We often blame ourselves for not sleeping enough due to staying up late, procrastination or even insomnia. And there are also times when we hate waking up early, but waking up early does not necessarily impact sleep quality in a negative way. Poor sleep quality and waking up tired may actually be due to certain nightly habits, but they can be changed!
What is Sleep Hygiene?
Sleep hygiene is a combination of having quality sleep habits, a comfortable sleeping environment, and uninterrupted time to achieve good sleep quality. By changing your sleeping habits to achieve ideal sleep hygiene, you will definitely see significant improvement in your sleep quality and will find yourself waking up well-rested.
There are several ways to take control of your sleep habits, and you can tailor your sleep hygiene practice to fit your lifestyle needs. Here, at PranaQ, we want to share the best 10 tips to achieve sleep hygiene and help you to have better sleep quality.
1. Turn off the lights and stay away from your phone
Sometimes, it is hard to fall asleep quickly, and this may be related to the lights around you, from your bedroom light or even your phone screen. Constantly being exposed to light has been scientifically proven to make you less sleepy as it decreases melatonin production. Melatonin is a type of sleep hormone, with the purpose of making you feel drowsy or sleepy at bedtime so you will fall asleep.
Do you often scroll through your phone in the dark? Or you sometimes keep your lights on before sleep? These are the bad habits that stop your body from producing melatonin. Being exposed to light will alert the brain to produce less melatonin, letting you stay awake and alert longer.
You may think that you are not much of a morning person as you usually feel groggy upon waking up in the morning. Try to expose yourself to more light when you wake up, especially natural sunlight in the morning. You can open your bedroom curtains or go outside for a morning walk to absorb some Vitamin D from the sun. By doing this, you will feel less tired and have better energy to start your day.
2. Learn how to relax
Sometimes, you notice that you are stressed due to work or school, or you feel too anxious to fall asleep. This is due to the stress hormone that the body produces, named cortisol. The more cortisol your body produces, the more it can help you fight through the stress. During this process, you will feel more awake.
To reduce stress and the amount of cortisol produced before bedtime, it is recommended to start practicing calming activities every day before sleep, such as stretching, yoga, meditation, or breathing exercises. It is also important to be mindful of your own stressful thinking.
Mindfulness-based stress management is a good strategy to be more aware of your own stress-provoking thoughts, accepting them without any resistance from yourself will help process them better. Being mindful of your stressful thoughts can formulate a conscious and better reaction to control them. Therefore, less cortisol will be needed to cope with your stress and you will fall asleep easier.
3. You may take a nap, just a very short one
It might be hard to resist the urge to get some shut-eye or energy boost to get through the day due to a disturbed sleep schedule or poor quality of sleep (which may be due to sleep apnea!).
Sleep is always associated with resting your mind and body, but napping may result in a reverse effect. Until now, there are many mixed research results on napping. There is no scientific proof that napping can restore the amount of sleep lost during the night and whether people can regain the energy to go through the day.
In recent years, researchers do recommend taking a very short nap called a “power nap” to give a small boost of energy that day. An ideal power nap needs to only last for 10 to 20 minutes, but not more than 30 minutes. It is best to do a power nap from early to mid-afternoon, no later than 2 p.m.
4. Set up a regular exercise routine
Regular exercise routine is a key to establishing an ideal sleep hygiene.
Following a workout session or exercise routine, your body needs some sleep to recover from tiredness and regenerate energy. Exercise forces the body to prioritize melatonin production after a workout, and this will make you feel sleepy before bedtime.
Studies show that 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity is enough to help you improve sleep quality, and for better results, exercising regularly (ideally 5 times a week) is recommended.
5. Avoid noise or light
Every night, your brain is programmed to process external stimuli, like noise or light, even when you are sleeping. Sudden loud noises or light flashes may wake you up during the night momentarily due to the brain’s response. Even if you fall asleep right away and may not remember waking up, the act of being roused from deep sleep is very detrimental to your overall sleep quality.
To avoid getting disturbed during sleep, it is better to invest in:
- Good curtains that can properly block out any light from outside, for example, street lamps or headlights
- Equipment that can produce white noise to cover the noisy sounds from the outside, such as a fan, air conditioner, humidifier, air purifier, white noise machine, or use white noise apps from your mobile devices.
6. Set the perfect room temperature
When the temperature in your bedroom gets too hot, you might find yourself not being able to sleep. Hot temperatures cause fatigue when it interferes with the body’s thermoregulation abilities. As you feel fatigued, you will feel physically and mentally tired, but may not be able to fall asleep.
