A regular nightly routine helps the body recognize that it is bedtime. Creating a routine before bed that will help you fall asleep quickly and stay asleep throughout the night is one of the keys to getting the rest you need. It should come as no surprise that the actual details in this routine matter quite a bit. Think about it this way- you know you should eat breakfast. In the same way that eating cookie dough ice cream and washing it back with a vodka martini does not count as a healthy breakfast just because you are eating, your night time routine should stay within healthy guidelines as well! In order to do this, it is important to understand the concept of “sleep hygiene.”
By definition, sleep hygiene is a variety of different practices and habits that are necessary to have good sleep quality at night and then full alertness the following day. You can improve your sleep hygiene in the following ways:
#1 Ensure that your routine is relaxing. A bedtime routine that includes playing video games until midnight is no good at all! Your relaxing routine could include taking a hot shower, reading a book, breathing exercises, or light stretches. Be sure to try to avoid electronic devices before attempting to sleep.
#2 Make sure that your sleep environment is pleasant. It all starts with your mattress. Begin by visiting your nearest City Mattress location and purchasing the best mattress for you: one that is within your price range, provides excellent support, has materials you prefer, is made to your comfort liking, and keeps your spine properly aligned. Next, find the right sheets and pillows for you. Everything from your light fixtures to your wall color to the smells in the room will affect how much sleep you get and how restful it is, so experiment with what works best for you to create your own bedroom oasis.
#3 Ensure adequate exposure to natural light. Exposure to sunlight during the day, as well as darkness at night, helps to maintain a healthy sleep-wake cycle. The sun tells your body when to wake up and when to fall asleep, if you listen. This is known as our Circadian Rhythm. Too much artificial light, particularly the blue light emitted from televisions and cell phones, messes with our Circadian Rhythm because it tells our body that it isn’t time for sleep yet. On the other hand, natural light begins to dim in the evening and gives your body the cues it needs to begin to feel sleepy.
#4 Avoid food that can be disruptive to your sleep. This doesn’t necessarily mean unhealthy foods, although it is true that heavy or rich foods, fatty or fried meals, and carbonated drinks are some of the biggest culprits of poor sleep. In truth, even healthy spicy dishes and citrus fruits can trigger indigestion for some people. When this occurs close to bedtime, it can lead to painful heartburn that disrupts sleep. The key, just like when choosing your mattress and your new pillow, is to know your body and find what works best for you.
#5 Remember to get your exercise in during the day. Have you heard the phrase “Your night of sleep begins as soon as you wake up in the morning?” This means everything you do throughout the day affects your sleep, not just the 30 minutes or so before bed. As little as 10 minutes of aerobic exercise, such as walking or riding your bike, can drastically improve nighttime sleep quality. Of course, this means to get your work outs in either in the morning or early afternoon as you should avoid strenuous exercise too close to bedtime.
#6 Avoid stimulants near bedtime. Caffeine and nicotine are the two stimulants most commonly thought of when you want to avoid staying up. Don’t forget the other big one: alcohol! And when it comes to alcohol, moderation is key. While alcohol may help you fall asleep faster, too much close to bedtime can disrupt sleep in the second half of the night as the body begins to process the alcohol. Essentially, with nicotine or caffeine you will have trouble falling asleep and with alcohol you will fall asleep, but then wake up frequently throughout the night and disrupt your sleep cycle. Avoid both of these scenarios whenever possible!
Just like dental or personal hygiene, sleep hygiene is a set of rituals that you implement each day to get great sleep at night and feel alert and refreshed during the day. How do you know if you need to make changes to your routine in order to improve your sleep hygiene? Frequent sleep disturbances and daytime sleepiness are the most telling signs of poor sleep hygiene. Taking too long to fall asleep is another big one.
Obtaining healthy sleep is important for both physical and mental health. Getting the deep, uninterrupted sleep your body needs will improve your daily productivity and overall quality of life. In fact, improving your sleep is the most important thing you can do for your overall health!