Do you have trouble sleeping? Do you wake up feeling exhausted? There are several reasons why 1 in 3 adults living in America are not getting the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep. 1,2 I, myself, have dealt with sleep issues on and off over the past few years. However, after dealing with chronic insomnia that lasted several months, I decided to speak with a counselor who taught me the benefits of practicing sleep hygiene and relaxation techniques.
What is sleep hygiene?
Sleep hygiene involves putting habits and practices in place to help you sleep; from having a consistent bedtime to even getting enough exercise. It involves breaking old habits and creating new habits that will benefit your quality of sleep.
Why practice sleep hygiene?
Consistently put into practice, sleep hygiene can act as a signal to let your brain and body know that it is time for bed. It also involves practicing healthy habits during the day that will make it easier for you to fall asleep and even possibly stay asleep. Waking up feeling restored and refreshed is a goal that many want to achieve.
Here are a few tips and tricks to practice sleep hygiene:
- Go to sleep and wake up around the same time each day
- Develop a nighttime routine (i.e., take a warm bath, read a book, brush your teeth, etc.)
- Avoid technology before bed (light from electronics can delay the release of melatonin)
- Limit alcohol (alcohol may prevent you from getting restorative sleep)
- Avoid eating a heavy meal (eating a heavy meal before bed can lead to indigestion)
- Avoid drinking large amounts of liquid before bed
- Avoid consuming caffeine in the afternoon (caffeine can stay in your system for up to 8 hours)
- Create an exercise plan (avoid exercising less than 2 hours before bed)
- Don’t stay awake in bed for more than 20 minutes
- Use a sleep journal or App to track sleep
- Keep a journal near your bed to write down thoughts
- Create a comfortable sleeping environment (i.e., neat bedroom, soothing scents, warm lighting, blackout blinds, weighted blanket, white noise machine, etc.)
- Turn the clock away from you
- Practice deep breathing and relaxation techniques
- Use guided imagery
- Listen to relaxing music or nature sounds
- Speak with a counselor (sleep deprivation may be due to an underlying mental health condition [i.e., depression or anxiety] or traumatic incident)
- Speak with a doctor about medications (changing medications or reducing dosage may help)
Everyone is different and some routines work best for some people more than others, but it is up to you to learn ways that will help you get a better night’s rest. It also takes patience and practice as you are retraining the brain and creating new habits.
Although practicing sleep hygiene may help you sleep, please speak with a healthcare professional if you have trouble sleeping or think that you may have a sleep disorder.
National Sleep Foundation. (n.d.). Sleep Diary. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sites/default/files/inline-files/SleepDiaryv6.pdf
National Sleep Foundation. (n.d.). Sleep Hygiene. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/sleep-hygiene
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/index.html
Hirshkowitz, M. & The National Sleep Foundation. (2015). Sleep Health. Retrieved from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need