What is sleep hygiene?
If you’ve never heard the term before, it’s how health professionals refer to your sleeping habits. The use of the word hygiene refers to the upkeep it requires to create healthy sleeping habits. Like any other healthy habit, proper sleep hygiene requires effort, planning, and even sacrificing immediate gratification at times. While our society recognizes and rewards the hustle– waking up early, staying up late to get everything done— we’re here to remind you that you really can’t hustle without effective sleep hygiene. Seriously, it will catch up to you eventually.
So how much sleep does everyone need?
The CDC provides the following recommendations based on age. But truthfully, you know your mind and body better than anyone else. It may take some reflection on your schedule, physical activity, quality of sleep, and other aspects to figure out how much sleep you need every night.
Once you decide how much sleep you need every night for optimal daytime performance, here are a few tips that can help you put in the effort and planning necessary to reach your sleep hygiene goals.
1. Be Consistent
Our minds and bodies operate on an internal cycle called a circadian rhythm. Our circadian rhythm is what helps us naturally wake up, fall asleep, and use the energy we need each day. But living in this modern world with technology, caffeine, alarm clocks and late nights, our circadian rhythm can reset and prevent regular sleep patterns.
For this reason, it can be helpful to build consistent routines into your day to train your internal rhythm and help you get better sleep. This can look like creating set times to wake up and go to sleep, based on how much sleep you need. When going to sleep, try giving yourself a 30 minute buffer to do things that relax you and help you prepare for sleep. Mediation, light stretching, taking a warm shower, reading, etc. are all great options.
In addition, be sure to schedule a regular morning routine, exposure to sunlight, and physical exercise to help train your circadian rhythm even more. Like we’ve mentioned before, one of the immediate benefits to regular physical exercise is improved sleep patterns. So let that be motivation enough to get your body moving each day.
2. Create a Sleep-friendly Environment
Because our minds and bodies respond so well to routines, the more you can train your mind to associate your bedroom with sleep, the better. Creating an environment that makes it easy to sleep will do wonders. Consider doing a few of the following to eliminate distraction from sleep each night:
- Avoid working from your bed. It’s tempting, especially with so many companies working remote, but creating the mental boundary will help your mind and body associate your bedroom with sleep more effectively.
- Light-blocking curtains or an eye mask will prevent early morning light from distracting your sleep pattern.
- Avoid looking at bright light before bed-time, especially the blue light coming from handheld devices. Bright light can decrease melatonin production, a hormone that relaxes your body for sleep.
- A white noise machine or a box fan will help drown out any distracting noises.
- Make sure to set the room to a comfortable temperature. The cooler, the better.
- Invest in comfortable bedding. There’s nothing worse than a lumpy mattress or a flat pillow.
3. Prioritize Sleep
Like we mentioned earilier, prioritizing sleep hygiene may require sacrificing immediate gratification. Achieving goals require change and creating change in your life will take effort. If you want your sleep schedule to be to be as consistent as possible, you’ll need to stick to your set bed time and wake time even on weekends. When you stay out late on Friday and Saturday nights, you disrupt you sleep schedule and the progress your body has made during the week.
If late nights on weekends are a big sacrifice, try changing incrementally by going to bed earlier and earlier each weekend. It will take time, but setting boundaries and prioritizing consistent effort will pay off.
4. Try Different Things
We all respond to different things, so this process may take regular adjusting. But whatever you need to do to establish healthy sleep hygiene will be worth it.
You may find it helpful to track your sleep habits to find the root of the problem. Try keeping a sleep diary— recording when you go to sleep, when get out of bed in the night, when you wake up, and anything else affecting your sleep. Or try a health app to help you track your habits.
Most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask for a professional opinion. Your doctor can provide references and resources that may be better tailored to you and your needs.
How would your life change if you were well-rested?
Imagine your life without sleepy mornings, without burnt-out evenings. What would you be doing with your life if you knew you would have all the energy you need every day. Maybe you’d be doing the same thing, but more effectively. Maybe you’d have the strength and courage to finally go for that dream job. Maybe you’d have more patience with yourself and others. Maybe you’d laugh more. Maybe you’d have the energy to travel more. Maybe you’d enjoy being alive more.
Whatever that life looks like, isn’t it worth making a few changes every day? Try it for yourself.
CDC, 2017. Sleep and Sleep Disorders. https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/how_much_sleep.html
Sleep Foundation, 2022. Sleep Hygiene. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-hygiene