Sleep? Who’s She?
Sleep is so important for so many reasons. Getting 8-9 hours of sleep increases your energy-levels, encourages a better eating-routine, and helps keep your mind clear and ready for what the day may hold. However, sleep is also difficult for so many reasons. Whether you have insomnia, anxiety, racing-thoughts, or simply can’t get into a good routine, lack of sleep is a common issue that we have all come across at some point. Unfortunately, it is easy to become caught up in a toxic relationship with sleep. When you can’t sleep, things that you struggle with are amplified, and when things that you struggle with are amplified, you can’t sleep. It is a vicious cycle that, while stressful, can absolutely be broken out of.
What is Sleep Hygiene?
Good sleep hygiene is very important, especially if you are somebody who struggles with insomnia or the vicious cycle of sleeplessness. Despite how it sounds, sleep hygiene is more than going to bed scrubbed and showered. Good sleep hygiene is a lifestyle change that encourages healthier sleep habits and an overall improvement of quality of life. Practising good sleep-hygiene is an accessible, inexpensive change that anybody can do. It is important to note that while it is healthy and a great thing to incorporate into your life, practicing good sleep hygiene is not intended to replace medical treatment for diagnosed sleep disorders, and that it is always a good idea to check in with your physician if you are having chronic sleep issues.
Tips and Tricks
Here are some surprisingly simple tips for incorporating good sleep hygiene into your life: 1. Your bed is for sleeping
With the ongoing pandemic and the safety protocols that have come with it, more and more companies have been operating remotely. As a result, many people’s homes have also become their office spaces as they work from home. Even though it can be tempting to work from the comfort of your bed, it’s important to be sure to keep your bed separate from other aspects of your life, such as work and school. I also avoid playing video games, eating, and watching tv while I’m in bed. Keeping your bed separate from the rest of your daily activities will help you begin to associate your bed with sleep.
2. Remove any time pressures
I used to have an alarm clock near my bed, and I would watch as the numbers changed; an unnerving neon reminder that I still couldn’t sleep. Removing any clocks or time-displays is a good way to help avoid becoming stressed or fixated with how late it is or how much time is passing. If you need an alarm clock to wake you up in the morning, keep it on your nightstand but cover it with a light cloth or piece of clothing, allowing the alarm to do its job without needing to see the numbers.
3. Fine-tune your environment
Making a couple of small changes to your bedroom or sleep area can help make it a better environment for rest and relaxation. One way that I have done this is by
hanging a tapestry between my bed and the rest of my room, turning my bed into its own comfortable little island. That way, when I leave my computer desk after a day of working or writing, heading to bed feels like walking into a whole different environment. Other easy actions such as opening a window, lighting a candle or incense, playing some white-noise or calming lo-fi music, and setting up comfortable lighting are all things that can help setting up your environment for a good night of sleep.
4. Avoid stimulants before bed
If you are a coffee-drinker or an energy-drink fan, be sure to stay conscious of how much caffeine you are consuming. If you drink caffeinated beverages on a daily basis, try to set an alarm or give yourself a time that signals when you should stop drinking anything with caffeine in it. I would recommend doing so in the late afternoon. If you are used to drinking coffee or soda in the evening, try replacing it with a drink that helps promote good sleep, such as warm-milk (or a non-dairy alternative), water, or decaffeinated tea. My personal favourite evening beverage is sleepy-time tea that has chamomile and lavender in it. Having a little routine like that helps signal that it is almost time for bed.
5. Keep a Routine
Speaking of routine, while following the same schedule every day may feel monotonous, consistency is key when it comes to establishing a healthy sleep-schedule. This doesn’t at all mean that there is no room for spontaneity in your schedule, it is also important to not be rigid. The goal isn’t to make sleep the focus of your entire day, but to encourage continuity and healthy habits. A couple of things that I have incorporated into my daily routine involve setting my alarm at a similar time every day, exercising in the morning rather than at night, and eating earlier. I also have added a couple of acts of self-care, such as drinking my favourite tea before bed, taking a bath or shower before bed, doing a relaxed activity that I enjoy such as reading or knitting, and making sure that my sheets are cleaned regularly.
Sleep On It
Even though all of these tips are great ways to help improve your sleep hygiene, the most important thing to do is to be kind to yourself. Sleeping isn’t easy, especially with all of the stressors that happen in our daily lives that keep us tossing and turning at night. Try to not become too discouraged if you do not immediately succeed at getting into a steady sleep routine. If you have a couple of sleepless nights or mornings where you sleep past your alarm, applaud yourself for trying and embrace the day despite the rocky start. You are taking steps towards self-care, and that is the most important step that you can take.