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When you hear the term “sleep hygiene” your mind probably jumps to things like cleaning your sheets or scrubbing behind your ears before you hit the sack. But in this case, hygiene isn’t about ditching dirt (at least not entirely); it’s about creating healthy habits.
As many as 70 million adults in the United States report having a sleep disorder. Almost 40 percent of those surveyed have accidentally dozed off during the day, and a staggering 30 percent of adults struggle with insomnia. If you lay awake at night and get up in the morning feeling less than rested, these tips may help you sleep longer and better overall.
1. CREATE A RELAXING SLEEP ENVIRONMENT
You can’t sleep in the middle of chaos. Crawling into a bed covered in clothes or trying to nest in a room full of clutter is a recipe for a restless night. In addition, letting dirt and mites build up in your bed could affect your health, especially if you already have allergies or asthma.
Start by clearing out any boxes, piles of clothes and knick-knacks that don’t need to be there. Commit to vacuuming not just your carpets, but also your drapes and upholstery at least every week — twice if your schedule allows. Buying a handheld vacuum and leaving it in your bedroom makes it easy to reach behind nightstands and your dresser whenever the need arises. Not to mention that having convenient access means spills can be addressed right away.
Other things to consider:
- Take the temperature of your room. Experts recommend keeping your thermostat between 60 and 67 degrees while you sleep.
- Swap out stimulating colors such as red, orange and yellow in favor of more relaxing hues including blue, gray, silver and warm neutrals.
- Only use blackout curtains if you truly need them. Letting in the sunlight in the morning is good for your circadian rhythm and may help you get into a healthy routine — but only if you’re not working night shifts or otherwise in need of a later wake-up time.
2. SET A SLEEP SCHEDULE AND STICK TO IT
Your brain needs help to get into a healthy sleep routine. Just like you train for a marathon, you need to prepare physically and mentally to get the sleep you need.
One of the biggest ways you can make an impact is to go to sleep and wake up at the same time as often as possible. Changing up your bedtime or sleeping late on the weekends may feel great or even be necessary on occasion, but those deviations confuse your natural rhythm. Aim for at least seven hours of sleep, but always listen to your body.
If you’ve been relying on power naps to help combat daytime sleepiness, you may need to press the reset button. That means toughing it out without naps for a day or two so you can go to bed at a decent hour and sleep through the night rather than allowing an afternoon snooze to derail your nighttime schedule.
3. DREAM UP A JUST-FOR-YOU BEDTIME RITUAL
Few people have the ability to go from cleaning the kitchen or a workout at the gym right to bed. For most of us, relaxing for an hour or so before shutting our eyes starts the wind-down process. It’s also a great way to separate a stressful day from what should be a peaceful night’s sleep. What you do to relax is completely up to your discretion, but these suggestions may help you find your inner zen before you catch some zzzz’s:
- Take a bath
- If you don’t have time for a bath, take a moment to wash your face or use a lavender eye mask for a quick pre-sleep pampering
- Have a cup of chamomile tea or another warm, non-caffeinated beverage
- Try yoga moves expressly for bedtime
- Read a book — just make sure you’ll be able to put it down without finishing it
- Practice meditation or other relaxation techniques
- Shut off the television and turn your phone to “do not disturb”
4. GIVE YOURSELF THE HIGH-QUALITY MATTRESS YOU DESERVE
A good night’s sleep is almost impossible if you can’t get comfortable. Old mattresses collect dust, lose their structure and often lack the support you need to sink into sweet, blissful sleep. Sometimes, the breakdown happens so slowly we don’t notice subtle changes until our backs start to ache or we find ourselves increasingly tired during the day.
According to Consumer Reports, a well-tended mattress could last as long as a decade, but changing personal preferences and other factors such as gaining or losing weight and not rotating your mattress could mean you need to go shopping sooner.
To treat yourself to a bed offering optimal support and tons of comfort, look into a memory foam mattress. For help choosing which model is right for you, check out our comparison chart that examines some of the best-selling options side by side. Some people are happy with the reduced motion transfer of a traditional model while hot sleepers might prefer the responsive technology behind air-cool mattresses. It may take some research to find out which memory foam mattress is right for you, but the results are worth the legwork.
5. LOOK INTO HELP
If you need a little extra assistance regulating your sleep, you’re not alone. The sleep device industry is booming, with everything from wearable sleep sensors to relaxation apps, promising to help you sink into dreamland and feel more rested when you wake. Explore the world of sleep apps if you think those might address your problem areas, or look into other gadgets on the market to minimize outside factors.
For instance, if the Tuesday morning garbage pickup wakes you up an hour before the alarm goes off or you’re constantly bothered by the sound of traffic, try a white noise machine that keeps up a constant hum of pleasant sounds to mask the less enjoyable ones. If you like aromatherapy but feel it wears off as soon as you doze, see if a diffuser stocked with lavender oil produces any improvement. Do you find yourself coughing every winter when the heat kicks on? A humidifier helps keep your lungs happy and may lead to better skin and less snoring too.
6. EXERCISE — BUT DO IT EARLY
Regular exercise encourages your body to function at its best, but it also produces cortisol, a stress hormone that could disrupt your sleep. Incorporating a daily jog or Pilates class into your busy lifestyle is a wonderful idea. Just get your cardio or weight-training in at least three hours before bedtime.
7. DITCH BAD HABITS TO MAKE ROOM FOR THE GOOD ONES
It’s just as important to break bad habits as it is to establish new ones. Avoid these pitfalls to get yourself on track and ensure you stay there:
- If you can’t sleep after 20 minutes, don’t just lay there. Get out of bed and try to relax elsewhere before trying again.
- Don’t bring electronic devices to bed.
- Stay away from caffeine late in the day, especially if you know it keeps you awake.
- Stop eating a few hours before bedtime as digestion can interfere with sleep.
- Don’t use drugs or alcohol as a crutch; it artificially alters your sleep. And while you may fall asleep faster, the quality of your rest will suffer, and your mornings may not be much better.
Everyone deserves a great night’s sleep, but high-quality rest doesn’t come easy. Dedicate some time to reworking your surroundings and changing how you approach your nighttime routine. You may soon find that your days of yawning through meetings and barking at your friends and family are nothing but a distant memory.