Sleep Hygiene: Paving the Way to a Better Night’s Sleep
By: Neha Ayyer
Imagine this: You’ve just had an exhausting day and cannot wait to go to bed. As night falls, you brush your teeth, go to the bathroom, and drink a glass of warm milk, all while your eyes are barely staying open.
But, as soon as your head hits the pillow, you’re wide awake.
It takes another 3-4 hours and endlessly scrolling on social media for your brain to finally shut down and sleep. And, when you wake up in the morning, you don’t feel refreshed like the people in TV commercials. You feel exhausted and tired—exactly how you felt when you went to sleep the night before.
We’ve all been there. Not being able to sleep, and then when you do fall asleep, not being able to wake up. For me, it’s more often than I would like. Lying awake in bed, and willing myself to sleep, to no avail.
However, our bodies aren’t a simple on-and-off switch where you’re awake one moment and asleep the next. They are meant to gradually unwind. This is where sleep hygiene comes in. The things you do to get a better night’s sleep, also called sleep hygiene, could start in the morning. Sleep hygiene is the use of science-based practices during the night and day to create an ideal environment for healthy sleep.
The first thing you could do for proper sleep hygiene is to set a consistent sleep schedule. This means going to bed and waking up at the same time every day and night. Creating a frame sets your brain’s “internal clock” to expect rest at a certain time. It will soon become a habit for your brain to shut down and for you to sleep peacefully.
Keeping your room cool and comfy will also help you to fall asleep faster. The ideal room for sleeping is quiet, cold, and dark. Studies show that a cool room is most conducive to restful sleep. Additionally, your pillows and mattress should feel comfortable so that your body can relax faster. Another tip is to keep your phone (and other technologies) out of reach when you sleep. Keeping it away from you means that you can’t use it. You could also keep it face down. If you need help waking up, you could use an old-fashioned alarm clock.
It is also important to get regular exercise. Exercise reduces the amount of time it takes a person to fall asleep and decreases the amount of time they lie awake in bed. It also helps to reduce the amount of weight gain, which in turn makes it less likely for a person to experience obstructive sleep.
Receiving poor sleep results in a lot of short- and long-term consequences. Now, the occasional late night or interrupted sleep is normal, but it becomes a concern when your sleep impacts your health and daily routine. Short-term problems can include increased stress, mood disorders, memory deficiency, and more. When poor sleep becomes a long-term problem, you could face an increase in hypertension, heart-related diseases, and weight-related issues, among others.
Defective sleep can also impact your mental health. Mental illnesses like depression and anxiety often go hand in hand with sleep disturbances. Additionally, everyday stress could also be impacted by sleep deprivation. General stress levels are significantly higher when the quality and amount of sleep are low. It shouldn’t come as a surprise. Lack of sleep can make minor stresses feel like major ones, making it harder to deal with. Sleep is crucial to our lives, helping our body relax, in more ways than one.
Having quality sleep doesn’t only make you feel good, but it’s healthy for you as well. It strengthens your immune system and lowers the risk for serious health conditions. Good quality sleep also improves your mood and memory during the day. It supports increased comprehension and problem-solving skills. After a good night’s sleep, you are prone to be more confident and less anxious.
Practicing good sleep hygiene makes you feel refreshed and alert—from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to bed. You are more focused, productive, and energized. Sleep hygiene helps to make you fall asleep faster, so you can cut the hours of lying awake in bed out of your schedule. It might be hard at first, but taking the time to respect your sleep time could go a long way. Getting proper sleep helps you to relax, so you can better enjoy whatever comes next.
“How Can Exercise Affect Sleep?” Sleep Foundation, 22 Jan. 2021, www.sleepfoundation.org/physical-activity/exercise-and-sleep.
Sara Lindberg, M.Ed. “What Is Sleep Hygiene?” Verywell Mind, www.verywellmind.com/what-is-sleep-hygiene-5085887.
“Sleep Hygiene Tips.” Headspace, www.headspace.com/sleep/sleep-hygiene.
“Understanding Sleep Hygiene and Mental Health: Counseling@Northwestern.” NU-MAC, 6 Apr. 2021, counseling.northwestern.edu/blog/sleep-hygiene-mental-health/.