Practicing good sleep hygiene is as essential as brushing your teeth.
Sleep doesn’t always come easy. More often than not, one of two things happens. Either you turn off the lights only to spend hours lying awake and staring at your ceiling or you’re out cold for a grand total of two hours before you find yourself tossing and turning.
The effects of poor sleep hygiene might be most evident under your eyes, but it also affects your mood, behavior, productivity, and even your immune system. Put simply, to be the best version of yourself, you need better sleep. Cultivating healthy sleep habits can drastically improve the quality of your sleep, even if you struggle with insomnia or anxiety.
Everything from optimizing your bedroom with the best mattress to establishing a stable routine can help you get a better night’s rest. Here are some tips to help you develop proper sleep hygiene.
1. Set a Sleep Schedule
Creating a schedule for sleep might seem like an unnecessary chore, especially when you force yourself to go to bed at 11 p.m. and just can’t bring yourself to fall asleep. But the hurdle of this sleep hygiene practice is only initial.
After a few weeks, you’ll find yourself getting into the habit of going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, even on weekends. Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule can regulate your sleep-wake cycle, which reduces daytime grogginess and provides the right amount of rest you need to rejuvenate.
2. Get Some Physical Activity
If sleep-deprived nights are a constant, try getting in some physical activity during the day to improve sleep hygiene. Regular exercise has been proven to help you sleep better, and the best part is you don’t even need to invest in a gym membership or do something you don’t enjoy.
Any form of physical activity, even a light run in the park or an evening bike ride, can help you sleep better. To ensure your mind isn’t too alert or active, avoid exercising at least 3 hours before bedtime. In case you want to unwind with some form of physical activity at the end of a long day, opt for a low-intensity exercise, such as yoga.
3. Enforce a Strict No-Screens Policy
Nearly every sleep expert recommends that you turn off your devices before bed, and this sleep hygiene rule might make you groan.
But the reality is the blue light found in phones and computers can actually affect melatonin production, your body’s natural sleep hormone. When melatonin levels drop, you may find it difficult to fall asleep.
If you use your phone to set an alarm or just need it by your side throughout the night, ensure you keep it out of sight so that your sleep isn’t interrupted in case your phone lights up with a notification.
4. Prep Your Space for Comfort
The quality of your sleep can only be as good as the comfort of your bed. When you’re comfortable, you’ll find that you’re able to fall asleep much faster.
In addition to investing in the best mattress possible, optimize your space with plush pillows and throw blankets. Layering a faux fur blanket on top of a cooling blanket is not only a great way to ensure you don’t overheat during the night, but it’s also a bedroom design trick that makes your bed look cozier and more lived in.
5. Steer Clear of Caffeine and Alcohol
A late afternoon latte might be the treat you need to regain that pep in your step after a long morning, while an ice-cold beer might be your after-work pick-me-up of choice. But neither is going to help you get a restful night’s sleep.
Your body takes up to 10 hours to completely get rid of the caffeine in your system, so your morning cup of coffee can stay, but the late afternoon one has got to go. Because caffeine is a stimulant, it’s best to steer clear of anything with trace amounts, including tea, chocolates, and sodas.
Unlike caffeine, alcohol is a depressant and has a sedative effect on the body. But while having a nightcap before bed can make you fall asleep faster, it won’t necessarily help you stay asleep.
When you drink, you may find yourself waking up frequently throughout the night. Drinking regularly can even lead to more severe sleep disorders later in life, so it’s good sleep hygiene practice to avoid using alcohol as a sleep aid.
6. Wind Down Before Bed
Make time to unwind and do something you enjoy. This may not seem like the most essential sleep hygiene habit, but the truth is that carving out time for yourself each night can help you process your day and, in turn, sleep better, particularly if you struggle with sleep anxiety.
The way you choose to unwind is up to you. You could journal, have a bubble bath, do a crossword, read a book in bed, meditate, or try art therapy.
Some sleeping tips may be harder to incorporate into your routine than others, but sleep hygiene is all about consistency. Everything from investing in the best mattress to waking up at the same time every day can help improve the quality of your sleep.
If you continue to experience symptoms of sleep deprivation on a regular basis, consider consulting a sleep specialist to determine the underlying cause.