It is common knowledge that in order to maintain positive health and prevent the spread of disease, it is imperative to practice good hygiene. Obviously, brushing your teeth, keeping your home clean, doing your laundry, washing your hands and showering regularly are habits that likely come to your mind when you hear the term “hygiene.”
However, an area commonly neglected in terms of hygiene is our sleep. 1 in 3 Americans get less than the recommended 7 hours of sleep every night, according to a study by the Center of Disease Control and Prevention. Lack of sleep puts Americans at a higher risk for obesity, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and chronic stress. In order to maintain an environment that is conducive to getting a high quality, full night of sleep, it is important to practice good “Sleep Hygiene.”
Six Keys to Good Sleep Hygiene
- Sleep on the right mattress: This is different for everyone. If you have allergies, you should sleep on a hypoallergenic mattress. Whether you prefer a firm mattress or a mattress on the softer side, it should support your body without too much pressure while you sleep in your preferred position. Finally, it should be large enough that you can move around comfortably, especially if you are sharing the bed with your partner.
- Keep your room as dark as possible: Light signals your body to be awake by inhibiting the release of melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep and wakefulness. Light can even be detected through your eyelids, which means that keeping a dark room is extremely important in maintaining your circadian rhythm. Invest in blackout curtains if you have street-lights near your windows, and keep the lights dim as you get ready for bed, so that you ease your body into a restful state.
- Cool Down Your Room: According to research, the ideal temperature for sleeping is between 64 and 68 degrees. In the summer, be sure you at least have an air conditioner in your bedroom, and in the winter, turn down the thermostat before you go to bed. Not only will this help you get a good night of sleep, but you will also save on your heating bill!
- Keep it Quiet: TV’s, your neighbor’s dog, cars driving by blaring loud music, or your partner’s snoring, can all disrupt your sleep. Do as much as you can to soundproof your room. If you live in a noisy neighborhood, look into soundproofing windows. Ask your neighbor to keep their stereo down after 10 pm. And when all else fails, try using some foam ear plugs.
- Keep Electronics Away: Cell phones, tablets, and televisions are all distractions. They also emit blue light, which is known to suppress melatonin and disrupt your sleep cycle. To ensure you get a good night’s sleep, avoid screen time 1-2 hours before bed. If you must use your computer, install an app such as F.lux, which automatically adjusts your screens colors and brightness based on your timezone, and removes blue light from your screen. If you have an iphone you can also enable “Night Shift Mode” in your settings in order to reduce your blue light exposure. Finally, keep your phone in a drawer or face down so that it doesn’t light up and wake you throughout the night.
- Practice a Bedtime Routine: Have a routine that helps your body and mind slow down before you head to bed. This will help prepare your body and mind for sleep. Turn down the thermostat, quiet the house, quit working, meditate, bathe, and dim the lights.
If you set an alarm to remind you of your routine, these sleep hygiene practices will become habits. By practicing good sleep hygiene, you will reduce stress, reduce your risk of disease, and wake up better rested and than ever before.