You can go a day or two without food, in fact many people practice fasting up to several plus days, but most people can't miss a night's sleep. Getting enough sleep is tightly linked to how you will feel and perform the next day. Even some experts believe sleeplessness is the same as being drunk. So snooze away and make sure you get enough! Though it has nothing to do with whether you smell or not, this emotion regulation skill is called sleep hygiene.
Sleep hygiene are practices and habits that are necessary to have good nighttime sleep quality and full daytime alertness. It is the ability to get good quality sleep. It is called sleep hygiene because just like literal hygiene it is a quality that is built upon through repeated practices. You don't have good physical hygiene if you decide to take a shower once a week when you decide to go out or a visitor is coming over. But you'll have good hygiene if you shower regularly. It's the same for sleep hygiene. To reap the benefits of sleep which we will get into below, you have to practice quality shut eye more often than not!
The Importance of Good Sleep Hygiene
I definitely didn't know this when I was procrastinating and doing all nighters to catch up on work in high school, but obtaining healthy sleep is important for both physical and mental health. It can also improve productivity and overall quality of life. There are even paid courses on it as experts believe it's one of the most important things to maintain. Some people find that it is the single most necessary thing to improve your life, the way you feel and operate, and the ability to achieve your goals.
Everyone, from children to older adults, and even your cat can benefit from practicing good sleep habits, though my fluffy friend like to impede on mines. It's no joke however. Studies find that lack of sleep not only makes you cranky and nod off at work, but it impairs your decision making skills. It also weakens crucial communications between the neurons in the brain. Whether you are conscious of it or not, your lack of sleep will eventually seeps into all areas of your life, from eating habits, to relationships to work life.
Use me as an example. When I was sleeping in my living room on a mattress, my cat kept me awake some nights if she wasn't lowering the quality of my sleep. I noticed that some days I would skip working on this project and then go long periods of feeling too lackluster to get to it. Something was off but because I was too tired, I couldn't even pinpoint it to my lack of sleep.
I was baffled because I was exercising and eating right, though eventually because I was too tired I started to order in junk food and skip working out. This only made my mental state worst. As you can see, it's a domino effect when you miss out on good sleep. For some people it's even more detrimental like arguing with a co-worker the following day or messing up a job opportunity. I just knew I wasn't enjoying working on the blog and video series anymore. It wasn't until I went over my emotion regulation skills, and while trying to check off most of them wasn't able to agree that I had been getting enough sleep.
Improve Your Sleep Hygiene Today
While sleep hygiene practices entails spending an appropriate amount of time asleep in bed, not too little or too excessive, sleep needs of affected by age and lifestyle practices. Someone living a sedentary lifestyle for example might need to put physical activity at the top of their list for improving sleep. Other people might need to limit their caffeine intake or cut off tea/coffee time around 4 p.m. According to the National Sleep Foundation, most healthy adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night. However, if you have insomnia or other sleep disorders those hours might seem impossible to achieve. These are our recommendations that can aid you with your sleep goal.
Keep caffeinated drinks to the AMs. While Starbucks and ice tea are great after work, caffeine can last 4-6 hours in the body. If you haven't slept well still be mindful of your caffeine intake as it can prolong the bad sleeping patterns in the long run. It's might be more useful to tough it out on a off day.
Turn into bed at the same time every night. Routine around sleep is a big factor in beating insomnia as your body will remember and get sleepy at the times. Even if you can't fall asleep right away or for hours, it's good to at least jump in bed at the time when you plan. If you are feeling bored or restless and can't sleep, use this time to practice mindfulness meditations closing your eyes or listen to a helpful podcast. Oftentimes people slack off when it comes to this part. Sometimes you have that one friend that finds it the perfect time to call at 11 pm right as you are trying to sleep or maybe you have an itch to watch that movie on Netflix. The key here is self discipline. Things can wait until tomorrow. Or later on in the week. You know what can't wait? Sleep. That's right, just recall the domino effect. Soon you might even end up saying the wrong things to your friend because your so sleepy! Use the opposite action skill if you need and just command yourself to get ready for bed. Learn to be a parent to yourself.
Physical activity to burn off extra energy. Tons of people struggle from worrying and ruminating thoughts when it's time to sleep. In fact the anxiety of knowing you need sleep is what can keep people awake. Fortunately physical activity can take the edge off this bedtime anxiety. After all anxiety is energy. If you are well worked during the day you will be too exhausted to begin worrying. As little as 10 minutes of aerobic exercise, such as walking or cycling, can drastically improve nighttime sleep quality.
