#Health & Fitness

What is Sleep Hygiene, and Why Does it Matter?

by Caroline Harris

What is Sleep Hygiene, and Why Does it Matter?
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Do you wake up feeling exhausted even after getting plenty of sleep? Odds are the quality of sleep isn’t the problem — it’s the quality. Not all sleep is the same. Tossing and turning for eight hours doesn’t measure up to a restorative shut-eye. You can spend all day in a foggy haze despite supposedly getting enough sleep. Fortunately, there’s a solution to these woes: sleep hygiene.

 

Sleep hygiene is a set of techniques for improving sleep quality and daytime alertness. While the name sounds fancy, all it refers to is building proper sleep habits. Sleep is so important in preventing sickness, reducing stress, boosting memory and helping the body repair itself. It’s little surprise there is so much science around sleeping well.

 

Amidst all the goal-building of the new year, many people are talking about snoozing their way to success. That can be easier said than done when you struggle with insomnia, anxiety and other conditions keeping you up at night. We combed through research from the National Sleep Foundation and the CDC to discover top sleep solutions. Here’s how to improve your sleep hygiene.

 

1. Make your space a sanctuary.

Ideally, where you sleep should be an oasis from the stresses of everyday life. Make sure your mattress and pillows are comfortable. Keep your bedroom a little chilly (between 60 and 67 degrees) for optimal sleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Turn off bright lights from lamps, phones, TVs and other electronics. Adapt these guidelines to your living situation. If your roommate is a night owl, you might want to buy a sleep mask. You could block out noisy neighbors with blackout curtains and ear plugs.

 

2. Establish a bedtime routine.

Find out what makes you zen, then complete that routine every night. By repeating the same habits before you fall asleep, you will train your body to recognize it’s bedtime. To implement this technique, you could add a self-care corner to your space. Place candles, dark chocolate, face masks and whatever else blisses you out near your bed. You’ll be reminded to do your bedtime routine, whether that means reading a book, taking a shower or doing some yoga.

 

3. No more binge-watching Netflix in bed (although we understand the temptation!)

It’s easy to spend way too much time lounging in bed, especially if you work from home. But bringing daytime activities into bed confuses your body. You become used to reading, watching Netflix, composing emails and more in bed. That means lying awake at night can feel natural, since you already spend so many waking hours in bed anyway. To fix this, try only hitting the pillow when it’s time to snooze.

 

4. Steer clear of screens right before bed.

The Internet is invigorating! There are endless articles to read, videos to watch and exes to check up on. Social media apps tap into the same neural circuitry used by slot machines and cocaine to keep us hooked, according to Harvard Medical School. Scrolling through Instagram gives a hit of dopamine that encourages people to keep going. To really wind down, consider disconnecting. Reading a book right before bed leads to deeper sleep and significantly better retention. So if you’re looking to memorize new information and snooze more soundly, it’s time to hit the books (out of bed, of course).

 

5. Limit your daytime naps to thirty minutes.

Naps don’t replace adequate nighttime sleep, but they can give you the burst of energy you need to get on with your day. Limit your naps to 20 to 30 minutes if you want to optimize your mood, alertness and overall performance. That hour-long nap may seem like a good idea at the time, but you’ll probably wake up feeling groggier than ever.

 

6. Work on your fitness.

Working out is about more than just toning your physique, boosting your mood and improving your cardiovascular health. Those sweat sessions also work wonders for sleep. As little as 10 minutes a day of cardio can dramatically help improve your sleep. Check out these lazy girl fitness tips for some inspiration.

 

7. Watch what you eat immediately before bed.

You probably already knew a cup of coffee right before bed isn’t a good idea. But rich foods, spicy dishes, citrus fruits, carbonated drinks and fried meals also disrupt the body’s natural sleep cycle. If you have the midnight munchies, no worries! Snack on some slumber foods like scrambled eggs, a peanut butter sandwich, yogurt, an apple or a bowl of cereal. These specific snacks help the body produce more serotonin, a chemical in the brain that helps with sleep.

