Sleep hygiene consists of the habits people create to enjoy the best sleep quality as well as improved wakefulness during the day. Sleep hygiene practices can sometimes be overlooked because we don’t realize how important the things we do around bedtime are for a good night’s rest. Here’s the thing: sleep is super important for physical health and mental health. When we miss out on a good night’s rest, we become less productive and lower our overall quality of life.
Good sleep habits are important to maintain overall health and well-being. Thankfully, if you feel like your sleep hygiene may not be up to par, there are ways to improve it starting today. We’ve listed out a few different ways to kick your sleep hygiene back into great shape so you can get your Zzzzs and feel great when you’re awake.
The first step to improving your sleep hygiene is to understand how much sleep you need to get. The National Sleep Foundation, in conjunction with an expert panel, has created recommendations for how much sleep each person should get based on their age. Once you understand the appropriate amount of sleep you should be getting, you can take steps to enhance the quality of your sleep. Some tips to do this include:
Cutting back on naps — We know, this one sounds like a bummer. That said, napping does not do a good job of making up for subpar sleep at night. Daytime naps should be limited to no more than 30 minutes. You don’t need to do away with naps altogether! A brief, 20-30 minute nap can actually make you more alert, improve your mood, and help with performance.
Cutting back on caffeine at night — Stimulants like caffeine (or even nicotine) can keep your eyes open much later than intended. Alcohol is another thing to keep an eye on. While it may seem like it helps you fall asleep faster, drinking too much alcohol before bed can actually lead to poor sleep quality later on in the evening once your body starts to process the alcohol. Moderation with alcohol is helpful.
Get movin’! — Exercise is a great way to improve the quality of your sleep. With just 10 minutes of aerobic exercise a day, you can greatly enhance the sleep you get at night. Choose an aerobic activity you love (think walking, cycling, swimming, etc.) and make the time to do it each day. It’s generally not recommended to complete an intense workout close to bedtime; however, the impacts on sleep may differ from person to person. Find a routine that works for you and stick to it.
Watch what you eat — Certain foods can actually impair your ability to get a good night’s sleep. Try to avoid foods that are high in fat, very heavy or rich, fried foods, spicy dishes or bubbly drinks. All of these can lead to indigestion or heartburn which is sure to disrupt sleep. Again, this differs from person to person so know yourself and trust your, well, gut.
Get some sun — Sort of. While we don’t recommend you bake in the sun too long, it can be helpful to ensure that you get adequate exposure to natural light. If you are a freelancer that works from home, you may not get outside much during the day. If so, make an effort to get outside each day so you can see the sun a bit. Taking a walk at lunch and then again in the evening after dinner can help your body stay on track with the day’s natural light cycles. This, in turn, keeps your sleep-wake cycle on a healthy rhythm.
Create a routine — Creating a relaxing bedtime routine can help your body and mind get into sleep mode more quickly. A nighttime routine can signal to your brain and body that it's almost time for sleep, teaching both to recognize when it’s bedtime. Some people prefer to take a shower or a bath, while others do some light reading. Consider a routine that works for you, whether it’s stretching, meditating, or something else that helps you relax. Do avoid things that may be jarring or upsetting before bedtime (no horror movies, please!)
Get comfy — It might sound obvious, but ensuring that your sleep habitat is comfortable is important. Be sure your mattress, blankets and pillows are all set up for your maximum comfort. If you’re a hot sleeper, be sure to keep your bedroom cool. Shut down ambient light from room lamps, smartphones, and other screens. No Instagramming right before bed! If you’re a light sleeper, consider purchasing blackout curtains or ear plugs to keep outside light and noise from disrupting your sleep. Adding some white noise via a machine, fan or other device may also be helpful for some people.
Talk to your doctor. Sleep disturbances may signal a bigger health problem. It can also be helpful to reach out to your primary care doctor about ways you can improve the quality of your sleep. Insomnia or other sleep disturbances require solid communication between you and your doctor to get to the bottom of the problem.
Quick tip: Decent offers health plans centered around Direct Primary Care (DPC). That means we value the doctor-patient relationship. We value it so much that our plans enable you to see your primary care doctor whenever you’d like...for free. Looking to switch health insurance plans but not sure where to start? Don’t lose sleep over it! Get your free quote today to see if a Decent plan might be right for you.