Are you familiar with hearing the alarm go off and hitting snooze several times before you get up for the day? We thought so. We all do this, don’t we?
Most of us want more sleep, but find ourselves trying to get by with less and less. Turns out, getting more sleep is more important than you might think. In fact, our physical and emotional health relies heavily on the amount of shut-eye we get each night. Your brain and your body are hard at work, doing amazing things, all while you sleep.
What are those amazing things you might ask? Sleep has the power to help you¹:
- Reduce stress and improve your mood
- Think more clearly and do better in school or at work
- Get sick less often
- Stay at a healthy weight
- Lower your risk for serious health problems like diabetes and heart disease
With those health benefits, it would do us some good to get the right amount of shut-eye. We spend 1/3 of our lives sleeping (or attempting to do so) – can you believe that? That statistic alone makes investing in your sleep conditions that much more important. Sleep hygiene is defined as your habits and practices that are helpful to sleeping well regularly. In other words, it’s the act of controlling your sleep behaviors and environments in an effort to improve your sleep.
Some ways to improve your sleep habits are:
- Go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day, yes, even on the weekends. Your body likes the routine.
- Get exposed to sunlight first thing in the morning, without sunglasses – this resets your circadian rhythm.
- Move your body in some capacity every day. Physical activity increases adenosine, which mediates the regulatory system of sleep. The harder you exert yourself; the more likely you are to be sleepy.
- Eliminate naps or keep your nap time to about 30 minutes. Any longer than 30 minutes puts you into a deep sleep; hence the slightly headachy feeling you get when you do wake up.
- No screen time two hours before sleeping. Read a book, take a bath, or do a crossword puzzle. The blue light in screens makes it difficult for your mind to wind down.
- Avoid caffeine and nicotine close to bedtime as they are stimulants.
- Change up your space. Use blackout curtains, eye shades, ear plugs, white noise machines, humidifiers, or fans to make the sleep environment more relaxing.
- Wear socks to bed. Because they have the poorest circulation, the feet often feel cold before the rest of the body. A study has shown that this reduces night waking.
- Dress comfortably. Wear less, not more to bed.
Pick one or two of these tips to help lead to a better night’s sleep, and hopefully, less wearing out of the snooze button on your alarm.
- “Get Enough Sleep.” Healthfinder.gov, 2018, healthfinder.gov/HealthTopics/Dispatch.aspx?q1=everyday-healthy-living&q2=mental-health-and-relationship&q3=get-enough-sleep.
- “What Is Sleep Hygiene?” National Sleep Foundation, www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/sleep-hygiene.
- Winter, W. Chris. The Sleep Solution: Why Your Sleep Is Broken and How to Fix It. Berkley, 2018.
Erik Henriksen has been with Jefferson Center since 2015 in various health coaching roles. He enjoys helping clients make a positive difference in their health. In his free time, he stays active by chasing after his soon-to-be two-year-old and spending time with his amazing wife.