 

8. Try meditating.

If racing thoughts are keeping you up at night, daily meditation could be the answer. Apps like Headspace and Slumber have guided meditations to help quiet your mind. If you’re feeling extra fancy, you can track and analyze your sleep with Sleep Cycle.

 

9. Soak up some sun.

Getting sun during the day and darkness at night helps the body maintain a healthy sleep-wake cycle. Scientific lingo aside, what this means is sunlight signals your body should be awake while darkness tells your body it’s time to go to sleep. Spending all day in limited light can confuse your body and disrupt your sleep-wake cycle. So try to catch some rays.

 

10. Snag some sleep products like a diffuser or a meditation pillow.

We rounded up Amazon products below for a deeper, more restorative sleep. Scoop up sleep spray or a white noise machine to get snoozing stat.

 

1 of 7 Image Credits: Amazon

Positive Essence Lavender Aromatic Mist and Linen Spray

Lavender is known for its soothing properties. Fill your space with tranquil scents that will help you get that deep sleep you're after.

What Reviewers Are Saying:

“I used to have so much trouble falling asleep, thanks to my teacher brain that never shuts off. Now I spritz my pillows and sheets just before bed with this lavender essential oil pillow spray. I find myself more relaxed and ready to snooze.”

2 of 7 Image Credits: Amazon

Homagical Wake Up Light Alarm Clock

Do you dread the blare of your alarm clock? Ease into your mornings with a gentle wake-up light that mirrors the sunrise. Then slip into sleep with relaxing sights and sounds.

What Reviewers Are Saying:

“I am a registered nurse and work 12-hour night shifts. I use the night/sleep mode option with the sound of rain, simulation sunset and blackout curtains to fall asleep in no time. Then when I have to wake up, I use a peaceful alarm sound with the simulation sunrise starting an hour before the alarm. It is amazing how much this product has helped me wake up and fall asleep with ease.”

3 of 7 Image Credits: Amazon

Lectrofan High Fidelity White Noise Machine

The steady whir of white noise will help ease you into sleep. Block out disruptive noises and create a calming sound cocoon for bedtime.

What Reviewers Are Saying:

“How have I lived 26 years without this white noise machine? This product is a game changer. I have never fallen asleep more quickly in my life. It’s absolute wizardry.”

4 of 7 Image Credits: Amazon

LUNA Weighted Blanket

Weighted blankets help reduce anxiety and insomnia by creating pressure on the body. The added pressure increases the release of serotonin for deeper sleep and a sense of calm. This weighted blanket is a bestseller that comes in attractive shades of navy, pink, ivory and more.

What Reviewers Are Saying:

“This weighted blanket provides the best natural sleep. With this product, I fall asleep fast, stay asleep and wake up feeling refreshed.”

5 of 7 Image Credits: Amazon

Alaska Bear Natural Slip Sleep Mask

Block out the pesky lights of your roommate or neighbors. This sleep mask is made of luxurious silk with a gentle headband that won't snag on your hair.

What Reviewers Are Saying:

“I can’t sleep without the gentle pressure and coverage of an eye mask. This one is fabulous. I highly recommended. It would make a great gift for a traveler.”

6 of 7 Image Credits: Amazon

Florensi Meditation Cushion

Do you find yourself twitching uncontrollably during meditation? It's a common struggle. Sitting cross-legged can be surprisingly tough! This meditation cushion fixes that by giving you a little lift for extra comfort and better posture.

What Reviewers Are Saying:

“Whether you are a beginner meditator or have been meditating for years, this cushion is a beautiful gift. I love the color, embroidery, luxurious fabric and comfortable feel. The quality surpassed all my expectations.”

7 of 7 Image Credits: Amazon

LEVOIT Humidifier and Essential Oil Diffuser

Many people struggle with blocked sinuses that keep them up at night. Diffusers add moisture back into the air to prevent sinus infections and promote better sleep. This top-rated product doubles as an essential oil diffuser, so you can also spritz your favorite scents throughout your space.

What Reviewers Are Saying:

“Because of this humidifier, we sleep better than ever. It has made a noticeable difference in our sleep quality and how we feel when we wake up.”