Sleep is a precious commodity for a lot of us these days. Our busy schedules are filled with important activities competing for our attention, and sleep too often gets pushed to the bottom of our priority list. Sleep deprivation affects more than just your energy; it also negatively impacts your productivity, memory, ability to process information, immune system, and your sensory system and nervous system. Here are some concrete steps you can take to improve your sleep and function at your very best.
Steps for Better Sleep Hygiene
An Ideal Environment
- Make your room as dark as possible. This means investing in some blackout curtains and eliminating all sources of artificial light.
- Make your room quiet. Try some earplugs to block out the noise of the street or your partner’s snoring. It’s also a good idea to ask your family or roommates to keep your home quiet until you’re awake.
- Keep your bedroom temperature cool. Sleep studies show that a cooler ambient temperature helps you sleep more soundly. You can use blankets to keep warm but the air should be cool.
A Routine Is a Must
- Develop a structured pre-sleep routine. We are creatures of habits, so doing relaxing activities 60-90 minutes before your targeted bedtime can help your brain prepare for sleepy time.
- Cut off screen time 1-2 hours prior your targeted bed time. There’s plenty of evidence that light disrupts your sleep cycles, especially the light from smartphones, computers, T.V and some reading devices.
- If you have trouble falling asleep, get up, go into a different room, and do something relaxing. No screen time. Experiencing insomnia is stressful and anxiety provoking; your bedroom should be associated with sleep, not stress. Go into a different room. This helps your brain recalibrate, instead of focusing on the negative consequences of sleep deprivation.
- Reduce or eliminate caffeine. I get it; I am a coffee & tea drinker too. I go to bed looking forward to my morning brew. Sadly, caffeine stays in your system for about 8-14 hours after you’ve savoured that last cup of coffee. If you can’t eliminate coffee or tea by switching to herbal teas, at least commit to only one cup of coffee in the mornings. This will ensure that your body’s normal sleep cycle does not get highjacked.
- Stay hydrated thoroughly during the day. Dehydration affects sleep quality. Make sure to stop drinking about 2 hours prior to your targeted bedtime. That way you won’t have to get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom.
- Limit or eliminate alcohol, especially in the evenings. Alcohol disrupts REM sleep, worsens snoring, and increases your need to urinate. Many people enjoy a glass of wine at the end of a long day, but sleep studies shows that sleep suffers for it.
Little steps can make a big difference. With just a few changes to your environment, daily routine, and diet, you can regulate your sleep. Pick a few items to work on each week and build up to the full list. This will ensure a smooth transition towards achieving better sleep.