Sleep Hygiene: Secrets for the Best Sleep of Your Life
Last updated: October 2020
Are you tired of waking up tired? Did you toss and turn last night, or lay in bed for minutes or hours before falling asleep? Before you resign to having terrible sleep for the rest of your life, check out these must-have sleep hygiene secrets to sleeping better and falling asleep quickly.
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What is Sleep Hygiene
Sleep hygiene is similar to physical hygiene. While it won’t cure disorders, having good sleep hygiene contributes to your overall health by providing good baseline behaviors that help you stay healthy.
Sleep hygiene is the starting point for getting better sleep at night.
Just like you have to care for your body by doing routine maintenance, you also have to prepare your body for good sleep using hygiene.
Good sleep hygiene helps your body know when it’s time to go to sleep, and tells your body what to do when sleep arrives. Sleep hygiene is essential for good sleep at night.
Maybe you’ve had difficulties in the past falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up. Consider what your bedtime routine and daily activities were.
Did you nap for a few hours in the afternoon because you were just so exhausted? Maybe you stayed up late watching a movie or YouTube video on your phone. Or worse – let your video or TV play while you were attempting to sleep.
When we choose to engage in behaviors that promote our sleep health, we improve our sleep hygiene and promote other areas of wellness including physical, emotional, social, and intellectual.
Why Sleep Hygiene Matters
You might not have recognized the term “sleep hygiene” prior to this post, but you likely recognize the effects of not getting good sleep!
When we don’t sleep well multiple nights in a row, we aren’t able to get the opportunity for sleep back! Basically what this means is, you either get a good night’s rest, or you don’t. There is no way to make up for lost time. That’s why sleep hygiene matters every single night.
If you’re having sleep difficulties, you likely have realized a dip in your energy levels. Your body uses sleep to recharge, integrate memories, and prepare you for the next day.
Specifically, your body has four different phases of sleep. Throughout the night, your body cycles in and out of these four stages with increasing time toward the deeper stages later in the night. These sleep cycles last 90 minutes each.
Each of these sleep phases has a different purpose, but the most important ones that we’re discussing today are stages three and four. If you do not get enough of stage three and stage four sleep, you will not feel rested and you will likely struggle with memory concerns.
If you are waking up tired and exhausted, you might try these tips. If after implementing these you are still tired, talk with your medical provider about the amount and quality of sleep you are getting, as well as behaviors during the day that might contribute to your concerns.
Holistic Outlook on Sleep
Good sleep is SO important for our bodies. Without it, we can’t function at our best.
You could have the best diet and exercise routine, be on top of your life responsibilities, and have the best social life, but if you don’t sleep, each of these things will be lacking in potential. Without sleep, we cannot pursue our wellness potentials. Sleep helps us think, promotes appropriate release of hunger hormones, and gives us enough energy to function in your daily activities.
Your functioning throughout the day is very dependent on your sleep quality.
Sleep affects every aspect of your life and good sleep cannot be ignored. Given the typical American lifestyle, most Americans are not getting good sleep and are suffering because of it.
Your pursuit of good sleep hygiene is a step in the right direction!
Secrets for the Best Sleep of Your Life
While there are many MANY different sleep hygiene secrets, the one’s I’ve included below have been the most impactful for me in recent years.
Create a Bedtime Routine
One of the best things you can do to improve your sleep is to create a bedtime routine. Just like in the rest of our daily activities, our bodies function best when given a routine.
When you create and adhere to a bedtime routine, your body knows what to expect next. Rather than shocking your body by laying down for bed, your body knew to release those feel-good sleepy-time hormones hours ahead of time because it recognized your routine.
However, if you fail to give your body the right signals, it won’t know that it’s time for bed until you actually fall into the sheets! That means longer time laying in bed awake, waiting to fall asleep.
Creating a bedtime routine doesn’t have to be extensive. You might even group together activities that you’re already completing around this time.
For example, some activities I complete during my bedtime routine are putting on pajamas, reading a book, and brushing my teeth. Because I complete these activities in the same order and at the same time every night, my body knows what to expect and can prepare my brain and body for sleep. If I skip my routine for a night or so, my sleep might be impaired for those few nights, but if I pick back up on my routine once everything is back to normal, my body will once again adjust and remember.
