If you are having trouble feeling alive and refreshed in the mornings, you may need to make some changes in your lifestyle and in your bedroom to get the illusive z’s you require. Healthy sleep habits are often called sleep hygiene to describe the best practices in your life to get all of the refreshing sleep you need every night. Good sleep hygiene is important for both your mental and physical health. It can improve your productivity and your overall quality of life too.
Maintain a Sleep Schedule
Just as when we were babies and our parents put us on a sleep schedule so they could feed us, diaper us and put us down for a nap or the night, it is best as an adult to continue this type of a schedule.
Your body has a circadian rhythm which is like your body’s clock that regulates your sleep and wake cycles. Most adults require about seven hours of sleep a night to wake refreshed and ready for the day’s events. In order to keep your body’s clock working correctly, it is best to go to bed and get up at the same times every day. Try not to sleep in late on your days off or the weekends as this will only give you a sleep hangover on Monday morning from lack of sleep.
Maintain a Relaxing Bedtime Ritual
Try to use a bedtime ritual each night before you get in the bed that helps you become sleepy. Many people take a soothing shower at night before bedtime to relax them and help to wash away the worries of the day. Some people find reading a book, the old-fashioned kind and not on a Kindle, will help them to become very relaxed. Some people find that yoga or stretching will help relax them before bedtime. Just make sure whatever your routine is that is doesn’t include bright lights or strenuous exercise, which can make it harder to sleep.
Get Your Exercise Daily
Physical exercise makes your body want to sleep well at night as the muscles recover when you sleep. You can do a rigorous workout or even a 10 minutes walk or cycling to help you to sleep better. So, no matter your level of fitness, just keep moving, but not close to bedtime.
Outdoor Light Exposure
During the day, get some natural outdoor light exposure. This is also a part that controls your wake and sleep cycles. The sunlight exposure can be for only a few minutes by parking your car farther away from the front door at work, or just soaking in a few rays with a short walk after lunch. It also helps to experience some outdoor darkness so your body’s clock ticks on the idea that daylight hours are for being awake and nighttime hours are for sleeping.
Don’t be a Clock Watcher
We have all been there when we can’t sleep for some unknown reason and we check the clock or phone over and over to see how much longer we have to sleep before the alarm goes off. This is very disruptive to your sleep cycle. Either turn the clock’s face away from you or put your phone on the other side of the room so you are not tempted to keep checking the time. Clock-watcher’s increase their tension and it makes it hard to get back to sleep in the middle of the night, or may make it harder to get to sleep. If you find yourself awake for a while at night, get up and read or listen quietly to some soothing music to relax your body and then go back to bed.
Take a Nap Early
If you absolutely must take a nap in the daytime, then do it as early as possible in the day. Many people require a daily nap, and that is okay, but napping late in the afternoon or for a long time, decreases your sleep drive at night and make it harder to stick to a sleep schedule. Late naps can also make it harder to fall asleep. Limit your daytime nap to 30 minutes for the best results.
Don’t Take your Worries to Bed
Many people lie down to sleep at night and all of the worries of the day start running through their heads, making it impossible to sleep. For an hour before you go to bed you should avoid stressful situations, doing work from home and discussions about emotionally charged subjects. Stress causes your body to secrete cortisol, which increases your alertness. Instead of taking your problems to bed, you can set them aside by writing things down on paper and setting them aside. Other aspects of stress management include getting organized, delegating tasks to others and setting your priorities in order.
Watch What You Eat at Night
Eating a heavy meal at night can give you that overfull feeling of Thanksgiving dinner and make you sleepy at first, but then it will likely prevent good sleep because you can’t get comfortable. Avoid large meals at night and watch out for spicy foods that can give you discomfort from indigestion. Try to eat your nighttime meal two to three hours before bedtime and you can eat a light snack approximately 45 minutes before bed if you are still hungry.
Avoid Stimulants at Night
It is best to avoid any types of stimulants before bed such as caffeine, nicotine and alcohol. Some people find that drinking alcohol in moderation before bedtime can help them to fall asleep, but that will wear off and they will most probably wake several times in the night unable to sleep. Caffeine and nicotine stimulate your body into wakefulness and can prevent you getting to bed on time. You should also balance your liquid intake to drink enough that you don’t wake up thirsty in the middle of the night, but limit liquids near bedtime so you won’t wake and need a bathroom trip.
Evaluate Your Bedroom
The best conditions for getting to sleep and staying asleep is to have your sleeping environment very comfortable. If your room is quiet, cool and dark, it will help you to get a better night’s rest. Some people find a white noise device or earplugs can reduce outside sounds. The use of blackout or heavy curtains can limit the light and the best temperature for sleeping is between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
Check Your Mattress
One of the most important items is to check your mattress and bedding. This is most often the reason you aren’t getting the sleep you need. If your mattress is over eight years old, it may be time to replace it. Signs of a failing mattress include waking up sore and stiff, waking up tired and tossing and turning at night. Visual clues to needing to replace your mattress are sagging, lumps or bumps, body impressions where you sleep, a moaning box spring and you and your partner roll toward each other in the night.
The signs of poor sleep hygiene include daytime sleepiness and frequent sleep disturbances in the night. You can prevent all the tossing and turning and get a restful night’s sleep every night by following some of the tips above.