Hygiene is a big umbrella. Hygiene can encompass many things that run the gamut from assumptions that we have about cleanliness to the way we practically engage in cleanliness. It encompasses the ways we care for our bodies, maintain our physical upkeep, and even our nutritional choices. Sleep also falls under the hygiene umbrella as a form of self-care and an extension of our general health.
Sleep is also easily affected by stress. Everyone’s lived experience is unique, and there could be an array of ways your stress is manifesting. For some, this might involve racing thoughts, feeling consumed by worries from the day, experiencing anxiety about days ahead, etc. Having a place to put these worries can reduce the stress you’re holding in your mind. If you have a journal on hand, you can brain dump your concerns and actively place those worries elsewhere. You can also just list your concerns out to get a visual landscape of your stressors, remind yourself that you can spend time tomorrow processing them and give yourself permission to fall asleep. Finding a therapist to discuss your challenges and stressors also allows a designated place for those worries and can help you process through things that might be weighing heavily on your mind.
But if you’re simply feeling scattered and all over the place in any capacity, routine is key for cultivating healthy sleep habits. Below are a few habits and strategies you can use to get the most out of your sleep.
Schedule Your Sleep
If you consistently hit the same sleep window, your body will develop a rhythm, helping you fall asleep faster, stay asleep for longer intervals, and feel more rested upon waking up. Naps can throw off your sleep routine as well, so committing to a sleep schedule might mean a reduction in your nap frequency.
Gradual adjustments are your friend
A big adjustment, like going to sleep regularly at midnight and then switching rapidly to an 8pm bedtime, might feel like a quick fix. But your body will acclimate more effectively in increments of an hour or two earlier at night. The same can be said about introducing a nightly routine, like incrementally cutting down on screen time before bed and finding ways to wind down without electronics. Winding down might look different for everyone depending on what each individual finds relaxing, but some effective ways might involve stretching, reading, listening to calm music, meditating, and various breathwork techniques such as in for four, out for four
If you have trouble falling asleep, boundaries within your sleep environment could help facilitate a higher quality of sleep as well. For example, reserving your bed for sleeping alone and avoiding doing work or watching TV will build a link in your mind that your bed is for rest rather than activity. When you get in bed at night, your body will be able to quickly recognize the task at hand and fall asleep faster.
During the day, you can prepare yourself for sleep by spending some time in the sun. This will help your circadian rhythm–your internal, 24-hour biological clock that responds to light and darkness–create a healthy cycle. Physical activity will also help with falling asleep and staying asleep, as well eating earlier and cutting back on caffeine late in the day.
Last but not least, if you can’t quite put your finger on what is causing your struggles with sleep, a sleep diary can be an effective tool to identify what might be causing interrupted sleep or difficulty falling asleep. Recording the times you sleep and wake up, consume food, drink caffeinated beverages, work out, go outside, etc. might help locate where changes can be made to make your slumber more restful.
CDC. “CDC – Sleep Hygiene Tips – Sleep and Sleep Disorders.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, 15 July 2016, www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/sleep_hygiene.html.
Kersh, Erica. “Sleep Hygiene Explained and 10 Tips for Better Sleep.” Healthline, Healthline, 17 Aug. 2020, www.healthline.com/health/sleep-hygiene#relaxing-routine.
Suni, Eric. “What Is Sleep Hygiene?” Sleep Foundation, 14 Aug. 2020, www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-hygiene.