A happy mind and body rely on three healthy pillars - a balanced diet, regular exercise, and a good night's sleep! While most people pay attention to diet and exercise, they forget the essentials of a sound slumber.
Sleep can elude the healthiest of people if they don't practice proper sleep hygiene. From a late evening coffee to the wrong room temperature, many factors can affect your sleep. If you often find yourself staring at the ceiling at 3 a.m., these sleep hygiene tips will help you sleep better!
What is sleep hygiene?
Sleep hygiene is a routine or a set of habits that help a person sleep better. Sound, uninterrupted sleep is essential to maintaining a healthy body and mind. Lack of sleep for a long time can negatively impact your health. Practising good sleep hygiene will ensure that your body gets its necessary dose of slumber.Â
Sleep hygiene is more than just a bedtime routine. It includes behavioural changes throughout the day that affect the way you sleep. Your diet, physical activity, screentime, and environment can all impact the quality of sleep. That is why healthy sleep is so important and sleep hygiene is more of a lifestyle change than a habit.Â
Building a healthy sleep routine benefits your long-term health. Consistent, good-quality sleep can lower your risk of heart attacks, reduce stress levels, and improve mental health.
Tips for sleep hygiene
Though the term ""sleep hygiene"" sounds fancy, practising good sleep hygiene does not require any drastic steps. Simple, subtle changes in your lifestyle can improve your sleep quality. The below tips will help you understand how you can implement healthy sleeping habits in your everyday life.Â
Have a regular bedtime routine
Just like a clock on your wall, your body has an internal biological clock that guides your circadian rhythm. In other words, your body follows a schedule that regulates your sleep-wake cycle over 24 hours. Having a regular bedtime routine keeps your body on the same schedule.
If you go to bed and wake up at different times every day, your body's natural routine gets disturbed. This, in turn, confuses your body which results in insomnia and daytime drowsiness. Sticking to a sleep routine helps train your body into falling asleep at the same time every day.Â
Including a soothing pre-bedtime routine is a great way to ease your body into sleep. Meditating, listening to podcasts, or even reading a book can relax your brain and prepare it for rest. Ideally, this routine should start 20-30 minutes before bedtime.Â
Following a sleep schedule is hard during the first few weeks. If you don't sleep well one night, it might be tempting to wake up late the next morning. But it is best to avoid doing so and wake up at a fixed time till you develop the habit.
Avoid electronics before sleep
Electronic devices are one of the biggest culprits of sleep disruption. The blue light emitted from their screens can decrease our sleep hormones such as melatonin and keep us awake. Melatonin helps maintain our sleep-wake cycle. Your body increases melatonin production once it is dark outside.Â
Using electronic devices before bedtime messes up your body's perception of darkness. This includes not only your phone but also your computer, television, and ebook reader. For quality sleep, it is best to ditch your electronic devices 30-60 minutes before bedtime. Alternatively, you can use filters and special glasses that reduce the effect of blue light.Â
Your phone can also unknowingly wake you up during the night by buzzing or lighting up. Keep your phone at a distance and silence all the notifications before going to bed. This ensures that you not only sleep on time but also sleep well throughout the night. Most smartphones have an inbuilt night mode that reduces blue light emission and turns off any notification sounds.Â
Avoid caffeine drinks before sleep
Most coffee-lovers drink coffee to feel awake, energetic, and motivated. While it's true that caffeine has many benefits, the same can be a disadvantage when it comes to sleep. The effects of coffee can be felt hours after drinking it. If you drink coffee in the evenings, there is a good chance you will stay awake at night.Â
This isn't only limited to coffee, but any kind of caffeinated drink you may consume. Some soft drinks contain caffeine in much higher amounts than a cup of coffee. Caffeine stimulates your brain and prevents it from relaxing. This effect can last anywhere between 8-10 hours.Â
While it's true that caffeine disrupts your sleep, everyone's tolerance to caffeine is different. Some might stay awake for hours after a cup of coffee, while others can peacefully sleep even after a few cups. If you find that coffee is negatively impacting your sleep, limit its intake to mornings, or stick to decaf for the evenings.Â
Have regular exercises
Including physical activity in your everyday routine can not only improve sleep quality but also promote your overall health. Exercises like running, skipping, or even walking can provide the body with much-needed movement. Even 30 minutes of exercise is beneficial for a sound sleep.
