep Apnea is a sleeping disorder where a person’s sleep is interrupted by frequent gasping noises or snoring. This is a serious condition because it disrupts a person’s breathing causing potentially fatal health problems.
Sleep disorders, such as these, are serious conditions that need to be diagnosed and treated by a health care provider.
Sleep hygiene not only improves your sleep patterns but your overall health as well.
Sleep is more than closing your eyes and being physically idle for several hours. It is a time when your body systems can fully relax, and your unconscious mind can work through difficult things your conscious mind could not quite figure out.
To promote high-quality sleep, you need to maintain a consistent schedule, avoid consuming caffeine or alcohol late in the evening, establish a relaxing routine such as taking a bath or reading, and turn off electronic devices at least thirty minutes before bedtime.
The benefits of good health hygiene are endless but the main takeaway is that your body needs a healthy amount of sleep as much as it needs air to breathe, clean water to drink, and healthy food to eat.
Hope this helps!