What is Sleep Hygiene?
Although most of us try to practice good hygiene by taking showers regularly and brushing our teeth, even the most “hygienic” people may have poor sleep hygiene.
“Sleep hygiene” is a term many psychologists and physicians use to describe the behaviors people engage in before bed (see Brown, Buboltz Jr, & Soper, 2002). People with good sleep hygiene are often able to fall asleep quickly and often wake up feeling well rested and rejuvenated. People with poor sleep hygiene find themselves unable to fall asleep on time and often wake up feeling groggy or exhausted.
Why is sleep so important?
Sleep is considered to be vital for cognitive function and emotional regulation. Sleep deprivation can dramatically affect our thoughts, our feelings, and even our motor skills (see Pilcher & Huffcutt, 1996). When you sleep, your brain is able to recover from the wear-and-tear of the day, much like your muscles. In short, sleep helps you to be your best self.
How can I practice good sleep hygiene?
A professor of psychology at Duke University once said in lecture that good sleep hygiene can be achieved by following one rule: only use your bed for sleep or sex. This can help train your mind not to see bed as a place for reading, eating, or other typical daytime activities. As many of us love to check the news or browse Facebook on our devices in bed, this rule may be easier said than done. In addition to this rule, here are a few more tips:
- Establish a consistent, relaxing ritual for the last 30-45 minutes of your day before bed. Try to stick to this as much as you can, and eventually your body should learn to recognize the cues related to sleep.
- Do not drink any caffeine within 8 hours of bedtime. The half-life for caffeine is approximately 6 hours (Statland & Demas, 1980), meaning that your fizzy/hot drink is still active in your bloodstream long after consumption. Even a small amount of caffeine may keep you from fully relaxing.
- Turn off or silence your phone before bed. Many smart phones come equipped with a “Do Not Disturb” function that silences your device at a certain time each day. Alternatively, some people choose to keep their device outside the bedroom, such as the kitchen.
- Do not do a pre-bed workout. Many people believe that working out right before bed will exhaust you and help you sleep better. Although this may work for some, exercise tends to arouse the body rather than relax it.
- Wake up at the same time every day. Even on your days off, I recommend always waking up at a certain time. Although sleeping-in, on occasion, can be a great way to make up for lost sleep during the week, try to keep your 8 hours of snooze sacred.
Do you have more tips? Send me an email, I would love to hear from you!