Tips For Improving Sleep Hygiene!
We all know that nutrition and fitness are tall, tall pillars of wellness, but both of those are exponentially more difficult without the linchpin–sleep. It goes like this. First, you sleep like absolute donkey turds. Next, If you’ve managed to get to the gym you’re more likely to underperform or you may just succumb to skipping it entirely! Then, you’re more prone to food cravings and your hunger-satiety cues aren’t coming across as clearly. Your irritableness and fatigue make comfort eating seem that more appealing that day. You wonder, “Can you replace sleep with food?” Only very temporarily, and then you’ll be stuck in that loop until you get some shut eye.
We’re all sleeping fewer hours it seems, and there’s reason to believe it plays a crucial role in maintaining an overall healthy lifestyle. Many mental and physical aspects of the body take a hit when we’re running on empty. That’s why sleep is so important! So–here’s a list of some lifestyle adjustments that can make falling asleep a little easier.
Limit What You Do in Your Room: This can be difficult depending on your living arrangements, but the more you can limit your room to just sleeping and being intimate, the more you’ll be able to relax and wind down. Your brain gets the message! If you’re living in a dorm, try to spend wakeful hours in the common areas or at the library. If you’re in a less than ideal home situation and your room is your only haven, try to find activities to keep you out of the house more often. I used to go to the public library and just chill!
Ditch the Phone: Look. I get it. You tell yourself “what if there’s an emergency?” and I totally understand you’d want to be there. Problem is, how many times do you whip out your phone and play a level of that game? How many times do you shoot a quick text or check social? Shoot, how many times do you just glance at your clock and moan about not being asleep yet? I have a solution. Leave it outside the room but within earshot. If you get your 3 AM emergency you can be there but you’ll be significantly less tempted to check it every 5 minutes. If you can go all the way, shut it off. OFF.
Limit Blue Light at Night: About TV. About computers. About phones (again). They emit blue wavelengths of light and these are very stimulating for the brain. Sort of like daylight! Not only are these entertaining, they wake up the brain. There are various apps and extensions on the market (f.lux) that will change the wavelengths of light to redder hues and I highly recommend them. I’d still advocate against bringing these devices into the bedroom, but if you’re finishing up some homework or responding to an email before bed it may be helpful to use those warmer colors. If for nothing else, it will reduce eyestrain.
Use White Noise: It helps us sleep because the changes in other environmental noise will be less noticeable. Also, anyone who suffers a ringing ear will be driven less to insanity. I’m a light sleeper, a very light sleeper. Events like a toilet flushing upstairs or even just the A/C switching on will wake me up. After buying a white noise machine I have significantly fewer issues with this. I recommend this machine. There are apps as well but I found the noise to be really tinny and unnatural. We’re also trying to use the phone less in the room! Remember? Of course, many people are pretty content with the noise from a fan as well. I personally find that the crappier the fan, the better the white noise. The ol’ faithful $20 Lasko fan is the best white noise IMO.
Avoid Eating Late at Night: Or, whenever “late” is for you. I haven’t forgotten about third shifters! Again, there are circumstances that make this difficult for some to commit to, but if you’re prone to any sort of gastrointestinal turbulence eating close to bedtime can be awfully distracting and uncomfortable. Likewise, eating your last meal a little too early and winding up hungry at bedtime can be as issue for some, so find your Goldilocks!
Make Your Room Cool at Night: I avoid running the A/C during the day, but I’m sure a lot of us find sleeping in a hot room miserable. If I had it my way I’d make it Hoth in my room at night, but that’s a little on the expensive side so I use a little bit of A/C, a fan, and sleep with fewer blankets; at least in the summer. In the winter I just turn the heat down a couple clicks and get to bury myself (yaaaaas). Keep it dark in there, too!
Make Your Bed in the Morning: Keeping your room tidy and the bed made will make for a welcoming and less chaotic environment. There isn’t much to this! We experience the world with all our senses, after all.
Limit Caffeine Use to the Earlier Portion of the Day: OK, so I know there are people who can drink a cup of coffee before bed and pass right out, but I am not one of these people. In fact, if I drink it anytime after about noontime I’m going to be wired and howling with the coyotes. Many recommendations suggest 3-4 PM as an absolute cutoff time, but if you’re more sensitive like I am you may want to consider leaving it to the morning only.
Sleep and Wake at Roughly the Same Time: Routine is everything. There will be times we need to deviate from routine, and that’s fine! Just try not to flip-flop too severely and all the time. Your rhythm will start to associate these times of day with rest and wakefulness.
Stop Drinking Water Roughly Two Hours Before Bed: It’s undeniable that water is the most healthful thing we can put into our bodies; however, if you slam it right before bed you’re setting yourself to need a mighty wee in the early hours of the morning. Limit water intake close to bedtime and take a good wiz before hitting the hay.
A Few Things Worth the Try
- aromatherapy (especially lavender based blends)
- shower before bed (wet hair will lower cranial temperature)
- melatonin and valerian root
- chamomile tea (just like water, limit this a few hours before bed to prevent midnight bathroom breaks)