Sleep hygiene is important. I’ve only learned recently this phrase, and I truly like it. It perfectly sums up the importance of good sleeping habits to achieve enough sleep. Sleep hygiene is a method of improving your sleep quality by implementing positive changes in your lifestyle. The basis of this process is to sleep in accordance with the body’s natural clock.
It is important to respect the circadian rhythm when it comes to bedtime and, more importantly, when it comes to getting up, which must be done on a regular basis. This constant schedule has a synchronizing effect on the sleep-wake cycle. Getting up late in the morning will only delay the next night’s bedtime and interfere with the next night’s sleep. While it is helpful to go to bed at times that are not too variable, it is best to feel some fatigue.
If you didn’t already know, getting enough sleep is critical for overall health. Not only does lack of sleep cause the more commonly known side effects like being sleepy during the day, but it is also associated with weight gain and even depression.
Take my word for it: getting adequate sleep is critical. How much is enough? Experts say 7-8 hours per night.
So what can you do? Well, here are some tips to help you fall asleep and stay asleep:
Make Sleep a Priority in Life
First, keep in mind that sleep is a top priority. While it is true that you can’t live without sleep, there is always space for improvement. Many people believe they can function normally with only 4 or 5 hours of sleep per night. Don’t allow yourself that leeway. Make sure you get at least 7 hours of sleep each night as a priority for your health and well-being.
Avoid Tea, Coffee & Soda at Night
While many people know that caffeine is a stimulant, they may not know that the evening soda could be the cause of why they can’t fall asleep. Even those who say they are not sensitive to caffeine may still actually be sensitive to it when it comes to sleep. If you have troubles sleeping and are drinking soda, coffee or caffeinated tea in the afternoon or evening, try going without it after 3pm for a few days to see if it helps. Leave caffeine for the morning and try decaf at night :o)
Avoid becoming a “weekend warrior”
To put it another way, if you don’t get enough sleep during the week, don’t try to make up for it on the weekend. Sleep doesn’t necessarily work that way.
While it’s fine to go to bed earlier or wake up later on the weekends to catch up on some “Zzzs,” you shouldn’t use this extra sleep time to make up for the sleep lost Monday through Friday.
Have Regular Exposure to Light
Melatonin, a hormone that helps you sleep, shuns light. Your biological clock responds very strongly to light exposure. Maintain as much consistency as possible in your hours of light and darkness exposure. During the day, get as much sunlight as possible. Sleep in the dark and stay in the dim light at night if you get out of bed. Turn on indirect lighting rather than overhead lights an hour before bedtime.
Computer, iPad, and tablet screens emit a lot of light, and scientific studies have shown that this light is enough to delay the arrival of melatonin, the hormone that should help you sleep. So avoid checking your email or Facebook just before bedtime. If you wake up in the middle of the night.
Exercise – But Not Too Late
It goes without saying that exercise is really really good for you. But exercising too late can actually perk your body up, making it difficult to fall asleep. Something relaxing like a nightly stroll is ok, but leave vigorous exercise (think sweating or breathing heavy) to early evening or late afternoon. Or, if you are able to, try waking up early and starting your day with some exercise. It’s a great way to start the day!
Read – But Not in Bed
Reading can be very relaxing, or it could be energizing. If you like thrilling and exciting books and find you can’t stop turning the page, avoid reading at night. The same goes for watching exciting TV shows or movies – if it sucks you in to where you are staying up late to watch more, leave it for the weekend.
Try to read something relaxing, or even a bit boring if you need to fall asleep. Also, if you are reading in bed but have trouble falling asleep, it could be your have trained your brain that the bed is not for sleep. Instead of reading (or watching TV) in bed, try reading in a comfortable chair, the couch, or perhaps in a bath. Which leads me to…
Relax with a Bath
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – baths are a great way to relax and unwind. Try adding some bath salts to help soothe your muscles. I recently tried SPA Bath Salt and really liked the sage and Lavender scent, it was very relaxing. I also like to add epsom salt too, which is great for tense or injured muscles. To kick it up another notch, add a few drops of your favorite essential oil, I like lavender :o) Which leads me to…
Read also: Best Essential Oils for Good Night’s Sleep
Use Lavender (or Your Favorite Scent)
Speaking of lavender, aromatherapy is a great tool to help you sleep. Lavender is my go-to, but really, it is up to you and what your favorite scent is. Even a favorite scented hand lotion can be a calming way to relax for the evening. I have Pacifica Lavender Mist and I love to spritz it on my pillow before bed. It’s not super strong so I get a nice whiff of lavender and then it fades so I can focus on sleeping without too strong of a fragrance. If you want something a bit stronger, try Farmaesthetic’s Dreaming Oil – a drop on your wrist is all you need.
If you can’t fall asleep because you can’t seem to stop thinking, try meditating. It will be hard at first but will be time well spent! It will teach you how to quiet your mind, so you can fall asleep.
Or, if meditation isn’t your thing, try deep breathing or full body relaxation exercises. Here are 3 breathing exercises. If you aren’t familiar with full body relaxation, it’s really easy. Lay down, and then focus on relaxing each part of your body. Start with your toes and work all the way up to your head. Some people find it helpful to tense the muscles and then relax, but I usually just focus on relaxing without tensing or flexing the muscle first. By the time you get to the top of your head, you will find your entire body fully relaxed.
Try Natural Herbs
If you don’t want or like to take prescription medicine, try natural supplements. Valerian root by Gaia Herbs is my go-to, but chamomile also works well (and a cup of chamomile tea is a great way to relax at night). For valerian root, I would recommend the pills over liquid. I don’t mind the taste of valerian but I know others find it pretty nasty (my boyfriend said it tastes like feet!).
If You Wake Up – Get Up
If you are someone that doesn’t have trouble falling asleep, but find yourself wide awake at 3 in the morning, try getting up rather than laying awake in bed for hours. This goes back to training your brain that bed is for sleep only. Try to fall back asleep for about 15-20 minutes (using some meditation, deep breathing exercises, or lavender) but if you can’t seem to, get up and read a book or magazine.
With reading, remember to not read anything exciting that will wake you up and make you want to read more! Try something a little dry, which subject of course is totally up to you as what I consider dry may be your favorite thing to read! Be sure to read in lower lighting, so stay away from bright computer and/or iPad screens. A small lamp with just enough light to read but not enough to be super bright is a good idea. After reading for awhile, you will naturally start to feel sleepy again, so then go back to bed and fall asleep.
Sleep hygiene may seem complex, but it may be the best way to sleep in this day and age when everyone is working 24/7. The above tips on sleep hygiene are designed to promote restful sleep for you and your family.
That’s it for my tips!
What do you do to help you fall asleep?