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Sleep Hygiene 101 - What Is It & Why Is It Important?

Restful sleep is one of the few most important things for our body and mind. Poor night’s sleep can set off a chain reaction of numerous health problems and therefore you must not neglect sleep hygiene.

If you have never thought about how significant sleep is, let’s do it now. Remember the day after you slept 7 or more hours without interruption the night before. You must have been very productive and felt great. 

And now remember the day when you couldn’t fall asleep until 3 AM or you woke up every hour. You barely made it through that day. That is how important quality sleep is and those are just short term effects.

In the long run, sleep problems including insomnia can lead to many physical and mental illnesses. We all regularly maintain the hygiene of our body, mouth and hair. 

And then why don’t many of us maintain sleep hygiene that is equally important? To help you sleep better, we from The Sleep Advisors have written a guide about sleep hygiene.

Table of Contents
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    What is sleep hygiene?

    The late 70s and early 80s are the years when the development of sleep hygiene began. Although the term sleep hygiene was first mentioned back in 1939, it took sleep medicine some 40 years to make sufficient progress and only then could sleep hygiene become an important environmental and behavioral practice. This is also the definition of sleep hygiene.

    An image of a relaxed woman in bed.

    Generally speaking, sleep health hygiene is not one thing you should do, but rather many different habits related to sleep. For example, a nightly routine is certainly part of sleep hygiene, but also many other activities that last throughout the day. It is not possible to have good sleep hygiene if you drink five coffees a day and eat fast food before bed.

    Sleep hygiene was originally designed to help those suffering from insomnia, but not the most severe forms of insomnia. Later, doctors began to recommend everyone to pay attention to their sleep habits. Many indexes and scales have been created to make it easier to track progress. Some of these indexes and scales are the Sleep Hygiene Index, the Sleep Hygiene Self-Test, and there are specially tailored scales for children and teenagers.

    Why should you pay attention to sleep hygiene?

    There are so many reasons why you should pay attention to sleep hygiene and what reason can be more important than your overall health? As we mentioned at the beginning, in order to live a healthy and productive life, you need to sleep well, simple as that.

    An image of a happy woman in bed due to enough sleep.

    The first signs of sleep problems are a drop in productivity, mood, libido and concentration. If these signs are ignored, then the problems will become more serious, both physically and mentally. Some of the most serious diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, thyroid disease, depression, anxiety are associated with insomnia. 

    Also, the data show an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease in those who do not get enough sleep. To avoid getting sick from some of these diseases or to at least significantly reduce the chances of it happening, you need to pay attention to sleep hygiene.

    What is considered to be good sleep hygiene?

    Circadian rhythm is an internal process characteristic not only of humans but also of animals and plants. Healthy sleep-wake cycle is crucial and it is controlled by circadian rhythm. However, we don’t have identical circadian rhythm and also the lifestyles are different so not everyone can have same healthy sleep habits. Nevertheless, sleep schedule, bedtime routine and healthy daily habits are essential for your sleep hygiene to be considered good. 

    an image of a woman sleeping on her left side

    It is important to keep in mind that you need to practice sleep hygiene and follow our sleep hygiene tips in order to sleep well every night. Don’t expect to experience significant improvements a day or two after you start practicing new habits. It takes time but it is well worth.

    Following a good sleep schedule

    Your body loves routine. So you should eat meals at a similar time every day, exercise regularly as well as develop a consistent sleep schedule that you will stick to.

    Featured image of A sleepy girl with a glass of milk before the bed time.

    Following a fixed time for waking up

    Once you get used to waking up at the same time, in 99% of cases you will wake up at that time even when you are on vacation. While this can be annoying when you want to sleep longer, this is the key to achieving a regular sleep schedule. So set the alarm at the same time every day and after a few weeks you will no longer need the alarm. This is the only problem for those who work in shifts.

    an image of a man setting an alarm clock

    Having enough sleep

    Six to eight hours of good night’s sleep is more than enough for an adult. It is not necessary for an adult to sleep 10 hours as a baby. Uninterrupted sleep is even more important than the length. Of course, do not sleep only 3 or 4 hours, because sleep deprivation will negatively affect you after just a few days, not to mention weeks or months.

    An image of a woman feeling good when sleeping after meal.

    Changing sleep schedule gradually

    If you haven’t had a routine in years, don’t expect to be able to adopt a routine in a matter of days. You have to change your sleep schedule gradually, so go to bed half an hour or an hour earlier every few days. This way you will slowly adjust your body to the change and it will be long term.

    An image of a woman preparing for a coffee nap.

    Avoiding long and late-evening naps

    Naps can be very useful. These can be power naps that last only 15 or 20 minutes, as well as slightly longer naps, about an hour. But if you sleep for 3 hours, then it is no longer nap and it will definitely affect your night’s sleep. Also, no matter how tired you are, avoid late-evening naps, rather wait another hour or two and then go to sleep. Otherwise you will fall into a vicious circle.

