As we discussed in our previous blog about insomnia; a lot of people have difficulty with sleep. Sleep issues are often the common denominator in many different mental health concerns, including depression, anxiety, fatigue, and irritability. How do we improve our sleep? It often comes down to evaluating your sleep hygiene.
What is sleep hygiene?
Nighttime rituals and habits before we go to sleep are what we refer to as “sleep hygiene”. Many of us don’t recognize that the way we behave before sleep is a huge indicator in the quality of sleep we will get. Here are some of the biggest mistakes a lot of us make before sleep that could lead to insomnia and poor sleep:
Screens before bed
It is well known at this point that exposing our brains to blue light before sleep is counterproductive; blue light tells our brain to stay awake. Mindlessly scrolling social media before bedtime also keeps our brains engaged when they should be winding down.
Irregular sleep schedule
If one night you get to sleep at 9pm, but then stay up the following night until after midnight, it is hard for your brain to determine when your actual bedtime is. This especially includes drastically changing your sleep schedule on the weekends.
Using your bed for anything but sleep
It’s important that we save our beds for sleep only, so that our brains can associate lying in bed with going to sleep. If we use our bed to sleep, do homework, or watch TV, we are sending the wrong message to ourselves and we are more likely to stay awake and/or sleep poorly.
Uncomfortable bedroom environment
It’s important that we make our bedrooms as comfortable as possible to get the best quality sleep. Sleeping in a cluttered space, in warm temperatures, and/or with a lot of background noise may contribute to poor sleep and insomnia.
What does good sleep hygiene look like?
Having a healthy nighttime routine
As stated above, we know that going to sleep at the same time every night helps us get better sleep and prevents insomnia. Having a “calm down” routine before bed can also quiet the mind and get us ready for sleep. Listening to calming music, sipping nighttime tea, and taking a long warm shower are activities that can help soothe the mind. Try out different activities to see what works best for you.
Avoid eating and drinking alcohol or caffeine before bed
Our bodies need to expend energy to process the things we eat and drink, which can prevent us from getting sleep. It’s also important to avoid stimulants such as caffeine at least 6 hours before our bedtime.
Sleep in a comfortable environment
According to Dr. William H. Noah, it’s important to “create an environment that establishes the right conditions that you need for sleep. Make it cool, quiet, dark, comfortable, and free of interruptions. Check for and remove distractions — light, heat, noise, or other things that may cause stress. Consider adding ear plugs, blackout curtains, or white noise to your bedroom.” (1)
What are some things you’ve found to help you sleep? All of us are unique, and we all have unique ways of winding down for bedtime and different tips and tricks that work for us. Feel free to share your knowledge with others!
If you are having trouble with sleep hygiene, talking to a mental health professional can help. Reach out to us at Calm Mind Counseling Center to make an appointment!