Avoiding foods that can be disruptive right before sleep. Heavy or rich foods should be avoided near bedtime. Though lots of food might make you sleepy, fatty or fried meals, spicy dishes, citrus fruits, and carbonated drinks can trigger indigestion when you don't spend enough time sitting up to help it cycle through the body. It can eventually lead to painful heartburn that disrupts sleep. Also rich foods can increase your energy and throw off the sleep.
Ensuring adequate exposure to natural light. I've got my hand raised guiltily for this one. Sunlight is important for everyone but individuals who don't venture outside frequently should listen up. It's cute to be a home body and all, but exposure to sunlight during the day, as well as darkness at night, helps to maintain a healthy sleep-wake cycle. Sun exposure and lack thereof has a hormonal effect. Sunlight produces serotonin while darkness produces melatonin. Serotonin is beneficial for boosting dopamine and focus. In fact people with ADHD often show improvement in their symptoms after spending one hour a day outside. My advice is to buy a comfy lawn chair like I did. Make some peach tea or lemon flavored water and sit outside. Use this time to be still and mindful. Your body will greatly thank you.
Relaxing around bedtime. Another routine that will come in handy is regularly setting the atmosphere for sleep. You don't have to sprinkle rose petals or light candles in a circle around you (nor should you!) but respecting your date with sleep by putting away the phone and turning off computers and TVs are key. The blue light emitted by screens on cell phones, computers, tablets, and televisions restrain the production of melatonin, the hormone that controls your sleep. If your restless and need something to do around bedtime try activities that tells your body it's bedtime instead like taking a warm shower or bath, reading a book, or light stretches. If possible, try to avoid emotionally upsetting conversations and activities before attempting to sleep. What helps me stick to the resolve is thinking about sleep as going on a date with my spiritual guides if you will or meeting with the sleep fairy. Sleep is an essential part of your primal needs and the way you move through life. There is so much that goes on there that we aren't aware of. It is a lot more important and intimate than culture makes it seem.
Remove or adjust any distressing factors. Comfortable mattresses and pillows are a must, but what about pets or children or the spouse that snores or tosses and turn? While some people get use to these nuisances and feel guilty when not making a sacrifice, remember your health and sleep goes hand in hand. And if your healthier then your pet and your children will benefit. I learned the hard way after I was barely functioning because I felt bad about my cat being locked out my room. Because I live alone, I'm a light sleeper, meaning I wake at the sound of a pin drop. You may not remember yourself waking to disturbances during the night but if get disturbed easily during shut eye your sleep was most definitely disturbed. Furthermore make sure your warm enough and that bright lights are not distracting. When I was living below people earplugs and"white noise" audios made me more relaxed. Humidifiers, fans, and aroma therapy are also great devices that can make sleeping more pleasurable.
Avoid mind-altering substances and alcohol. Though people may find alcohol and weed relaxing, they can disturb your REM sleep, the period after 90 minutes of falling asleep. It stands for rapid eye movement. According to studies REM is like the essence of sleep, the period when your body restores cells and functions. Interference of REM sleep can lead to brain fog, lack of concentration and even dizziness. Experts say that the more you drink before bed the more REM sleep is interfered and the more pronounced the side effects.
“Alcohol may seem to be helping you to sleep, as it helps induce sleep, but overall it is more disruptive to sleep, particularly in the second half of the night. Alcohol also suppresses breathing and can precipitate sleep apnea,” ( pauses in breathing that happen throughout the night) -Irshaad Ebrahim, researcher and medical director at The London Sleep Centre in the U.K.
Signs of Poor Sleep Hygiene?
For some people it's clear. They know they can't sleep. They wake up too early or nod off only after hours of tossing and turning. They wake up frequently throughout the night. In most cases however, the signs are subtle. You wake up but you don't feel rested, you think your lazy, you drink coffee all day and still can't stop yawning. It could even be the feeling of being in a daze or just not being sharp. For me I felt tension in my neck and shoulders, my eyes would burn, or I'd feel what I could only describe as"dull." Frequent sleep disturbances and daytime sleepiness can lower your mood. You may feel listless or even hopeless. Your ambitions and even forms of self-discipline can go down. You may act like a completely different person and people with disorders may find themselves experiencing flareups.
Find a pen and a piece of paper and take some time to recognize any signs of sleeplessness in your body. Notice the way your eyelids and muscles feel. Are you feeling moody or dull? Do you usually have more energy? Then go over the list of sleep hygiene tips and make a conscious decision to abide to one for the next several days. Write out exactly what you are going to do to improve your sleep hygiene. Remember that this is very important. Sleep not only makes you happy, but it plays a role in your immune system, your relationships, and ultimately trickles into every facet of your life.