We’ve all had those restless nights where it feels like the more we try to fall asleep, the harder it becomes to actually get there. Very often, poor sleep hygiene is to blame. Struggling to sleep can also be a major source of anxiety. In this article, we shall discuss tips to ditch poor sleep hygiene.
We often develop sleeping habits and patterns as children and carry them forward with us over the years. If your sleeping habits are not serving you well, it can be helpful to work on developing healthier sleep patterns, also known as good sleep hygiene, for better sleep.
Table of Contents
The Importance of Sleep
We sleep for approximately one-third of our lives. The brain is in fact quite active during sleep, while the body rests and recharges its energy levels.
These are some of the reasons why getting a good night’s sleep is important:
- Growth and repair
- Immunity and disease prevention
- Learning, memory, attention, and emotional regulation
- Physical and mental well-being
Furthermore, lack of adequate sleep is linked to several negative outcomes, including:
- Heart disease
- Lower immunity and greater susceptibility to infections
- Reduced cognitive function
- Mood disorders, such as anxiety, depression, and anger issues
- Alzheimer’s disease and dementia
- Vehicular and workplace accidents
How Much Sleep Do You Need?
The amount of sleep we need can vary depending on our age. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists the amount of sleep we need, by age:
- Newborns (0 to 3 months old): 14 to 17 hours of sleep per day (including naps)
- Infants (4 to 12 months old): 12 to 16 hours of sleep per day (including naps)
- Toddlers (1 to 2 years old): 11 to 14 hours of sleep per day (including naps)
- Preschoolers (3 to 5 years old): 10 to 13 hours of sleep per day (including naps)
- School-age children (6 to 12 years old): 9 to 12 hours of sleep per day
- Teenagers (13 to 18 years old): 8 to 10 hours of sleep per day
- Adults (19 to 60 years old): 7 or more hours of sleep per day
- Adults (61 to 64 years old): 7 to 9 hours of sleep per day
- Adults (65 years and above): 7 to 8 hours of sleep per day
Healthy Sleep Hygiene Habits
These are some healthy sleep hygiene habits that can help you get better sleep:
- Plan for adequate sleep: Try to go to sleep approximately 8 hours before you need to start the next day.
- Maintain a consistent routine: Wake up and go to bed at the same time every day. Try and maintain this consistency on weekends as well. This can help set your internal clock, also known as your circadian rhythm.
- Create a comfortable environment: Make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark, and at a temperature, you’re comfortable in. Blackout curtains, heavy drapes, or an eye mask can help block out light, whereas earplugs can help block out noise.
- Use your bed exclusively for sleeping: Avoid using your bed for other activities such as working or eating, to maintain the association that this space is only for sleeping.
- Put away electronic devices: Avoid using electronic devices such as your cell phone, computer, tablet, television, and gaming console at least 30 minutes before you go to sleep.
- Nap early in the afternoon: If napping is part of your daily routine, take a quick nap early in the afternoon. Avoid napping late in the afternoon or in the evening. If you’re having difficulty falling asleep at night, napping could be the culprit, so it may be helpful to skip your nap altogether.
- Do something relaxing before bedtime: Find a calming activity to do before you go to sleep, such as taking a warm bath, reading a book, listening to soothing music, doing a few gentle stretches, meditating, or doing a relaxation exercise. Avoid stressful discussions or strenuous activities right before you go to bed. Don’t let yourself engage in revenge bedtime procrastination.
- Note your worries in a journal: If you’re unable to sleep because you’re stressed out, it can be helpful to write down your worries in a journal before you go to bed. Transferring your thoughts to paper can help you clear your mind and go to sleep.
- Don’t watch the clock: If you’re unable to sleep, avoid watching the clock. Stressing yourself out about how late it is can make it harder for you to fall asleep. Engage in a relaxing activity instead, or try moving to another location in your home.
- Avoid caffeine in the evening: Caffeine is a stimulant that can make it hard for you to sleep. It can be found in tea, coffee, sodas, energy drinks, and chocolate, among other things. It is best avoided four to six hours before bedtime. If you drink a lot of caffeine, gradually cut back on your intake.
- Limit alcohol and nicotine consumption: Alcohol and nicotine are also stimulants and should be avoided too close to bedtime. While alcohol can help you fall asleep initially, it can act as a stimulant a few hours after you go to sleep, which can affect the quality of your sleep or cause you to wake up earlier than you normally would. Limit your alcohol consumption to one or two drinks per day, preferably consumed three hours before you go to sleep.
- Eat a light dinner: Try and eat your dinner at least two hours before you go to bed. Avoid heavy meals and foods that give you indigestion.
- Regulate your fluid intake: Drink enough water to ensure that you’re sufficiently hydrated and won’t wake up at night thirsty, but not so much that you wake up to use the bathroom.
- Exercise regularly: Staying active and getting some exercise during the day can help you get a good night’s sleep. Try to walk or exercise for at least 30 minutes per day.
- Seek help if you need it: If you have insomnia, if you’re up at night with sad or anxious thoughts, or if you’re not able to sleep well despite your best efforts, it can be helpful to visit a healthcare provider for treatment. Conditions like sleep apnea, narcolepsy, and restless leg syndrome may be the reason why you’re having difficulty sleeping.
In summary, sleep is an important aspect of staying mentally and physically healthy. If you haven’t slept well, you may notice that you don’t feel good, your energy levels are lower, you’re unable to concentrate, you’re cranky and irritable, you find it harder to deal with stressors, and you’re more prone to catching a cold or falling ill.
Maintaining good sleep hygiene can help you relax and get a good night’s sleep. Performing a soothing bedtime routine can be a self-care activity that you do for yourself.
I hope you find this article helpful as well as interesting.