What actually IS sleep hygiene? Sleep hygiene consists of the habits you build around your sleep schedule, including your habits throughout the day. Having good sleep hygiene can set you up for success both mentally and physically to improve your overall quality of life. Sleep time is your body’s way of recovering and repairing itself from what you put it through on a daily basis.
One of my FAVORITE habits to constantly perfect is my sleep hygiene. As an adult human juggling a physically and mentally demanding career, a side hustle, four animals, a consistent workout schedule, several hobbies, and spending quality time with my partner, nothing is more important than maintaining a solid sleep schedule. Can you even imagine being able to function like this WITHOUT the use of caffeine to keep you going throughout the day all the while averaging 9+ hours of restful sleep a night? It turns out, my friends, that it is entirely possible! All it takes is the tiniest amount of sacrifice to the sleep gods.
Now, let’s get into the details. Here are some great practices to ensure that you’re living your best sleep life:
- Create the perfect sleep sanctuary to ensure the ultimate sleep experience.
- Your sleep space should be dry, cool, quiet, and dark. Try turning your heat down slightly, cracking open a window, and adding black-out curtains or a sleep mask. Remember that your sleep place should be primarily built around the activity of sleeping.
- Avoid electronics in your sleep space.
- Try avoiding your phone at least half an hour before sleep, and avoid watching TV in your sleep space. Extra credit for taking that TV out of your bedroom and putting it somewhere else completely.
- Tweak your workout schedule.
- Any workout schedule is awesome, but the best way to ensure a good sleep is to exercise early. Exercising is mentally and physically stimulating, and if you work out too close to bedtime, you’ll have a hard time shutting your brain and body down. I love to smash my workouts in the morning so I can ensure that I will be tired when it’s appropriate for me to be tired.
- Sleep when you are tired.
- Have you ever tried to force yourself to sleep when your body is definitely not ready? 0/10 do not recommend. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to force your brain and body to shut off when it’s not ready.
- Proper hydration.
- Yes, proper hydration and proper TIMING of hydration are very important to getting a restful sleep. If you are unsure of how much water to drink throughout the day, there are several calculators just a Google search away. If you have the ability to consult a dietician or nutritionist, that is the gold standard! Avoid drinking the brunt of your water close to bedtime so your sleep isn’t interrupted by constantly running to the bathroom. Related: constantly running to the bathroom in any capacity throughout the day or night should prompt you to consult your local Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist.
- Avoid meals close to bedtime.
- The consensus in the medical world is to avoid meals 3 hours before bed to allow for proper digestion.
- Avoid napping, or nap as early in the day as you can
- I know. HOW DARE I tell you to avoid naps. Napping during the day can take away from a good night’s sleep. Take that as you will, and I am sorry.
- Create a consistent sleep schedule
- Everyone’s schedule is completely different. As an example, my normal shift is second shift with 1-2 early days. I may not have to go to work until 2PM most days, but I am still waking myself at 7-7:30AM every single day (yes, even weekends and days off) so on my early days, my body is completely unsurprised by wake up time.
- Avoid caffeine.
- Uh oh. This might be another one that gets me in trouble with fans, but we can’t avoid science. At the very least, stop drinking caffeine at least 6 hours before sleep time, as caffeine is a stimulant that can work in your system for up to 6 hours after consuming it.
- Avoid alcohol
- Alcohol can cause serious disturbances in your sleep as it metabolizes and can prevent you from getting the proper amount of REM and deep sleep that your body needs to be well-rested.
- Use guided meditations or try a light restorative yoga routine just before sleep.
- There are some amazing apps out there that can provide these tools for you. Headspace, Spotify, and pretty much any podcast app has amazing guided meditations to give a try. By using these tools, you can start to learn and be able to utilize some great tools to shut off your brain and body on your own accord. As for yoga, I am a huge fan of the Down Dog app. I just recently started to incorporate a 15-minute practice every night IN bed with a 3 minute Shavasana to get my brain completely ready for sleep. I didn’t think my sleep could improve more than it always has, but wow, what a difference!
- Add a weighted blanket.
- The purpose of a weighted blanket is to create a feeling of security and calm.
- Add a white noise machine.
- Maybe you’re a very light sleeper and you need something extra to drown out the noise of your neighborhood or the nighttime cat activity that’s happening in your home. Adding a white noise machine can help to drown those noises out so you aren’t constantly being awoken by random noises.
- If all else fails and nothing is working for you, please consult your local sleep specialist.
- Seeing a sleep specialist can help discover any underlying conditions you may be unaware of that may cause the inability to maintain a restful night’s sleep.
Now, before you get completely overwhelmed by all of these bullet points and your brain explodes, let me assure you that you absolutely do not need to start adding all of these things into your life at once. It starts by setting small, reachable goals, as does any healthy habit. Maybe for this month, you just want to start by throwing your phone out of reach 30 mins before you go to bed. When the month is over and you’re feeling super accomplished (yes, please pat yourself on the back one million times), maybe the next month you want to get rid of the TV in your bedroom. Boom, now you’ve completely nailed removing electronics from your sleep space, and you can move on to the next thing! Remember that not all of these tips may work for your lifestyle, and I am here to tell you that is OK. Everyone is a work in progress and has different needs. The goal is to make small improvements so you can wake up every day feeling well-rested and ready to take on what life hands you.
Luckily, we can make your sleep improvement process easier through our fitness app. With the ability to track habits, including (but not limited to) sleep, you’ll have the accountability to do better and feel better every day!
Sweet dreams, friends!