Similar to respiration, sleep is an essential component of human functionality. Sleep allows the body to restore itself, boosts the immune system, and allows the brain to process and consolidate memories. Any individual with a normal sleep cycle can divide sleep into two types. Approximately every 90 minutes, a person alternates between “quiet sleep,” in which the body temperature decreases, the heart rate slows, and the muscles relax, and “REM sleep,” in which the heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure increase to awake levels and dreaming occurs (REM sleep is known to improve cognition and memory as well as improve emotional health).
Good sleep hygiene, or the development of persistent, high-quality sleep-promoting practices, can do wonders for your mental and physical health.
Here are seven simple tips for good sleep hygiene to help you feel your best.
#1 Put your phone away.
We are surrounded by blue light, however, this wasn’t always the case. Historically, the sun was the only source of blue light, thus when the sun set, so did the stimulating blue waves. Blue light in its natural state regulates the body’s sleep cycle, improves mood, and heightens attentiveness and reaction speed. This is OK for while you’re awake, but the digital screens on your televisions, smartphones, laptops and LED lightbulbs emit artificial blue light that has the same impact (not great for winding down and falling asleep).
#2 Do not bring work into the bedroom
Your bed should only be used for sleeping and, well, you know the rest. Your brain will begin to associate your bed with activity and to-do lists if you develop terrible bedside habits, whether they are stressful like working and checking email, or relaxing like watching television, eating, or knitting.
#3 Get out of bed if you cannot fall asleep within fifteen minutes.
Even if you have eliminated all non-sleep-inducing activities from your night routine, merely lying awake with your mind racing can induce your brain to associate your bed with being awake. If you have been awake in bed for more than 15 minutes and cannot fall asleep, get up and move around. Read a book, play with your dog, or meditate instead of reaching for your phone. Return to your bed just when you feel asleep.
#4 Before bed, avoid coffee, nicotine, and alcohol
Caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol each have distinct deleterious effects on the sleep cycle. Caffeine is a known stimulant, although its effects may persist longer than expected.
#5 Be cautious with sleeping medicines
Regular use of sleeping drugs may diminish their effectiveness within two to four weeks, and the process continues. Chronic sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, may be exacerbated by sleeping tablets over time. In order to avoid a rebound of insomnia, sleeping tablets should only be taken occasionally and as needed.
#6 Do not fall for 24-hour gyms (or do, but know yourself, first)
Previously, it was believed that exercise before bed should be avoided since it increases your heart rate, body temperature, and adrenaline levels, none of which are conducive to a good night’s sleep. This is true for many people. Some individuals may find rigorous exercise within two hours before bedtime to be too mentally stimulating.
#7 Your bedroom is a sanctuary
Everyone has experienced the anxiety caused by a crowded bedroom. It is impossible to go into a restful slumber when two weeks’ worth of unfolded laundry lays next to you, your nightstand is cluttered with water cups, and the air smells like cat litter.