    An image of a man napping on a sofa.

    Develop a nightly routine

    You should avoid some things that can make it difficult for you to fall asleep and have certain rituals that will remind your body that it is time for bed. Bedtime routine is equally important as sleep schedule and healthy habits.

    An image of a young beautiful woman on a bed with eye mask.

    Avoid electronics at least an hour before the bed time

    Devices such as smartphones, tablets and laptops emit blue light. Blue light negatively affects the secretion of melatonin, a hormone most important for sleep of all hormones in our body. Melatonin is secreted only in the evening. Therefore, try to not use such devices, even if it is possible to turn on eye comfort filters as they can disrupt sleep.

    an image of a hand leaving a smartphone on a nightdesk

    Use relaxation techniques to achieve better sleep quality

    Choose one or more relaxation techniques that will help you fall asleep faster and sleep better. Some of the relaxation techniques are yoga, meditation, aromatherapy, relaxing music and breathing techniques. All of them will help you calm your body and mind. You need to master these techniques before you feel all the benefits.

    a woman meditates before sleep

    Try some of the tricks for easier falling asleep

    Numerous tricks for easier falling asleep are out there and it is up to you to choose the one that helps you relax. You can count sheep, warm your hands and feet, drink warm milk or whatever makes you sleepy. Try more tricks until you find the right one. Don’t be afraid to try some unusual tricks too.

    an image of a woman doing 4-7-8 trick for falling asleep

    Have healthy daily habits

    Sleep and daily habits are clearly correlated. If you take care of the following things during the day, you are doing yourself a favor because you will probably sleep well and vice versa.

    An image of a young wife having better eating habits due to the proper sleep schedule.

    Get enough daylight if possible

    Just as it is very important not to be exposed to strong light in the evening in order not to disturb the secretion of melatonin, it is equally important that you get enough sunlight during the day. Sunlight is essential for eyes, mood, vitamin D secretion and strong bones. Also daylight will not make you sleepy and so you will avoid naps.

    An image of a man working in garden under the daylight.

    Stay physically active during the day

    You have to be tired to be able to fall asleep on time in the evening. And we don’t just mean mentally tired, which is sometimes counterproductive, but physically tired. If you work in an office, it is very difficult to get physically tired. That is why it is necessary to have a workout routine. But not a workout session just before bed, rather hour or two before.

    An image of a woman exercising

    If your daily activities do not allow you to hit the gym after the work or during the day, you can do pushups before the bed time. Be honest – you can find an hour for the pushups, an hour or two hours before going to bed. Avoid hitting the bed right after you finish the workout – take a shower, eat something and slowly enter the sleep mode before actually hitting the bed.

    Avoid caffeine in the evening/at night

    Caffeine is a natural stimulant consumed by people all over the world. Coffee is certainly the most popular beverage that contains caffeine, but it is also found in energy drinks, chocolate and tea, among others. You should not consume caffeine after 4 PM, and you should especially avoid caffeine in the evening or at night.

    an image of a woman drinking coffee

    Avoid smoking and drugs

    Cigarettes, drugs and alcohol are stimulants that can disrupt the sleep cycle. Nicotine can keep you awake much like drugs. Alcohol will seemingly make you sleepy, but sleep will be discontinuous and you will need more time to get to the REM phase. Cigarettes, drugs and alcohol are harmful not only to sleep but also to overall health, so avoid them.

    quit smoking to stop snoring

    Skip late dinner & huge meals

    You should not skip dinner, but dinner shouldn’t be very late nor consist of fast food and other things that you should absolutely avoid especially at evening. It should be well-balanced meal, full of protein and carbohydrates, as well as healthy fats. If you are very hungry just before the bed, eat a healthy snack and not a full meal or potato chips.

    an image of a woman eating a heavy meal

    Use your bedroom for sleep ONLY

    If the bedroom associates you with work or watching a movie, then it will be much harder for you to fall asleep. It is important that your mind connects the bedroom exclusively with sleep, and not with any other activities. Sex is the only activity other than sleeping allowed in the bedroom.

    a wooman in pjamas stretching in front of a window

    Keep your bedroom optimized for a sleep

    You can follow all the tips we have given you so far, but if the bedroom is not optimized, your night’s sleep will suffer.

    an image of an optimal lighting in a bedroom

    Keep your room temperature at the optimal level

    The effect of room temperature on sleep is very great. The ideal bedroom temperature is around 18 degrees. Many people like to sleep in a cold room and it has many benefits, but it should not be too cold either. Also, if it is hot in the bedroom, you will be constantly sweating and you will not be able to sleep, even if you are not a hot sleeper.