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Sip Something Warm
One of the best things to add to your bedtime routine is a warm drink. While you don’t want to drink so much that you might have to wake up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, you can drink before bed.
I find that a warm drink is very relaxing for my body.
The key is to make sure that your drink doesn’t have caffeine because it can keep you awake all night. Caffeine has a half-life of twelve hours which means that if you sip a drink with caffeine even just twelve hours ago, half of its potency will still be inside your body. That’s not a good thing for your sleep hygiene. Imagine if you had a cup of coffee right before going to bed. Not only will you have a lot of caffeine in your body when you’re falling asleep, but it will still be at full strength in your body for most of the night.
Personally, my favorite tea to drink in the evenings is Harney & Sons Chamomile or Yogi Stress Relief Honey Lavender. Neither of these blends have caffeine and both taste SO good – even without milk or honey. Although I do love to add both of those if I’m feeling fancy.
One of the most relaxing warm drink options is Calm by Natural Vitality. I recommend this drink only if you’re low in magnesium and your medical provider has approved its use, as this is a magnesium supplement. However, I find that because of my high stress environment, I am commonly low in magnesium and benefit from the calming and anti-anxiety properties that it brings. I especially love the raspberry lemon flavor. Make sure to follow the dosing recommendations, as it affects the flavor of the drink.
Do Activities Without Screens
Guys, this is probably one of the most important, yet most difficult tasks to do in our current day society. We love the convenience of our phones, tablets, and e-readers. But these devices are RUINING our sleep.
Screens and artificial lights inhibit your body’s ability to release the appropriate sleepy-time hormones when you need to go to sleep. The affects of your device watching continue throughout the night and disrupt your sleep cycles that we discussed earlier. Even if you think you’re doing okay watching a YouTube video or movie, or scrolling through Facebook prior to going to sleep, you have SO much more potential. Stopping these behaviors can drastically improve your sleep quality.
Screens are not your sleep friends.
Also, while blue light filters say that they help with the negative effects of screens, the truth is, we really don’t have that much data supporting their effectiveness yet.
Instead of scrolling on social media the last hours of the day, consider reading a book, working on a project, or journaling. These activities allow your brain to adjust to the natural rhythm of sunrise-sunset and do not affect your circadian rhythm in the same way that close-quarters artificial light does. You could even add one of these activities to your bedtime routine and knock out two birds with one stone!
Engage in a Mindful Meditation
While the above tips are essential for good sleep hygiene, I would argue that this last one – mindful meditation – can bring you a step beyond the others.
Mindful meditation allows you to focus on the current moment by noticing and describing your breath, thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations with curiosity, rather than judgement.
There are many apps out there that can help you develop a mindful meditation practice (my favorite is Smiling Mind), but you can also do a mindful meditation on your own, without a guide if you already know how to practice.
Practicing mindfulness is SO good for you because it strengthens the neural pathways in your brain that can promote a sense of calm, good decision making, and kindness toward the self and others. Mindfulness can help with anxiety too which is often a symptom that prevents good sleep. By practicing a mindful meditation before bed, you’re making an intentional choice to choose sleep over other activities like worrying, scrolling through social media, or replaying events from today.
Mindfulness helps to decrease mental distractions and is the last step to preparing your body for good sleep.
Want More Sleep Hygiene Secrets?
Check out this blog post – Twelve Holistic Ideas to Create Your Ideal Self Care Routine – for additional ideas to improve your sleep hygiene. Many of these self-care ideas also double as activities that can be completed before bed.
Or, check out Fierce After Forty’s recent post about her insomnia journey! She lists some great ways to improve sleep hygiene at the end of her article.
By implementing the sleep hygiene secrets included above, you can improve your sleep by falling asleep faster, staying asleep throughout the night, and waking up feeling well-rested.
Let me know what your best kept sleep hygiene secret is, and what new activity you’re going to try to improve your sleep!
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Disclaimer: Although I am a mental health professional, I am not YOUR mental health professional. The information provided on this website is for educational and informational purposes only and using this website does not establish a counselor-client relationship, or constitute provision of mental health services. I am not responsible for any damages resulting from your use of the content on this site, as the information provided does not substitute for collaboration with a health professional. Please consult with your health professional before making changes to your health regimen.