By Dr. Dawn M. Sweet
Good quality sleep is a crucial component of good health, and it can be key to helping us maintain a healthy weight.
For many of us, seven to nine hours of sleep per night can be elusive. Common advice for improving sleep includes not exercising before bed, not drinking alcohol, not eating a heavy meal, or not drinking caffeinated beverages at night. While this is all good advice, have you ever considered the role your bedtime routine has on your ability to sleep?
Sleep hygiene is the collective set of habits and behaviors that are required to achieve good quality sleep. We may not consider the importance of cultivating sleep hygiene as a strategy to optimize sleep. Cultivating and maintaining good sleep hygiene is one of the most fundamental ways to set ourselves up for success when it comes to improving sleep quality.
Why is Sleep Hygiene Important?
Sleep hygiene is important because it can help achieve better quality sleep which in turns leads to improved overall well-being. When we are properly rested, we are more likely to see improvement in thinking, attention, concentration, and memory. Have you ever had a hard time paying attention at that morning meeting or remembering all the points you wanted to make during your presentation? Poor quality sleep may be the culprit. Poor quality sleep can also increase your risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
Sleep hygiene is also important for physical well-being. Poor quality sleep has been implicated in weight gain and diabetes. When we sleep, our body produces and regulates hormones. Ghrelin and leptin are hormones that are associated with hunger and feeling full. When we don’t achieve good quality sleep, our bodies can struggle to regulate these hormones. This means that we feel hungrier than we are and end up overeating! This can lead to weight gain.
Poor sleep quality can also disrupt our body’s ability to regulate blood-sugar levels. When we are sleep deprived, our blood sugar levels can rise, and this can increase our risk of developing type 2 diabetes. If you are living with type 2 diabetes, your blood glucose may be difficult to control.
Tips for Achieving Good Sleep Hygiene
When we improve our sleep hygiene, we can achieve restful and restorative sleep and improve our overall health and better quality of life. Here are some strategies to cultivate sleep hygiene:
- Go to bed at a consistent time each night — this includes weekends!
- Get up at the same each day — this includes weekends!
- Make sleep a priority — sleep is as important as eating healthy and exercising.
- Optimize your bedroom to ensure it is dark, quiet, relaxing, and the room temperature is comfortable.
- Dim the lights in your house at your night.
- Keep electronic devices such as smart phones, computers, and TVs out of the bedroom.
- Avoid electronic devices like cell phones, tablets, and computers 30-60 minutes before bedtime.
- Avoid large meals, alcohol, or caffeine before bed.
- Include exercise as part of your daily routine — but not close to bedtime!
- Make sure your mattress and pillow are comfortable and offer support.
When it comes to sleep hygiene, what works for your spouse or friend may not work for you, so be sure to try different strategies to see which work best for your needs. Be patient and give yourself time to adjust to your new sleep hygiene habits.
About the Author: Dr. Dawn M. Sweet has over 20 years of experience in the field of communication. Dr. Sweet has given several invited talks to and workshops for academic and private sector audiences on the role of nonverbal and verbal communication in achieving positive outcomes and mitigating bias. Her research has been published in several top ranked peer-review journals, and it has been featured on NPR’s River to River / All Things Considered, Buzzfeed, and Science Daily. Her research has also been used to inform expert testimony.