    an image of setting the temperature at the ac

    Keep your lights dimmed

    Many people like to read a book in bed. It’s definitely a much better bedtime routine than watching TV or using a smartphone. But it is important to dim the lights. If the lights are too bright, it will negatively affect the already mentioned melatonin. You should install dimmers in the bedroom so that you can lower the intensity of the light. Alternatively, think of night lights for kids. Even though these are made for toddlers and children, night light can keep your room optimized for sleep.

    a woman sleeps in the bed with the light on

    Invest in a high quality mattress & mattress topper

    The mattress is of utmost importance. It is one of the most important investments for your health, so you should not save when you decide to buy a mattress. Choose the ideal mattress for your sleep position. For example, the best mattress for side sleepers is not the same as for stomach sleepers. If you have a good mattress, but want to improve some of its features, then you should consider buying a mattress topper.

    an image of Silentnight Eco Comfort mattress topper on a bed in a bedroom

    Buy bamboo pillows & bedding to ensure hypoallergenic environment

    Many people suffer from allergies. But did you know that allergies can occur at any time in your life, and that a sleep environment full of allergens is one of the most common causes? So you have to think about making a hypoallergenic environment, and bamboo is the best material for that. Fortunately, the number of available bamboo products is growing. The leader in the UK market is Panda company, whose topper and foam bamboo pillow are a guarantee that you will sleep in a dust-free, hypoallergenic and antibacterial environment. Alternatively, you can check our bamboo pillows buyer’s guide to find your ideal pick.

    an image of panda bamboo memory foam pillow full size

    Sleep with antibacterial duvet

    Duvet must also be antibacterial and hypoallergenic, as you will wash it less often than bedding. Again you could go with Panda’s bamboo topper or some other duvet filled with microfibre or hollowfibre. It is up to you to choose whether you want an all-season duvet or you will buy more duvets for different seasons.

    an image of a rolled up Panda Cloud Duvet

    Wash your beddings every week

    Various dirt remains on the bedding, such as dead skin cells and body oils. So you should change the sheets every week. Washing bedding and duvet is not the only thing you need to do to keep your sleep environment clean. Keep in mind to change your mattress after a while, especially if you experience frequent allergy problems. The same goes for a pillow.

    An image of bedding and clothes in a washing machine.

    Block excessive external light sources & sounds

    If you fail to block excessive external light sources and sounds, you will have trouble falling asleep, and above all you will wake up too early in the morning. One of the best ways to completely block excessive external light sources, and also to make the room quieter are blackout curtains. If you are traveling, it is recommended that you have an eye mask. When buying an eye mask, carefully check that it is made of safe materials like Panda Eye Mask, to avoid facial and eye irritation.

    An image of a young woman closing the curtains on the window.

    Use calming scents and essential oils therapy

    Aromatherapy is a holistic healing treatment known to people for thousands of years. Oils used for aromatherapy are obtained from the leaves and flowers of various plants. Marjoram, lavender, mint and chamomile are some of the most commonly used essential oils. You can consume them or apply them on the skin, and you can also put a few drops on the pillow.

    an image of an essential oil diffuser

    Follow Fen Shui tips for bedroom

    Feng Shui is an ancient traditional practice that originated in China and has become globally popular. According to Feng Shui, in order to sleep well and be generally successful and healthy, good energy flow is essential. Feng Shui bedroom layout is what you need to keep energy flow uninterrupted. Vastu shastra is another traditional practice from the Far East that can help.

    an image of a feng shui practice arrangement

    What if I follow the principles of a good sleep hygiene and still cant get enough sleep?

    As every lie we tell incurs a debt to the truth, also poor sleep hygiene leads to something called sleep debt. Sooner or later, you will have to pay that debt. So if you have neglected sleep for too long, then sleep hygiene cannot work wonders. If you have been keeping good habits for months and still can’t get enough sleep, then it’s time to think about some more solutions. For example, you can stimulate sleep pressure points. Also, talking to a psychologist and certain medications may help.

    insomnia produced by stress and lack of sleep

    When none of this helps, it is time to visit a sleep clinic, a place that specializes in treating sleep disorders.

    Is sleep hygiene an universal principle that everyone can follow?

    Yes, sleep hygiene is a universal principle that everyone can follow. Anyone who has serious health problems should consult a doctor first, and healthy people can immediately start practicing sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene has a far-reaching effect on our entire body, so even if you have a health problem, sleep hygiene can help you solve it. 

    An image of a happy young man due to healthy sleep hygiene.

    Introduce healthy habits into your life gradually. If you try to change your lifestyle abruptly, it is likely that you will give up quickly. But if you do everything gradually, then these new healthy habits will become your lifestyle, and a night’s sleep is one of the first things you will notice improvement. Insomnia is not the only problem. Short, segmented sleep, frequent nightmares, morning aches are just some of the many signs that you absolutely need sleep hygiene.

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