[su_dropcap style=”default” size=”3″ class=””]A[/su_dropcap]ctivities like brushing our teeth, showering regularly, and wearing fresh clothing all establish a daily routine that sets our body up for a healthy day. But when we think of hygiene, we seldom think of sleep. However, sleep hygiene, which is defined by the National Sleep Foundation as habits and routines that allow the body to get a full night’s rest and be alert throughout the next day, is absolutely key in keeping the body regulated. When practiced regularly, the following sleep hygiene strategies will help you fall asleep faster and keep you asleep for longer.
Five Sleep Hygiene Strategies for a More Productive Night’s Rest
1. Ban electronics in the bedroom
If you are having a hard time falling asleep, it’s time to evaluate your sleeping space. Rarely are bedrooms “just” for sleeping. Instead, they often times act as home offices, kids’ playrooms, and entertainment rooms all at the same time. This can foster an environment of sleep distraction: TVs, computers, phones, e-readers, toys, etc.
A recent study of bedtime reading habits by Brigham and Women’s Hospital revealed that patients who used e-readers before bed consistently took longer to fall asleep and felt less sleepy at bedtime than those who read with traditional books. This may be because the light from electronics suppresses the secretion of the hormone melatonin, which triggers sleep patterns and feelings.
One way to combat these sleep issues is to keep electronics out of the bedroom. This allows your body to readjust, particularly at bedtime. By keeping the bedroom electronics-free during the day, you’ll also create a sleeping paradise, as your brain will train itself to see the bedroom as what it should be: a place of rest and relaxation.
2. Up your Vitamin D
In a study published by the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, researchers found that Vitamin D, which is absorbed through exposure to natural light, has a direct link to sleep health. Those with deficiencies are more likely to suffer fatigue during the day and sleep disruption at night.
Soaking in the sun is the best way to increase your Vitamin D supply. However, if you live in an area or have a lifestyle that limits your exposure to natural light, try taking Vitamin D supplements, which are readily available at your local market or pharmacy. Remember, it is always best practice to speak to your doctor before beginning any supplement regimen.
3. Pick the right foods at the right time
Most people have experienced a sleepless night from drinking caffeine before bedtime. However, there are plenty of other foods (and drugs) that can keep you up at night. Alcohol and nicotine are two of the leading culprits. Like caffeine, they interrupt the body’s sleep cycle during metabolism, causing you to remain awake.
Changing when you eat can also have a major effect on your sleep. Big or unfamiliar meals can create digestive issues as your body winds down for bed. If you’re going to have a large meal (like on Thanksgiving), try eating in the mid-afternoon rather than shortly before bed. In addition, the National Sleep Foundation urges avoidance before bed of any foods that can cause digestive issues—particularly spicy foods and heavy sweets.
4. Smart napping
Naps are great, particularly if you’re stressed or are unable to get a sufficient amount of sleep due. However, regular napping late in the day for longer than 120 minute duration can impact late night sleep. In a study of older individuals’ self-reported sleep habits, Vanderbilt University researchers found that there is a direct correlation between poor napping habits and sleep-related issues.
By adding excessive daytime resting to the sleep hygiene routine, the body is less likely to find a natural level of sleepiness at night. However, if the body craves a nap, it is important to get the rest in at the right time of day. The Mayo Clinic recommends that those who do nap keep it short (10-30 minutes) and limit napping to the afternoon; the best time of day being between 1pm and 4pm, typically after lunch.
For additional information on napping, including tips & tricks, click here to see our infographic.
5. Meditate away the stress
One of the most important parts of a night’s rest is our body’s ability to emotionally wind down from a long day. Bringing the day’s stress or tomorrow’s worries to the bedroom can keep the mind working instead of focusing on powering down. The Anxiety Disorders Association of America found that three-fourths of those surveyed found that their heightened stress levels directly interfered with their sleep in the form of sleep interruption, insomnia, or their ability to remain focused the next day.
Many health experts agree that sleep hygiene must also include a regular method of winding down the body and mind. Meditation, for example, is just one way to level out stress hormones while keeping the body in a relaxed state of mind. Soothing exercises such as yoga and tai chi are also highly recommended for their restorative and stress relieving benefits.
Sleep Hygiene Routines for a Better Sleep
Like our daily hygienic habits, sleep hygiene starts by building a routine and setting aside time for healthy activities. It’s the little things that affect and can directly shape how our body gets itself ready for bedtime. By taking measures such as putting down the electronics, monitoring food intake, or practicing meditation, the body is likely to respond positively by falling asleep faster and staying asleep longer.