Here's a phrase I hear wayyyy too often : "I can't remember the last time I had a good night's sleep" – cue the relatable nod. We've all been there, tossing and turning, wondering when sleep decided to play hard to get. But guess what? You're not alone, my friend. Sleep hygiene might be the bedtime buddy you've been looking for.
Unveiling the Dream World of Sleep Hygiene:
Sleep – the magical time when our bodies recharge, minds wander into dreamscapes, and all the hustle of the day takes a back seat. It's a universal need, and a natural rhythm that quite literally governs our well-being (along with other things, but you get the picture). But did you know that the quality of your sleep isn't solely influenced by the number of hours you clock in bed? Enter the fascinating concept of sleep hygiene – a term that goes beyond sheets and blankets and encompasses the art of creating an optimal sleep experience.
It's not about scrubbing mattresses or perfecting the arrangement of pillows, though those details matter too. It's an umbrella term that includes a variety of practices and habits aimed at nurturing a restful and restorative slumber.
At its core, sleep hygiene is the art of preparing the stage for the main act: a deep, uninterrupted sleep that leaves you refreshed and ready to take on the world. It acknowledges that sleep isn't just a passive state but an active part of your well-being. Just as you tend to your physical health through exercise and nutrition, sleep hygiene extends a hand to your mental and emotional health by optimizing the conditions in which you sleep.
Let's Dive into the Dreamy Details:
1. Consistency: Consistency in sleep schedule involves setting a fixed bedtime and wake-up time, and yes, that means sticking to it even on weekends. It's like your body's weekly appointment with rest, a contract you honor to maintain the harmony between your biological clock and the external world.
Why does this rhythmic routine matter? Your internal clock, also known as the circadian rhythm, thrives on predictability. Just like your favorite song has a chorus you anticipate, your body anticipates sleep at a specific time when you maintain a consistent schedule. It aligns your sleep-wake cycle, making it easier to fall asleep, stay asleep, and wake up feeling refreshed.
2. Your Sleep Nest: Close your eyes and picture your sleep space – your haven of tranquility, the sanctuary where your dreams weave their stories. Now, imagine your sleep space getting the royal treatment it deserves. That's the essence of the second pillar of sleep hygiene: cozying up your sleep nest.
While your mattress, pillows, sheets, and blankets really lay the foundation for your sleep haven, your whole bedroom plays a role as well. If you don't LOVE your mattress, or your pillows, maybe it's time to consider investing in something more comfy. They'll last forever and a good sleep is totally worth the investment.
Don't forget about the rest of your environment - a messy room is going to call in cluttered thoughts. Dirty dishes, or smelly laundry around can affect the air you're breathing, whether you notice it or not. I recommend keeping as many electronics OUT of your room as possible - especially when you sleep. The artificial light emitted by electronic devices, such as smartphones, tablets, computers, and TVs, can interfere with your body's natural sleep-wake cycle and the production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin.
3. Self Care: Are you practicing self-care regularly? If not, it's no wonder why you might not be getting the best sleep. Even if you are just practicing them throughout the day, it doesn't necessarily have to be right before bed - but regular, dedicated time to yourself, away from the busy chaos of life, to do things just for YOU, promote rest and relaxation when it's time to finally go to sleep.
Meditation, deep breathing, or diving into a good book are some very accessible options that pretty much anyone can do. Even just 5-10 minutes per day can make a huge difference.
4. Mealtime Moderation: When we talk about mealtime moderation in the context of sleep hygiene, we're highlighting the relationship between your digestive system and your sleep quality. There's a lot of different opinions out there about how much and how late you "should" eat before bed, but really it is so individualized and you have to find what works for you by listening to your body.
Heavy, rich meals before bedtime might fill your stomach and satisfy your taste buds, but they can lead to discomfort, indigestion, and even heartburn. Your body's energy also might divert to the complex task of digesting, potentially interfering with your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Meanwhile, going to bed hungry isn't the solution either! I recommend opting for light, easy-to-digest meals that don't overwork your digestive system. These meals provide the nourishment your body needs without burdening it with the task of breaking down heavy foods. Think of it as a loving gesture to your body, allowing it to focus on rest and repair during sleep rather than digestion.
Foods that promote relaxation and sleep, such as complex carbohydrates like whole grains, lean proteins, and nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables are something to try out! These foods provide the building blocks your body needs for repair and recovery during the night.
5. Sweet Dreams Soundtrack: Again, this is something SO individualized. I've hear some people that can't sleep without a fan/white noise. Others, love ocean sounds or relaxing music. Me personally, I put on a very BORING sounding podcast and I'm out instantly! And still, all of that might be too distracting for you.
Either way, if sleep is something you're struggling with, try out a few different options and see if that makes a difference for you!
6. Rise, Shine, and Sun: Sunlight exposure during the day helps reset your body's internal clock. Known as the circadian rhythm, your internal clock is responsible for regulating your sleep-wake cycle. Sunlight exposure, particularly in the morning, helps synchronize your circadian rhythm with the natural day-night cycle. This sends signals to your brain that it's time to be awake and alert.
Sunlight exposure during the day also helps suppress the production of melatonin, a hormone that makes you feel sleepy. When you're exposed to bright natural light in the morning, your body receives the signal to reduce melatonin levels, promoting wakefulness and alertness.
Plus, sunlight exposure is linked to the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that contributes to feelings of happiness and well-being. When you're exposed to sunlight, your brain produces more serotonin, which can positively impact your mood and energy levels during the day.
It may not always be possible to get that sunlight in the morning to help you wake up. I bought this sunrise alarm clock and it has literally changed my life!
The benefits of sleep hygiene don't just end at your energy levels! All of these tips can boost your wellness in other areas, too. Everything is connected! Until next time, and remember – creating your wellness lifestyle isn't a one-size-fits-all; it's about designing a lifestyle that's tailored to you. 🌟
Head over to Instagram and find me at @bewellwithsteph_ to comment on my weekly podcast post and let us know your thoughts - how do these mindset topics about sleep make you feel? What are you still wondering about?
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You are worthy of living and capable of creating a healthy lifestyle you love. 🤍