What is sleep hygiene? 

The National Sleep Foundation defines sleep hygiene as a variety of practices and habits that are necessary to have good nighttime sleep quality and full daytime alertness. 

Despite the fact that people know sleep is important they often have terrible sleep habits. So, let’s clean up your sleep hygiene so that you can sleep well and wake rested. 

Your entire daytime, wakeful period is a preparation for the quality of your sleep. This means that what you do during your day contributes to your sleep quality. So lets start there with a few practices you can do to get better rest at night. 

  1. Get adequate daytime light exposure. OUTSIDE! This is paramount to creating a healthy sleep routine. If we go back to the concept of Circadian Rhythm, understanding that our bodies have an internal 24 hour clock that functions by way of the level of light coming into our eyes and then to the hypothalamus (the part of the brain responsible for controlling circadian rhythm) then by ensuring that you’re getting adequate daytime exposure can help to regulate your own circadian rhythm. Getting outside in nature also has a calming effect which can help to reduce your cortisol levels. We want our cortisol levels to be low in the evening because then we are more relaxed. And we want our cortisol levels to be elevated in the morning, because that’s what signals the body to wake up.
  2. Limit stimulants like caffeine, nicotine and alcohol during the later afternoon hours. While alcohol may help you to fall asleep, too much of it before bedtime will interrupt your sleep. In the early morning hours, 2-4am, your liver begins the process of breaking down and metabolizing alcohol. This is why a glass of wine at night wakes me at 4 am with the sweats. A cup of coffee after 2 pm will also disrupt my sleep. If you use any of these stimulants, think about making a cut off time earlier in your day to improve your sleep. 
  3. Exercise!!!! As little as 10 minutes of aerobic exercise a day can drastically improve your nights sleep. Keeping in mind, exercise can also invigorate and energize you so intense exercise too close to bedtime can make it harder to fall asleep. However, this isn’t the same for everyone, so figure out what works for your body. 

Try these simple 3 tips this week and see if your sleep hygiene improves.