Sleeping is not time wasting.” -Mike Wilson

 

Undeniably, sleeping is important. Sleep shouldn’t be considered a lazy pursuit reserved for the less productive in society. In fact, sleep:

  • promotes productivity and performance
  • promotes alertness (when awake)
  • helps fight off infection, avoid chronic disease, and maintain healthy weight
  • helps memory and focus
  • balances emotions and mood

Many of those points are common knowledge. So why are there so many people that have problems getting the sleep they need?

Everyone should be getting quality sleep in the right quantity (usually around 7-9 hours) on a regular basis. Even if you meet 2 of those 3 requirements, you still aren’t getting the kind of sleep you need to function at the top of your game.

How do you make sure that you are able to meet all 3 of those needs? Take a look at your sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene is the pre-sleep routine that allows you to transition from wakefulness to sleep. In a general sense it is all about reducing stimulation and increasing relaxation.

Sounds easy, but it does take a little effort -or a lot- to put the measures into place in your life. You need to be willing to take control of your sleep hygiene and make it work for you.

(See Related: Mind over matter: 5 ways meditation gives you control of your life)

Writing these articles, it has become quite apparent that I have control issues. This may be viewed as a fault and I am sure that at times it is. However, I like to be an active participant in my life to make it the best that it can be. I don’t want to be a mere spectator.

If you value your sleep but aren’t satisfied, pay attention. Here are 3 tips to clean up your sleep hygiene.

 

1. Prepare your mind

prepare your mindYou can’t expect to be running around taking care of business one moment then suddenly fall asleep the next. Our bodies don’t really work like that.

It is great if you are super productive during the day, but running yourself ragged is not ideal And no, it doesn’t count that you make yourself so exhausted that you pass out the second you are sitting still.

Your mind needs to be in the right state for quality sleep. How do you get in that right state of mind? Here are tips that will help you.

  • Follow a pre-sleep ritual. Getting ready for bed has predictable steps. Perform them at the same time and in the same order each day. The routine will train your brain on what happens next. This is what is known as conditioning, remember Pavlov’s dogs?
  • Get sun exposure during the day. This helps to regulate your circadian cycle and melatonin release. Then your body will naturally prepare for sleep as the sky darkens.
  • Avoid stress and problems shortly before bedtime. We all know how inflated problems seem to be in the dark when you should be sleeping. Once the mind starts running through concerns, they can gain momentum that is hard to overcome. Save the problems for tomorrow. You will solve them better when you are rested anyway.
  • If sleep doesn’t come quickly, get out of bed. If you find yourself tossing and turning after 30 minutes of trying to fall asleep, get up. Do something calming and quiet until you feel an urge to sleep. 
  • Don’t read or watch television in bed. Experts say that bed should only be for sleeping and sex. I kind of take issue with this as reading in bed is one of my rituals. A favorite one at that. Obviously, you know what is stimulating to you and what is calming. Use your head and keep it relaxing.

(See Related: 6 reasons I read the Smithsonian magazine)

 

2. Prepare your body

prepare your bodyLike your mind, your body needs to be ready for bed as well. Nothing distracts more from falling asleep than aches and physical irritants. As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. So take care of your physical body before bed so it won’t interfere with falling asleep.

  • Take care of personal hygiene. If bathing in the evenings relaxes you, that is great. Otherwise brush your teeth and take care of your body so it is clean and allows you to be healthy and a pleasant bed partner.
  • Expend energy during the day. Not only is exercise good for you, but it will help you burn off that energy and allow sleep to come. Also having excess weight can interfere with breathing.
  • Keep a consistent bedtime and wakeup time. Your body loves to maintain a regular cycle.
  • Nap wisely. Experts advise against napping, but some people need naps. Too much sleep during the day can confuse the awake/sleep cycle. 
  • Cut down on food and fluids in the evening. Experts say you should eat your last meal at least 3-4 hours before you go to bed. You want to be able to digest your food before laying down. With too much fluid intake, you may be up all night going to the bathroom.
  • Watch the caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol in the evening. Too much of any of these close to bedtime can cause problems falling asleep or prevent quality sleep.
  • Wear pajamas made of cotton or silk. Wear sleepwear that will breathe and allow you to stay cool and dry. It is hard to relax when you can’t get comfortable.

 

3. Prepare your environment

prepare your environmentOkay, your body and mind are in the right place. Now you need to set the scene. Here are tips for a sleepy atmosphere.

  • Maintain a serene environment. There should be no clutter that causes guilt or be a reminder of tasks that need to be accomplished. No television, work, or pets. It should go without saying that your bed, mattress, pillow, and bedding should be comfortable, but I will say it because I know that it can be a challenge to have this be true.
  • Make your bed a haven. It should be a dedicated spot where nothing happens there besides bedtime activities.
  • Keep the room cool. The air should be circulating and be 60-64.5 °F. This obviously fluctuates for different people, but it is easier to pull on an extra blanket than to cool down.
  • Keep the room quiet. There are several different noise reduction techniques for the home. Otherwise you can mask noise with a fan or white noise or block it with ear plugs.
  • Keep the room DARK. Complete darkness is ideal, but especially avoid blue light. There are motion-detector nightlights if you need to find your way to a bathroom in the middle of the night. Turn your clock so you aren’t facing straight at blazing LEDs.

(See Related: A save the sky guide: What is light pollution and what you can do about it)

 

Wrap up

Have you ever had sleep related problems? I think pretty much everyone has at a point in their life. My problems tend to be waking up in the middle of the night, keeping my brain turned off, and being too sensitive to the movements of my husband.

I also need more than the average number of hours of sleep. It is a bummer, but I have accepted it as just the way I am. I am just not a late night life-of-the-party type of gal and I am okay with that. I deeply need and appreciate sleep.

What did you see in the tips above that you have the most problem with? Does it help you to know what you need to do? Or do you know what you have to do but have a hard time implementing it? If you have a hard time with change, try reading the article below.

(See Related: 3 reasons to embrace change even though it is hard)

I wish you success in obtaining the sleep that you need. Being well-rested and alert can do wonders for you.

If you like what you read, please share it or let me know.

 

Resources

Healthy Sleep Basics from Sleep Education

Idzikowski, Christopher. Sound Asleep: The Expert Guide to Sleeping Well. London: Watkins Pub., 2013. Print.

Insomnia Treatment from LexiYoga

Sleep Hygiene from National Sleep Foundation 

Things you should know about good sleep habits from Sleep Health Foundation

What is sleep hygiene from Sleep