Daylight saving time has just begun! We’ve “sprung forward!” Well, some of us… others might have crawled.
Either way, we’ve lost an hour, which also means we might be TIRED! You might be asking yourself, how do I combat this newfound spring tiredness? Why am I not feeling as chipper as the birds singing outside at 6am? Feeling rested and ready to take on the day has so much to do with our sleeping habits. There’s actually a term that refers to how well we sleep, called sleep hygiene. The term might bring to mind showering or cleanliness because of the word “hygiene.”
And while it’s about healthy and clean living, it’s also about sleep. Sleep hygiene is how you practice and maintain a healthy sleeping routine! It’s how and where and when you go to bed, the boundaries you have around your bedroom, and any other choices you make that impact your sleeping habits. How can we improve our sleeping habits? What kind of choices can we make to ensure our bedrooms are healthy spaces that promote good sleeping?
Three areas to rethink in the name of sleep hygiene include: what time you go to bed, where you go to bed, and what you do in the evenings before bed.
What time you go to bed: Is going to bed and getting up at the same time each night morning possible for you? Life schedules can be unpredictable, so it isn’t possible for everyone, but if you are able to sketch out a sleeping and waking time and commit to it, you’ll be well on your way to creating an effective sleeping routine.
Having a different sleeping schedule every night can make it incredibly hard to get a good night’s sleep, to feel awake and alert during the day, and even to be in a good mood. Try to sleep at a similar time every night to help set your body’s internal clock. This internal clock is powered by your habits and your brain – let’s make intentional choices to find the clock that works for us!
Where you go to bed: If your bedroom doesn’t feel like your sleeping room, this will impact how easily you get to bed and the restfulness of your sleep. Cultivating a restful atmosphere in your bedroom will encourage you to go to sleep! If your room is never truly dark or quiet, you might not get the sleep you need. When thinking of building this sleepy environment, consider not treating your bed like a desk or a table during the day or night – this means don’t eat, do homework, or any work in your bed. If you’ve been doing work all day in your bed, it can be a lot harder for your body to transition into sleeping in your “work space.”
This can be difficult for those who don’t have a formal work space, so focus on reducing if you cannot completely eliminate this habit. Another suggestion is to turn off all lights and draw curtains before bed. If light is coming in, it is likely to disrupt your sleep. Think of your bedroom as your sanctuary – it needs to feel safe and comfortable – the good vibes only area! You want your brain to feel relaxed and at peace here to better guide you restful sleep.
What you do right before before bed: Are you one to aimlessly scroll through Instagram when you can’t sleep? Or watch Netflix until you can’t open your eyes anymore? This can contribute to a restless sleep, as the light emitted from electronic devices can stimulate your brain, delay your bedtime, and keep you up. A similar process happens when you drink caffeine or alcohol before bed (or, for some, at any part of an evening, 8pm or 3pm): your body digesting these liquids can wake you up or make for a restless sleep.
The Sleep Foundation also suggests avoiding “food that can be disruptive right before sleep. Heavy or rich foods, fatty or fried meals, spicy dishes, citrus fruits, and carbonated drinks can trigger indigestion for some people.
When this occurs close to bedtime, it can lead to painful heartburn that disrupts sleep,” as well as limiting daytime naps to thirty minutes or less. Instead of electronics, consider taking a bath or shower, stretching, drinking tea, reading a book – calming things that will promote drowsiness and a peace of mind. If you find you aren’t tired, consider integrating movement or exercise into your day-to-day. This can use up restless energy and make you more tired at the end of the day.
The Harvard Health newsletter and the Sleep Health Foundation cite many links between sleep and mental and physical health. Both sources emphasize how sleep deprivation can exacerbate mental health issues, and encourage taking your sleep routines seriously. Harvard Health explains just how severely sleep disruption can impact us, reflecting on how fatigue can affect “levels of neurotransmitters and stress hormones …. [it] wreaks havoc in the brain, impairing thinking and emotional regulation.”
In addition, the Sleep Health Foundation writes how, “Sleep gives the brain some ‘down time’ to process all of this information and store it in our memory banks. This way, it is available and accessible when it is needed. Having enough sleep improves concentration, creativity and assists with learning.” They also emphasize how restorative sleep is for the body, discussing how a healthy and consistent sleep schedule brings you into states of relaxation where your “body temperature drops, muscles relax, and heart rate and breathing slow.”
If you feel yourself getting sick, make sure to get plenty of rest – sleep only helps to boost the strength of your immune system! Getting the rest our bodies need restores the energies lost during the day and prepares us for the day ahead. We all know how it feels to wake up after far too little sleep, needing coffee a little too much, feeling like rolling out of bed is near impossible… let’s focus on getting more hours of sleep as we move into the spring!
Ultimately, prioritizing your sleep hygiene is just another way of respecting and committing to our need for rest and stability. Getting a good night’s sleep isn’t always easy! It can take some work to unlearn poor sleeping habits, as well as to build a sleep-friendly environment.
Committing to even one of the above tips is a step in the right, well-rested direction, which will in turn guide us to our best mental health and moods. Hopefully taking these ideas into consideration will ease your transition into spring, restore some or all of your energy, and help you figure out what you need to sleep your best!