You’ve been struggling to find restful sleep on a regular basis. Maybe you have one really great night of sleep, but then the next night it’s back to counting sheep or staring at your phone until 3am when you pass out from watching TikTok. Sound familiar? You may struggle with your sleeping habits – or maybe you find yourself asking “what sleeping habits?” A concept called “sleep hygiene” may be the next step to take in your sleep struggles.
Before we learn about sleep hygiene, it’s important to know how sleep affects our mental health. Harvard Health Publishing (2019) reports “neuroimaging and neurochemistry studies suggest that a good night’s sleep helps foster both mental and emotional resilience.” When sleep is disrupted, our neurotransmitters and stress hormones negatively impact the brain and impact our ability to regulate our emotions. So this essentially means that when we sleep poorly, our brains are less able to regulate our emotions and think clearly.
Sleep hygiene is a concept that incorporates sleeping habits that are meant to help you fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night. Similar to our habits relating to personal hygiene, we benefit from having a routine that nurtures our sleeping habits. So you may be wondering, what are these routines that I can set in place?
- Limit caffeine intake in the afternoon and evening
Yes, your sleep habits are going to start as early as the afternoon. Begin by limiting the amount of caffeine you ingest starting in the afternoon. If you’re someone who normally reaches for another cup of coffee, try to switch to an herbal tea instead.
- Maintain a consistent sleep schedule
Finding yourself waking up later than normal during quarantine? It may be time to evaluate your bedtime and wake time. Try to aim for at least seven hours of sleep during a consistent window – even during the weekends. Allowing yourself to have a consistent bedtime and wake time trains your body to give you cues to when you’re sleepy and when you’ve slept enough.
- Put your screens away
Yes, seriously. Your phone has you conditioned to reach for it for entertainment, news, and scrolling aimlessly. Instead of your phone, try to find a soothing activity to do for 30 minutes before bed.
- Make your bedroom a calming space
Working from your bedroom during the day? Try to transform your bedroom back into a soothing, relaxing place after you complete work. Setting low lights, keeping the temperature cool, and using relaxing scents can help create a more relaxing environment. Using all five senses can be a great way to help your body relax.
- Get in bed when you are sleepy
It is important to listen to our body’s cues about when we are tired. These cues will also increase when a consistent sleep schedule is established. Try not to use your bed for work – only for sleeping or for sex.
Interested in learning more? These resources can offer more information:
Harvard Health Publishing (2019, March 18). Sleep and mental health. Retrieved February 18, 2021, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/sleep-and-mental-health