Do you maintain good sleep hygiene?
When you wake up in the morning, do you typically feel well rested and refreshed? If the answer is no, you are likely not getting enough quality sleep.
The average adult requires seven to nine hours of uninterrupted sleep to function optimally every day. But the reality is that not everyone is able to routinely achieve this amount of sleep.
Perhaps you’re one of those who think with enough coffee or energy drinks in your system, you can always make it through the day despite your sleep deficit? Let me warn you that sleep deprivation is more serious than you may realize, as it is associated with heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, and even Alzheimer’s disease.
Lack of sleep also translates into excessive daytime sleepiness, decreased work productivity, and heightened irritability. It’s ultimately a huge detriment to your health and overall well-being.
If you are amongst those who complain about tossing and turning through out the night and you always arrive to work in the morning in “zombie mode”, you may want to really start focusing on your sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene encompasses those lifestyle choices you make that will promote a good night’s sleep.
So, in recognition of National Sleep Awareness Week, really begin to start working on your sleep hygiene and eliminating the following bad habits that may be compromising the quality of your sleep.
Smoking cigarettes: Nicotine is a powerful stimulant that can enhance one’s level of alertness and also disturb the sleep-wake cycle. It may also contribute to very fragmented sleep.
A 2013 study in the Journal of Psychology, Health & Medicine, estimated that about 1.2 minutes of sleep is lost for every cigarette an individual smokes. This just further signifies another reason that smoking cessation is so important, as it will help to improve sleep health.
Technology and/or social media addiction: Are you guilty of frequently falling asleep with your smartphone in your hand? Do you wake up mid slumber just to check your email or social media feeds? Well, you’ll definitely need to cut back on these habits since it only shaves away your precious sleep time.
It’s also important to note that electronics, such as smart phones and lap tops emit some “blue light” (shorter wavelength light) which when exposed to at night may actually reduce melatonin secretion and affect one’s circadian rhythm.
Nonetheless, overuse of electronics and social media can negatively impact both the quantity and quality of sleep you can achieve. A key step in improving upon your sleep hygiene is to avoid having any electronics in bed.
Drinking an alcoholic beverage right before bedtime (Having a nightcap): Some people have a nightcap to help them fall asleep at night. However, research has shown that alcohol may disrupt the restorative phase of the sleep cycle leading one to wake up more frequently over night.
So yes, a glass of wine before bed may lead you to fall asleep quickly since alcohol has a sedative effect, but you may lose out on the quality restorative sleep that helps keep you refreshed and energized in the morning. Additionally, alcohol can act as a diuretic causing you to wake up in the middle of the night to urinate which only further interferes with sleep.
Lack of exercise: Leading a sedentary lifestyle should be avoided as it is a huge detriment to both your sleep health and overall health. So get moving! Research has linked exercising to an improved quality of sleep. Regular aerobic activity in particular has been shown to be an integral component in lowering symptoms of insomnia and improving overall quality of life.
Stress: Stress majorly interferes with the achievement of quality sleep. It may elevate your cortisol levels which will make it more difficult for you to fall asleep.
Subsequently, you are extremely tired, groggy, and irritable in the morning which just renders you even more stressed out. It becomes a vicious cycle. Therefore, you must identify the stressors in your life and address them immediately.
Prayer, meditation, and even yoga are great stress relievers to incorporate into your daily routine that may help you relax and improve the quality of your sleep.
Suboptimal bedroom environment: You must ensure that your bedroom environment is conducive to sleeping well. When it is bedtime, turn off all of your lights and set the thermostat to a comfortable temperature— not too hot or too cold. Bright lights and harsh temperatures can create a subpar sleeping environment that makes it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Inconsistent sleep schedule: Many of us have extremely busy and sometimes chaotic schedules. But in light of this, there must be some level of consistency in regards to your bedtime.
Make it a habit to formulate and adhere to a good sleep routine, whereby you go to bed at the same time every single night. Keeping a sleep diary can be a great starting point to identify any inconsistencies in your sleep schedule.
Make great strides to improve your sleep hygiene! If you are still unable to obtain quality sleep or cannot maintain regular sleep patterns, you should discuss your concerns with your doctor. You may need to be evaluated for a sleep disorder that may be wreaking havoc on your sleep health.