7 Tips to Achieve Quality Sleep: Sleep Hygiene That Sets The Tone For Your Health
There are several biological processes, which happen when we sleep, that are critical for our health. It begins from the conservation of energy, cellular restoration, brain and heart function, emotional well-being, hormone function to overseeing the regulation and maintenance of immunity. Not getting enough sleep can lead to many side-effects like poor memory, focus, and hormone function, and weakened immunity and heart health, among many others.
Good sleep dictates good health. Sleep is a basic biological necessity for the optimal functioning of mind and body. Falling asleep might sound like an easy task but, for many, it can be a real challenge. Therefore, it is important to inculcate healthy sleep practices to ensure that your body and mind receive the required amount of rest they need.
What Is Sleep Hygiene?
Healthy sleep practices or habits are known as good sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene is fostered through simple practices that involve a healthy diet, physical activity, substance use and environmental factors that may promote or interfere with sleep. If you are having a hard time falling asleep, experiencing frequent disturbed sleep, or falling asleep during the daytime, these indicate poor sleep hygiene.
Why Is It Difficult to Fall Asleep?
Every person needs a specific amount of sleep to function well throughout the day. On an average, eight hours of sleep is necessary for an individual to function properly. According to research, the ideal time to go to bed and wake up is between 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. For many, this sleep routine is often difficult to follow. This could be because of the following reasons:
- Consuming caffeine in the second half of the day
- Nicotine (cigarettes and chewing tobacco)
- Sleeping disorders like insomnia, sleep apnea or more severe conditions
- Frequent daytime naps
- Poor eating habits
- Lack of exercise
- Increased screen time before bedtime or binge-watching sprees
A lack of z’s can put you at risk for many health issues, can cause brain fog, can make you anxious or irritated and can even lead to premature death. Hence, it is important to figure out what is interrupting your sleep and employ the right interventions to bring your sleeping patterns back on track.
How Can You Inculcate Good Sleep Hygiene?
It is important to optimize your sleep schedules and maintain a pre-bedtime routine to make you feel more relaxed before bedtime. Here are some sleep hygiene tips that you could follow to get a good night’s sleep.
Tip #1: Practice Regularity
Sleep and wake up at the same time every day, even on the weekends. This allows for less fluctuations in your internal clock which, in turn, will help promote a more consistent sleep routine.
Tip #2: Go to Bed Only When You Are Sleepy
Do not stay awake in bed for more than five to 15 minutes. If you are having trouble dozing off, pick up a book or listen to some music to help you ease into sleep mode again.
Tip #3: Watch Your Eating Habits
A few hours before bedtime, avoid consuming caffeinated products, nicotine, alcohol or any substances or stimulants that may interfere with your quality of sleep. Eat your last meal of the day at least three hours before bedtime. If your empty stomach is preventing you from going to sleep, munch on something light before bedtime. Chamomile tea, nuts, berries, and a warm glass of milk are all sleep-inducers!
Tip #4: Switch Off All Electronics
The blue light emitted from your phone, laptop, gaming devices or TV screens can adversely affect your circadian rhythm. Your body equates this screen time as wakefulness and takes an additional 30-60 minutes to reach a state of sleep. Do not sacrifice your sleep time for binge watching your favorite shows!
Tip #5: Be Physically Active During the Day
Start your mornings with a brisk walk. Be active throughout the day and try to avoid mid-day naps; even if you do indulge, restrict it to less than an hour and before 3 p.m. Exercising regularly, earlier in the day, can help induce better-quality sleep in the night, in addition to bringing about a host of other health benefits. Keep it light four hours before bedtime, as any strenuous exercise can actually hamper your ability to reach the required state of sleep. Yoga, meditation, stretching or simple breathing exercises are calming activities that you could do just before bedtime.
Tip #6: Develop a Sleep Ritual
Give yourself about 30-60 minutes before bedtime to go through your checklist of a pre-bedtime routine. A warm shower an hour before bedtime, drinking a cup of non-caffeinated tea, light reading, listening to soothing music, journaling, meditating or doing breathing exercises are a few activities you could practice before your bedtime to help induce quality sleep. Placing your devices or electronics aside before you begin your ritual will also prove to be highly beneficial.
Tip #7: Create a Calming Environment
Apart from the soothing music, light smells, like the scent of lavender, can also help calm oneself physically and mentally. Noise and light can be bothersome; using earplugs, trying a white noise machine, or using an eye mask or heavy opaque curtains could help keep you sleepy. Maintain your room at a favorable temperature, one that suits your body to get into a cozy slumber. Most importantly, use comfortable bedding, pillows, and mattresses to get pain-free, comfortable, and quality sleep.
Sleep Better, for Better Health
Train your brain to associate your bed with sleep. Over time, you will reach a state of sleep as soon as you hit the sack. It is also very important to create your own sleep hygiene checklist; one that suits your daily routine, something that you can easily adapt to and continue long-term.
There are plenty of other options, like over-the-counter sleep medication or therapies like cognitive and neurofeedback brain training therapy to help you attain good quality sleep. For those who may be suffering from more chronic sleep-related concerns such as insomnia, sleep apnea or excessive sleep, it’s best to seek professional help to receive appropriate treatment.
Even though all of the above interventions may be easily accessible, it is important to supplement these with good sleep hygiene practices to receive and maintain more effective long-term health benefits that can be brought about by quality sleep.
Dr. Upasana Gala is the founder and CEO of Evolve Brain Training, a Neurofeedback centered institute that focuses on using non-invasive brain training techniques to maximize the brain's true potential.