Like diet and exercise, sleep is an important part of living a healthy life. Sleep supports healthy brain function, healthy growth and development, and our immune function. For adults, the National Sleep Foundation recommends 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. But what happens if we don’t get enough shut-eye? This can affect our productivity, our ability to manage our emotions, and even our ability to fight off infections. In addition, a lack of sleep can increase our risk for obesity, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
An important part of getting enough and better sleep is practicing good sleep habits or “sleep hygiene.” Here are some ways that you can practice good sleep hygiene:
Sleep more consistently. Try to go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning by setting your alarm. This will help to reinforce your body’s sleep/wake cycle.
Create an optimal sleep environment. It may be helpful to keep any work-related items/electronics in a room other than the bedroom. This will allow you to better associate the bedroom with sleep. Also, use a comfortable mattress and pillows, and try to reduce any light and noise that can affect your sleep. Blackout curtains, eye masks, and/or ear plugs can help with this. Finally, keep your bedroom at a cool temperature (60-75 degrees Fahrenheit) to facilitate sound sleep.
Establish a bedtime ritual. Listening to relaxing music, stretching, or reading before bed can be helpful to prepare you for sound sleep. Avoid activities that are very stimulating such as strenuous exercise or using a computer.
Put away technology. Using electronic devices such as your cell phone and computer before bed can make falling asleep more difficult. This is because the blue light that emanates from your phone and computer screens stimulates your brain, which can affect your sleep/wake cycle. Avoid using these devices 30 minutes before bed.
Avoid cigarettes, alcohol, caffeine, and heavy meals before bed. Caffeine, alcohol, and cigarettes can act as stimulants that can keep you awake. Avoid these substances 4-6 hours before bedtime. Additionally, avoid heavy foods before bed as these may cause indigestion, disrupting your ability to fall asleep.
If you must, nap during the day. Taking naps later in the day may disrupt your drive to sleep at night.
National Sleep Foundation
American Academy of Sleep Medicine
American Sleep Association
National Healthy Sleep Awareness Project (from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine)
Circadian Rhythm and Your Body Clock. (N.d.). Retrieved from https://sleep.org/articles/circadian-rhythm-body-clock/
Healthy Sleep Tips. (2017). Retrieved from https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-tools-tips/healthy-sleep-tips/page/0/1
National Sleep Foundation. (2015, February 2). National Sleep Foundation Recommends New Sleep Times. Retrieved from https://sleepfoundation.org/press-release/national-sleep-foundation-recommends-new-sleep-times
The High-Tech World of Sleep. (N.d.). Retrieved from https://sleep.org/articles/how-technology-changing-the-way-we-sleep/
Twelve Simple Tips to Improve Your Sleep. (2007, December 18). Retrieved from http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/getting/overcoming/tips
Peters, B. (2016, March 1). What Sleep Rituals Should Be Part of Your Bedtime Routine? Retrieved from https://www.verywell.com/bedtime-routines-and-sleep-rituals-for-restful-sleep-3014947
Why Is Sleep Important? (2017, June 7). Retrieved from https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/sdd/why