Sleep Hygiene is a term used to describe our nightly habits prior to going to bed. Good sleep hygiene habits promote easier, healthy sleep.
Our circadian rhythms control many functions of the body on a daily basis, and of course our daily sleep-wake cycle is a part of this. In addition, circadian rhythms can influence our hormones, eating habits and digestion, body temperature, and other important bodily functions. Irregular circadian rhythms have been linked to health problems including sleep disorders, obesity, diabetes, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and seasonal affective disorder.
Because sleep hygiene can have a big effect on our circadian rhythms, we can improve our overall health by making sure we are practicing good sleep hygiene. This leads to feeling better, with better energy throughout the day.
Below are a few key points that may help:
Eat Dinner Earlier
Meal times are part of our daily rhythms that affect the circadian clock, and eating earlier helps with healthier sleep/wake cycles. By eating earlier you fall asleep faster and wake up easier, with better energy in the morning.
Avoid Light – Especially Screens – in the Evening
Light tells the pineal gland that it is daytime, which decreases melatonin production. Melatonin, on the other hand, is important for falling and staying asleep, so if we are exposed to light before going to bed, we are telling our brain not to sleep. Short-wavelength lights emitted by screens (tablets, phones, computers, television) are the worst culprits in this regard, so dim the lights around the house in the evening and put the devices away earlier in order to sleep better.
Avoid Stimulating Activities in the Evening
Anything that gets you riled up will make it harder to get to sleep. Avoid the news or anything else that increases stress!
Avoid Activities other than Sleeping in the Bed
Psychologically, if all we do is sleep in bed, then it sets up a pattern in the brain that when we get in bed, it is time for sleep. Some people do read in bed at night before before going to sleep, which is fine as long as it is with a physical book, of peaceful or relaxing subject matter, with a minimalist lamp that uses a regular old light bulb.
It is best if we go to bed at the same time each night, but it is even more important that we wake up at the same time each day. If we wake at a consistent time each morning, this helps us at night to feel tired at the appropriate time when we should be going to bed. A consistent bedtime routine (doing the same non-stimulating things in the same order each night) also sets up a pattern that tells your brain you will soon be going to sleep.
While sleep hygiene is an important part of getting enough rest, it may not be the only thing affecting your sleep. If you struggle with getting enough quality sleep, talk with your healthcare practitioner about other options that may be available to help you sleep.
Here’s to good sleep for better health and greater energy! Your body will love you for it.