What is Sleep Hygiene and Why Should You Care?
Take some time to address your rest!
With the wellness industry growing each year, people are becoming more aware of holistic health and preventative wellness. One of the buzzwords to come from this surge in self-care is "sleep hygiene." Yet, this isn't just a buzzword; it's a foundational aspect of one's overall health.
Before you start looking at supplements and the latest workout craze, take some time to address your rest. Here's everything you need to know about sleep hygiene and why it's so important.
What is Sleep Hygiene?
In simplest terms, sleep hygiene refers to your sleep habits. If you have poor sleep hygiene, you're not giving your body what it needs to enter a deep, restorative phase of the sleep cycle each night. Conversely, if you have good sleep hygiene, you're exhibiting healthy habits that promote getting enough sleep.
So why does sleep hygiene matter?
Your body does incredible things while you sleep. All of those internal functions that help you eat, move, focus, etc., need time to recharge for the next day, otherwise, you're starting at a deficit each morning.
The Impacts of Sleep Deprivation
Sleep deprivation is when your body doesn't get enough rest to function at an optimal level. This issue has a cumulative effect. While one night might cause minimal disruption, chronic sleep deprivation can lead to lasting issues.
Here are some of the impacts of continued sleep deprivation and why sleep hygiene is so important:
1. Decreased Immunity and Recovery
Your body needs rest not only to recover from illness and injury but to prevent them. Studies have shown that people who don't get enough sleep are more likely to get sick with the common cold or flu. Additionally, it's more challenging for them to recover, and the sickness affects the body a lot more than someone well-rested.
If you go to the gym or exercise, sleep is also important for repairing and building muscle while preventing injuries that could derail your progress.
2. Hormonal Imbalances
Another significant impact of sleep deprivation is the effect on your body's hormones. Within one week of limited sleep, a man might experience a 10-15% decrease in testosterone levels. This hormonal imbalance quickly becomes a vicious cycle, as it can also impact someone's ability to sleep.
Women are also impacted by testosterone, though to a lesser extent than men. However, female sex hormones estrogen and progesterone are also impacted by poor sleep, leading to more severe PMS symptoms, headaches, and a decreased libido.
3. Increased Stress Levels
Stress is often considered the silent killer based on how it impacts the human body. Sleep deprivation leads to an increased release of cortisol (AKA, the stress hormone). Increased cortisol levels affect weight management, hormonal regulation, and can lead to long-term heart health issues.
4. Decreased Cognitive Function
Your brain needs sleep to function optimally. Sleep deprivation can lead to loss of focus, poor decision-making, inability to regulate moods, and even long-term memory loss. While studies are limited, there's a proposed link between chronic sleep deprivation and dementia, though further studies are needed based on the initial findings.
How to Improve Sleep Hygiene
When looking at the evidence above, it's pretty obvious why sleep hygiene is so important. Here are some practical tips for improving your sleep hygiene:
Set Up a Sleep-Friendly Bedroom
Your environment plays a pivotal role in how well you sleep. Taking the time to set up a sleep-friendly bedroom is the foundation for better rest.
Start by assessing your existing bed setup. When did you purchase your mattress? If you're reaching the eight-year mark, it's time for an upgrade. According to Health.com, buying a mattress based on your sleep position and body type will ensure you get the joint support you need.
Next, check out the surroundings. The best sleep environment is cool, dark, and quiet. A set of black-out curtains, a noise machine, and a programmable thermostat go a long way.
Caffeine and alcohol negatively impact your body's ability to rest and recover. If you're a coffee drinker, try not to consume caffeine after lunchtime. Be mindful of hidden sources of caffeine as well.
Drinking alcohol also increases cortisol release and impacts restfulness. While having a drink before bed is fine, too much alcohol will prevent your body from reaching deep, restorative sleep. When you pass out from drinking, your body doesn't enter the restorative phase of the sleep cycle.
The blue light from screens impacts your natural sleep cycle and tells your body that it's time to be awake. Try to unplug from technology at least an hour before bed.
Creating a bedtime routine with sleep-friendly habits will improve your sleep hygiene for a happier, healthier you.
We Want to Hear From You
What does your bedtime routine look like? Which of these tips will you work on implementing?