If you choose to exercise outdoors, it also exposes you to natural light. Exposure to sunlight is known to improve sleep quality by improving mental health. Sunlight also has a host of benefits that improve your physical health too.Â
But exercising for your sleep works only when you do it at the right time. Try to exercise early in the morning or before noon. Rigorous physical activity releases cortisol which keeps our body active and awake. If your body secretes this hormone before bedtime, then you will find it difficult to fall asleep. That is why it is best to avoid exercise a few hours before you sleep. Alternatively, you can include relaxing yoga and stretches in your bedtime routine, as they prepare your body to sleep better.Â
If the room is hot or humid, it is common practice to open a window and let the air flow. But fresh air has more to it than just regulating room temperature. A 2015 study found that sleep quality and next-day performance improved considerably with better air circulation in bedrooms.Â
This is because proper air circulation increases blood oxygen levels which aid in sound sleep. If the air quality is poor, you will wake up frequently due to breathing problems. Rooms that have good ventilation help people breathe and sleep better. Our brains work throughout the night and require oxygen to function well. Proper ventilation supplies the room with the required oxygen so you can sleep peacefully.Â
Along with fresh air, dim lights and cool temperatures create the optimal sleep environment. If you can't open a window or have no access to natural airflow, you can use an air purifier instead. It removes bad odours and improves the air quality of the room.
Avoid naps during the day
Daytime naps are powerful and effective if done right. But ideally, they should last 30 minutes or less. Long and frequent daytime naps can confuse your body's circadian rhythm. This changes its sleep-wake cycle, and it will take longer to fall asleep.
If you feel tired during the day, take only one nap before evening. Napping late in the day can make you feel refreshed and awake, which disrupts your sleep cycle. This can make you feel sleepy during the day, forcing you to take naps and enter a vicious cycle. Just like putting yourself on a sleep schedule, avoiding naps can take some practice. But after a few days, you should stop feeling drowsy during the day with adequate sleep at night.Â
If you feel drowsy after a heavy meal, do some light activity instead of a nap. After-meal sleepiness lasts for a short time and goes away if you keep yourself active. A stroll in the park, a friendly chat, or even washing the dishes can help you fight drowsiness.Â
Sleep is all about relaxing your body and mind. Even if your body is at rest, your mind can be filled with thoughts and worries. High stress levels can disturb your sleep and lead to insomnia. If you want to rest better, try sorting out your thoughts before bedtime. There are several methods you can try to keep your stress levels at bay.
Journaling is a popular way in which people write down their thoughts. This helps you think clearly, understand your problems and find solutions without worrying too much. It is also a relaxing activity you can include in your pre-bedtime routine.Â
Practising mindfulness also helps keep your worries at bay. There are many podcasts and courses available on the internet that guide you with being present in the moment. Alternatively, you can try meditation and deep breathing techniques to relax your mind.Â
You can try each of these activities for a few days to see which one works best for you. Ultimately, you should be able to sleep peacefully, keeping your worries aside.
Have a comfortable bed
Your sleep quality heavily depends on the kind of bed you sleep in. No matter how many sleep habits you inculcate, the wrong bed can make your sleep uncomfortable. Moreover, it can also lead to health problems like back and shoulder pain.Â
Depending on your sleeping style and existing medical conditions, you need to choose the right mattress. If you are a back sleeper, a firm mattress provides the required support for your spine. But if you sleep on the side of your stomach, then you require a softer mattress. It lets your body sink in just enough to sleep comfortably.Â
The material of the mattress also matters for your sleep. If your bed is made of memory foam, it can trap body heat and warm up quickly. Cool gel-infused beds keep the temperature down and help you sleep better.Â
If you toss and turn a lot, it is a sign that you are sleeping on the wrong mattress. A very old mattress can also be uncomfortable as it gets firmer with time. If you are buying a new mattress, make sure that you check both its firmness and support so that you can wake up without back pain every morning. It is recommended to change your mattress once every 10-20 years.Â
Just like any other habit, good sleep hygiene takes time to get used to. Even though it might look difficult initially, it benefits your sleep in the long run.
If you have followed an inconsistent sleep schedule for a long time, practising sleep hygiene can look puzzling. Go through our FAQs to clear any doubts about good sleep habits![faqs style='toggle' filter='how-to-keep-sleep-hygiene']"