Better Habits, Better Sleep
I always thought that “sleep hygiene” was a curious term! Does this mean I should shower before bedtime? Well, not exactly! What sleep hygiene really refers to is a set of behavioral and environmental practices that help promote better quality sleep. With so many people complaining about daytime sleepiness these days, making healthier bedtime practices a habit might not be such a bad idea!
Fortunately, there are several things you can put into practice that can improve the quality of your sleep. Here are several sleep-hygiene strategies you can start doing tonight to sleep more soundly!
Limit artificial light
Do you have a habit of falling asleep watching television, or browse your smartphone last thing before bed? Devices like televisions, computers and smartphones, as well as ambient indoor lighting, are sources of blue light. Blue light mimics the light emitted by the sun and can disrupt our circadian rhythm and the production of melatonin, a hormone involved in sleep regulation.
Here are several ways you can reduce your exposure to evening artificial light:
Avoid using your computer, tablet and smartphone at least two hours before going to bed. Alternatively, an easy way to mitigate the effects of blue light is to install f.lux on your devices, an app which will automatically alter the display of your computer in the evening, reducing the amount of blue light emitted.
Invest in a pair of amber-tinted glasses to wear after dark, which will reduce your exposure to blue light from ambient room lighting as well.
Stop watching late night television in favor for more quiet, restful options, like reading or writing a journal.
Install amber-tinted lightbulbs in your bedside lamps. I’ve even heard about one person who had two sets of lamps in their home: one set for daytime, and the amber lamps for the evening.
Use blackout shades to make your bedroom pitch black. This is imperative if you work nights and need to sleep during the daylight hours.
Cover your digital alarm clock or get an analog clock, and turn off all digital devices that glow or give off any type of light.
Try using a sleep mask.
Get some daytime light
While it is important to protect your circadian rhythm by avoiding artificial light in the evening, it is equally important to get enough light exposure during daytime hours. Allowing for plenty of bright light is an major factor for regulating the circadian rhythm. The best source of light is go outdoors into natural sunlight, especially during the morning or midday hours. It is much much brighter than the light from lightbulbs, giving us the circadian-enhancing effect we need!
Don’t go to bed hungry… or full!
Some people find they sleep better after eating a light evening meal. Studies have shown that eating carbohydrates several hours before bedtime can shorten sleep onset. Also, eating carbohydrates can help to make tryptophan more available to the brain, which is why carb-rich meals can make you drowsy. Conversely, consumption of a large meal just before bedtime, requiring effort to metabolize it all, has been associated with disrupted sleep.
Beware of liquids!
The caffeine found in coffee, black tea, energy drinks, sodas, chocolate and some pain relievers, are likely to have stimulating effects that maintain wakefulness that can disrupt or inhibit sleep altogether! Try avoiding caffeine and other stimulants in the hours leading up to bedtime, and opt for naturally caffeine-free teas like chamomile, which are soothing and can increase relaxation. Consuming alcohol before bedtime should also be avoided. Having a nightcap before bed, such as brandy or a glass of wine, can induce sleepiness initially, yet the arousal caused by body metabolizing alcohol can disrupt and significantly fragment sleep. Lastly,
needing to get up in the night to pee can be frustrating! Therefore, it is wise to limit your intake of liquids before bedtime to help prevent nocturnal trips to the bathroom!
Adjust the temperature
If your bedroom is too warm at night, it adversely affects the quality of your sleep, but a reduction in room temperature can actually induce sleep. To avoid getting too cold, try layering your bed covers and remove a layer as needed. If you’re anything like me and can’t get to sleep if your feet are freezing, try wearing cosy socks in bed, and take them off once the sheets have adjusted to your body temperature.
Get some exercise
Exercise during the day has been shown to improve sleep quality, with several studies finding exercise to be effective at reducing symptoms of insomnia. There is also some evidence indicating that in certain cases, exercise may even be as effective as sleeping pills. However, physical exercise can also inhibit sleep if you’re doing it too late in the day. Exercising too close to bedtime can be stimulating and delay falling asleep.
Engaging in relaxing activities that soothe, rathan than stimulate the mind and body, before bedtime is highly recommended. Good sleep hygiene involves minimizing time spent mulling over work concerns or anything emotionally upsetting shortly before bedtime. Engaging in some gentle bedtime yoga, meditation or deep breathing can help melt away the stresses of the day and soothe the mind!