What Is Sleep Hygiene and Why Is It So Important to Your Health?
By Martha Michael
There’s such a universal aversion to people with poor personal hygiene that it’s become a popular punchline. Inattention to bathing and toothbrushing make individuals dirty and malodorous -- and can also spread germs to those around them. Nothing makes an impression like body odor and bad breath.
Practicing poor sleep hygiene may not drive away friends or affect the public directly, but there’s certainly a threat to your well-being. A lack of sleep affects your brain function, causing mood swings and creating challenges to your decision-making skills.
What Is Sleep Hygiene?
Your hygiene refers to the extent to which your habits promote health and wellness. A person with poor sleep hygiene fails to take steps that maximize their ability to maintain a healthy level of restful sleep. Like other sleep disorders, poor sleep hygiene results in negative effects on your brain. Feeling tired and unmotivated are natural responses to a lack of sleep but you can also experience more long-lasting issues such as trouble concentrating and memory lapses.
According to the Jefferson University Hospital website, factors that inhibit sleep include:
- Daytime napping
- Spending too much time in bed
- Maintaining irregular bedtimes
- Permitting excessive noise
- A sedentary lifestyle
- Temperatures in either extreme
- Uncomfortable bedroom environment
- Stimulating activities before bedtime
- Caffeine or alcohol intake prior to bedtime
Your surroundings play an important role when it comes to your sleep patterns, including your choices of décor, type of bed, and lighting. An article by Amerisleep discusses some ways you can create an oasis of rest by changing some of your physical surroundings.
Darken the room - Everyone has an internal clock that’s controlled by the suprachiasmatic nucleus in the hypothalamus. When light signals are detected via optic nerves it hinders the release of sleep hormone melatonin.
Stay cool - You’ve probably tossed and turned while trying to sleep during hot summer nights. For maximum rest, your body responds best to a range of temperatures between 60 and 72 degrees.
Choose comfortable bedding - It’s not imperative to shell out big dollars for a high thread count, but the bedding you choose should feel good. By choosing fabrics such as cotton, silk, bamboo, and linen instead of synthetics, you get moisture-wicking qualities as well as comfort.
Declutter - A disorganized sleep space can distract you from falling asleep by hindering relaxation. Put away paperwork such as bills and schoolwork so your mind isn’t stimulated by stressors and to-do lists.
Block noise - There’s nothing worse than falling into a comfortable, deep sleep and being awakened by noise. When you have roommates or a partner who snores, there are sounds you can’t minimize. In that case you may want to invest in a white noise machine or earplugs.
Your ability to control your quality of sleep is not limited to the span of time your head is on your pillow. What you do just prior to calling it a night can have an impact on the depth of your sleep. An article on Healthline has a list of ideas to maximize your quality of sleep. Taking these steps 30-60 minutes before bed should reduce your inability to fall asleep:
- Read a book
- Practice meditation
- Do gentle stretches
- Listen to soft music
- Take a warm shower or relaxing bath
Devising a new sleep schedule is an effective measure to create more control over your quality of rest. An article by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine has pointers for creating a schedule with the most important directive -- be consistent.
Ideally, you head to your bedroom when you’re already sleepy, but be sure you hit the hay early enough to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep every night. If you’re still awake after 20 minutes, get up and choose a relaxing activity in a dark environment, then return to bed.
Be sure to schedule meals at least an hour or two before bedtime and reduce your fluid intake at night. Also, don’t use electronics within 30 minutes of bedtime.
By tweaking your schedule and incorporating tips for maximum sleep, you should be able to snooze more easily and stay asleep. Paying little attention to your shaving rituals or how often you wash your hair can become annoying to friends and family. Sleep hygiene is a self-care practice that you can also grow apathetic about -- but the person who will suffer is you. And that stinks.
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