Have you ever been so tired that you felt like a different person? Perhaps you were irritable and snappy, or maybe you were lethargic and zombie-like, or perhaps you were one of those people who becomes uncontrollably giggly and slap-happy. I have a few family members who almost always fall into the latter category, and while this can sometimes be entertaining, lack of sleep no doubt causes disturbance in mood which can lead to concerning behavioral effects. Sleep not only affectsyour mental health, but your physical health as well. That is why it is so important to maintain proper sleep hygiene. Put simply. Sleep hygiene consists of practices that allow for quality nighttime sleep that in turn contributes to daytime alertness. Here are 4 simple ways to improve your sleep hygiene and to help you feel more rested!
Bed is for two things only… The identity of one of those things should be obvious, and I will tell you right now that the second one does NOT include binge watching Netflix. The only two things that should be happening in your bed (assuming this is being read by consenting individuals of appropriate age) are sex and sleep. If you are in bed and not doing one of these two s’s, you are not practicing good sleep hygiene. I bet that some of you are wondering about that nice book you leaf through right before lights out or those last few scrolls on Instagram before you hit the hay. While I understand the bookworms’ plight, experts do say that it is better to do all mentally stimulating activities in a location other than your bed. As for the cellphone, screen time before bed can be very disturbing to your sleep and should be avoided at all cost up to 2 hours before bed.
Keep your phone away from your nightstand… As I mentioned before, the lights that cell phones emit can be very damaging to your sleep as they disturb your circadian rhythm. As disturbing as the light from your phone is, it is not the only factor that can disrupt sleep; notifications that go off throughout the night may also disturb your sleep. While the “do not disturb,” feature on the iPhone is excellent for eliminating this problem, having your phone right next to your head may be more temptation than you can handle as far as a quick glance at the clock or at the score of the game you couldn’t stay up to watch. For absolute best sleep hygiene practices, keep your phone away from your nightstand, even if it means having to stand up to turn off your alarm in the morning. Your well rested body will thank you!
Don’t look at the clock… This is one of the toughest ones and one that I am frequently guilty of myself, but nonetheless experts say that you should not check the time when you wake up throughout the night. Looking at the time invites the mind to move from resting mode to thinking and planning mode. How many times have you looked at the clock and thought, “yes! I have 4 more hours!” or “you have got to be kidding me, my alarm goes off in 10 minutes,”? While the former might be appealing, it can still serve as a distraction from your sleep process and the latter can give you so much agitation or anxiety that you find yourself unable to fall back asleep. For those of you paranoid that you did not set your alarm, think about how many times in your life your alarm did not go off, and remind yourself that this is an occasional mistake and not a daily occurrence requiring your constant vigilance.
If you are up, stay up… This one is also difficult but is effective when put into practice. Remember when I said that bed is for the two s’s? Well, believe it or not, lying in bed for long periods of time trying to sleep or thinking about the day to come does not qualify as those s’s. If you find yourself lying in bed for more than 20 minutes unable to fall asleep, it is time to get up and move to a different room. When we lay in bed for long periods of time trying to sleep or running over our to-do list in our brain, our brains can become trained that bed is a place for planning and thinking. Guess what, once the brain is trained that way, instead of counting sheep when your head hits the pillow, you’ll be counting items on your grocery list. By physically getting up and doing something else when our brain ventures into that territory, it can relearn that bed is a place for the two s’s. Ideally when you get up you want to move to another room and do something quiet and relaxing like reading a book, knitting, or listening to calm music. Avoid cellphone use and TV due to the blue light they emit. Do whatever it is until you feel tired enough that you can fall asleep when you get back into bed. If you wake up again or still have trouble falling asleep, keep trying. Consistency is the way to retrain the brain.
Sleep is so important to our mental health and our physical well-being. Thankfully there are simply ways we can improve upon our sleep hygiene and create a better quality of life for ourselves. So, get out there and catch some z’s!
By: Hayley nelson