Setting up a cool room temperature is shown to be one of the most important factors to get a good night’s sleep. As your body is programmed to have a temperature drop when preparing for sleep, turning down the thermostat is a good way to signal the body that it is bedtime. The best room temperature suggested is between 60 to 65°F (15 to 18°C).
If your bedroom does not have a thermostat setting, here are a few things you can do to maintain a good temperature for sleep:
- Use a fan or air conditioning in hot climates or on summer days
- Move downstairs during the summer: The first floor is always cooler!
- Close the blinds to reduce heat build-up during the day
- Open the windows to have better ventilation
- Control bedroom humidity (use a dehumidifier if necessary)
- Reduce sweating by using a cooling mattress, pillow, comforter, sheets, or duvet
- Wear light-weighted material pajamas
7. Get a comfortable pillow and mattress of your choice!
If you wake up with stiff neck or back pain, you may (?) assume that you didn’t sleep correctly, but it could be your pillow or mattress that is causing your pain. A good pillow and mattress will help you sleep comfortably and pain-free, but if you wake up in pain, you may not have the best pillow. You would find yourself being roused multiple times a night to adjust your sleeping positions to get comfortable.
Experts suggest replacing mattresses every 10 years and pillows every 2 years. Still, the best way to determine when the right time to replace your pillow and mattress is when you are waking up with a sore neck or back pain. Or, whenever you feel that they no longer provide the support you need for a good quality of sleep.
As everyone has their own preference for pillow softness or mattress firmness, it is 100% suggested to get any kind of pillow or mattress with the material you are comfortable with.
8. Cut down on caffeine intake and alcohol consumption
Foods and drinks we consume not only determine your nutritional intake and needs, but also how they will affect your quality of sleep. This is very important to note down especially if you have a high caffeine intake or alcohol consumption every day!
Some of you may struggle with staying awake in the morning without any coffee. Unconsciously, you are going for another cup of coffee, another one, and another one throughout the day.
Caffeine can stay in the body’s system for up to 10 hours as it is best known as the stimulant to keep us awake. However, caffeine may not be the best answer to makeup for sleep deprivation. If you are having trouble falling asleep at night, it is time to start reducing the amount of coffee you take every day and try to avoid any caffeine consumption past noon (maximum 2 p.m).
Alcohol may make some people sleepy and sleep faster, but the effect will eventually wear off throughout the night and it might disrupt the body’s circadian rhythm. It will be hard to have a deep sleep and restful time throughout the night.
A small reminder! Alcohol and coffee don’t cancel each other, and it is suggested to start reducing the amount of both drinks both during the day and at night.
9. Eat well and on time!
Food consumption is one of the reasons why you may not be sleeping well. Consuming heavy foods or big meals may overload your digestive system, requiring you to digest it a little bit longer before bedtime, and this will negatively affect your sleeping quality. Your body needs extra time to digest the heavy meals and it won’t rest properly if you sleep directly afterwards. After heavy meals, it is important to spare at least 2-3 hours before going to bed.
If you have a habit of consuming some snacks or often feel hungry in the middle of the night, it is better to eat very light snacks before going to bed. Specialists recommend not eating foods with unhealthy fats and added sugars, such as junk foods or desserts. It is best to opt for some fruits or small assortments like berries or handfuls of nuts.
10. Keep a sleep schedule
A fixed sleep schedule means arranging a certain amount of hours from a particular time at night until the morning to sleep, regardless if it is a weekday or weekend. For example an 8-hour sleep from 11 p.m to 7 a.m. Although it might be tempting to sleep in during the weekends, doing the same routine on the weekend will help your body adjust to the schedule better. This sleeping routine helps to maintain the body’s internal clock (circadian rhythm) faster. It lowers the risk of health disease and improves body organs’ function.
Achieving an exact sleep schedule every day will definitely be a struggle at first, especially for people who always sleep less during the weekdays and sleep in during the weekends. Therefore, gradual adjustments should be made step-by-step by giving yourself a grace period between an hour or two around the sleeping hour so that you can slowly get adjusted to your own sleep schedule.
It is also important to drop everything and sleep whenever the time has arrived, no matter what activity you are doing at that time. As you have already set a target bedtime on your fixed wake-up time, always try your best to be ready for bed around that time each night.
Sleep Hygiene is…
Finally achieved if you can maintain all of these good habits to help you sleep better! However, even after you tried all of these and still find yourself being very tired in the morning, it is best for you to get your sleeping tracked with PranaQ’s Product! We will help you solve the mystery behind poor sleep and guide you to getting more sleep.