Sleep Hacks: What is Sleep Hygiene & How to Improve Sleep Quality?
To a layman the term Sleep Hygiene may suggest washing and cleaning up before you hit the bed.
Just bathe and change into clean clothes before you decide to get into bed. However, that is not exactly what this quirky phrase means.
"Sleep Hygiene" may be a term that has its origins in sleep studies not the kinds that you undertake for exams, but the kinds that scientists and researchers undertake to pinpoint potential problems that arise during sleep.
Sleep Hygiene is considered the control of all factors, both behavioral and environmental, that come before and may interfere with a restful and effective sleep.
What are the factors that may be considered in sleep hygiene?
Hygiene factors that affect sleep which includes your daily routine, the general behavior you follow before bedtime, whether you sleep in an environment that promotes a restful sleep and more.
Consider this scenario. You watch a really scary movie just before bedtime. Then as soon as it finishes, you turn off the television and go to bed. The minute you close your eyes to sleep scenes from the movie begin running through your head and your adrenaline gets all pumped up making it difficult for you to sleep. Do you think you will be able to sleep restfully that night?
Obviously not, you will instead spend a very restless night pummeling your pillow and shifting from side to side on the bed mattress as you relive the movie in your head. Whatever little time you do manage to sleep eventually from exhaustion will not be restful and when you hear the alarm to wake up in the morning you will not want to get out of bed!
But all these doesn't happen when we stay in Hotels. Do you know why? because hotels use the best mattress and they get it made as per their specifications to serve their customers with the best sleep quality.
What are the problems arising from ignoring sleep hygiene?
If you do not have good sleep hygiene you are bound to suffer from sleep disturbances and day time sleepiness. The presence of these two symptoms should alert you towards improving your sleep hygiene as a low quality sleep will eventually begin affecting your productivity and behavior.
Now consider this second scenario. After a restless night thanks to the horror movie you saw, you spent a day yawning at your desk.
You feel tired and so you get yourself home early. You have a nice relaxing warm water bath and eat dinner. When get into bed afterwards you decide to treat yourself to some soft instrumental music as you sink into your mattress and meditate peacefully as you lie in bed. The tone of the evening is much more relaxed and after a while you slip right into the best night's sleep you've ever had. The factors that preceded sleep in both cases were vastly different leading to different sleep quality.
How can we practice effective sleep hygiene?
Wouldn't it be lovely if you could always have a great night's sleep? It's not that difficult a task. The insomniacs amongst you would be smirking right now thinking, it's easy for you to say that. If you have tried these special before sleep routines and found that they did not help you fall asleep any quicker or have a better sleep quality, you have just reason to be cynical.
The truth is that just like everyone looks different, everyone has a different internal constitution as well. So you need to understand that the sleep hygiene habits work for your friend may not work best for you. You need to identify what helps your body relax and get into the correct mode for sleep.
People can always follow some general guidelines like not taking naps in the day, and avoiding drinking too much coffee, or not smoking before getting into bed. These are pure common sense. However your body's metabolism will determine how best you can prepare for sleep.
Consider your personal sleep hygiene habits
Are you the kind of person who goes to bed at a fixed time and wakes up at the same time each morning? This habit will make your body get used to a certain routine and the body will want to fall asleep at a certain time.
However, if you find that you don't have a fixed bed time, you can alternatively trick your body by convincing it that bed time has arrived with a soothing pre-sleep routine. This could be a set of simple things you do that signals to your body that now it's time to sleep.
For instance you could do some simple stretches to work out the kinks in your muscles, and then sit down to do some meditation for five minutes. You could follow that with a warm water bath and relax your muscles before you finally hit the bed.
The steps need to be done in sequence and they need to be done each day to ensure correct signals head out to the mind and body.
Fix the sleep environment related issues
Do not treat your bed as a place to lounge about. You must only get into bed when you have decided to sleep. If you sit in bed and skim, your body won't relax into sleep mode. Once you do get into bed ensure that your bed is comfortable. Uncomfortable bedding can be the cause of poor sleep quality. Make sure that your mattress is not sagging, the pillows do not smell and the bed linen is fresh and clean.
Eliminate any unpleasant odors that may exist in your bedroom.
Try and sound proof the room so ensure that you can block out distracting noises from the neighborhood.
Small neon lights from the bedside alarm clock can also cause stress to the mind, so eliminate as much light from the room as possible when you decide to sleep.
Revising your pre-sleep habits is a good way to ensure that you maintain a good quality sleep each night.
However what works for you will be a matter of trial and error in the beginning. Don't lose hope of a good night's rest though, just figure out what works best for you and your system.