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Sleep Hygiene and Why it Matters

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Sleep is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Sleep hygiene allows you to have better sleep. This article discusses why sleep matters to your health, what sleep hygiene is and why it could be helpful to your sleep journey.

Download the Sleep Hygiene Checklist here:

Why Sleep Matters in living a Healthy Lifestyle?

We intuitively know that sleep is important, whether we are talking about getting in our beauty sleep or sleeping on a big decision. But why is it that sleep is so important for us? Especially when there is also a conflicting movement that we can sleep when we’re dead!

Sleep is the time when your body performs all of its maintenance tasks. This ranges from saving short term memories into long-term storage to repairing DNA  and recycling your LDL cholesterol in the liver. We need sleep and its associated maintenance tasks to function optimally, both physically and mentally.

Sleep is also important in stabilizing our hormone pathways. Just one night with shortened sleep can lead a person to have symptoms of pre-diabetes the following day according to this study. Find more here.

Lack of sleep can also decrease leptin (our full hormone that decreases appetite) and increase ghrelin (our hunger hormone that signals us to eat more) making it really hard to make the healthiest food and exercise decisions the next day. 

And if you ask me, that’s enough to convince me that sleep is an important part of the overall health strategy.

sleep masks in bed with flannel comforter

What is Sleep Hygiene?

Sleep hygiene is a routine you set up to give your body the best conditions for optimal sleep. It can include the things you do directly before bed, but also things you do throughout your day to set conditions that enable the best sleep possible.

Too often in today’s busy world, we run from one thing to the next starting the moment we wake up to the time our head hits the pillow at night. Then we expect the body and mind to just instantly shut off and allow us to sleep.

Blue Light Glasses before Bed
Photo by Matheus Vinicius on Unsplash

Why Should You Focus on Sleep Hygiene?

That strategy of go-go-go right up until bedtime may work for some people (my husband is one of the lucky ones) but most of us have to work at it! 

itself is a series of stages. We cannot fall instantly into our deepest and most restorative sleep. Rather, we have to sleep through the lighter and earlier stages to progress to deep sleep.

We have to let our cortisol come done and our melatonin come up. We have to clear our minds and turn on the parasympathetic nervous system to enable our best sleep.

All of those things we do to promote better, deeper, and more restorative sleep culminates in our sleep hygiene. And since sleep is such a vital component of a healthy lifestyle, it’s a good place to start the journey!

Signs that you need to reevaluate your Sleep Hygiene

Sleepiness during the day, restless sleep, and trouble falling or staying asleep are all signs you need to revisit your sleep hygiene.

If this describes you, consider choosing a couple of items on the checklist and incorporating them into your daily life can deepen your sleep, leaving you more awake, present and productive during the day!

Laying meditation
Photo by Cristian Newman on Unsplash

Sleep Hygiene Tips 

Download the full Sleep Hygiene Checklist here:

  • Cut caffeine (minimally reduce caffeine to one cup before 10 am)
  • Cut Sugar (minimally stick to only unrefined sugar before noon)
  • No Eating or drinking for 3 hours before bedtime
  • No Screens for 2 hours before bedtime (if you must, use blue light blocking shades)
  • Limit liquids for 2-3 hours before bed to reduce bathroom breaks disrupting your sleep
  • Journal before bed
  • Write 3 gratitudes to set a positive mindset
  • Stream of consciousness journaling to let all your thoughts escape your head. That way they don’t circle your mind all night, keeping you up!
  • Any late night to-dos for tomorrow. Write them down, on paper (not screens) to release your mind from having to remember them for the next day)
  • Before bed, close your eyes, think about a positive space and what you want to dream about
  • Don’t snooze in the morning. Get up at the first alarm
  • Let the light shine in first thing! Sunshine triggers your body’s adrenal system to be awake.
  • Move for at least a couple minutes to get your blood flowing. This could be 25 jumping jack, deep stretches, 10 pushups, the 7-minute workout or a brisk walk with your dog.
  • In the morning, set an intention for your day and envision what you will do and accomplish throughout the day. This is like setting a mini- road map to your most successful and stress-free day because de-stressing is important for allowing your body to fall into sleep.
  • Start the day by drinking a room temperature glass of water
  • Eat a balanced breakfast (like sweet potato, chard, and eggs) within 40 minutes of waking up. This can help stabilize the cortisol curve.
  • Try to align your sleep with natural light and dark cycles to balance the circadian rhythms.
  • Know how much sleep you need and try to get it every night. If you’re not sure, aim for 8 hours of sleep as your minimum, and if you are tired try for 9. Then adjust to what your body needs as you learn over time your optimal sleep patterns.
  • Make the bedroom a comfortable space for sleep. Typically a dark cool room makes for the best sleeping conditions.

Additional Sleep Tips – not in the checklist

Use habit linking to make it easier for you!

Find a habit you already have and add one extra thing to that until a larger routine is normalized.

For example, if you always brush your teeth in the morning, start doing something immediately before or after you brush your teeth. Then the habit grows into two things and it becomes easier to do the new thing because it’s aired with something you already do every day.

Perhaps start by drinking a big glass of water after brushing your teeth. Or if you always hit snooze, use the first snooze not to fall back asleep, but to set intentions for your day and what you will accomplish in a mini 7-minute meditation.

Girl in Bathroom getting ready for bed
Photo by Hubble on Unsplash

Some extra tips for extra restful sleep

Epsom Salt Baths before Bed

Take an Epsom salt bath or use Magnesium lotion at night. Magnesium, found in Epsom salts, can help your body sleep sounder and a warm bath can help you relax, priming your body for better sleep.

Move and Get Your Blood Flowing

Exercise regularly and get movement each and every day.  Both your body and mind should be tired at bed-time. Adding exercise and daily movement can be the change you need to deepen and improve your sleep

Avoid processed foods

Processed foods are things made in large factories with little resemblance to the original whole food. For example breakfast cereals, readymade meals, and sugary snack-bars.

Avoiding processed foods can help your sleep in a couple of ways. First of all, they tend to be high in sugar which can make it difficult for your body to enter rest mode. Second, processed foods tend to have many preservatives and additives, some of which could be endocrine disruptors. Anything that disrupts your hormones could have an impact on your sleep.

Create a Dedicated Space for Sleep

Make the bedroom for sleeping only!

If you can, move the TV and desk out of the bedroom. It should be a sleeping sanctuary so your body knows that when you are going in there, you are going to sleep.

Girl and dog getting ready for bed

Still having issues sleeping well?

If you try these things and can’t fall asleep, don’t torture yourself.

After 30 minutes, try reading a book, journaling, or taking a bath. However, do not use screens or something that will stimulate your mind even more.

The one exception is if you have a task that is really weighing on you. Try getting up and completing or at least starting that task to see if it helps you get back to sleep.

About Alicia

I love cooking almost as much as I love eating so I try to make sure I feel good about what I'm eating. I believe it's always a good occasion for some bubbly and I also love feeling healthy and being outdoors. I try to buy, cook and eat whole nutritious foods that promote a fun active lifestyle.

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