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Sleep hygiene: Everything you need to do to get better sleep

This is a guest post by Jesse Crow, Owner of Rest Right Mattress

“Sleep hygiene” sounds like what you should do to keep your bed clean. The term actually refers to the steps and routines taken to prepare for sleep. Included as part of sleep hygiene are things you can do to enhance sleep quality and also things you should avoid.

Things to do for better sleep

Set a sleep schedule: First and foremost, most experts agree that establishing and maintaining a regular sleep schedule can leverage better sleep. Go to bed and get up at the same time daily to get on track. Naturally, your body’s circadian clock wants to wake with the sun. This is why it is best to sleep in the dark. A defined pattern is almost guaranteed to upgrade the quality of your sleep.

Wear yourself out: Throughout your day, exercise often - preferably a cardio session at least five days a week. Not only can this make you tired enough to sleep well at night, it’s great for your heart and overall health as well.  Just note that working out late in the day can be disruptive to sleep, so aim for a morning visit to the gym.

Plan your bedroom accordingly: Set yourself up for success by ensuring that your bedroom is conducive to comfortable, undistracted sleep. Think about your senses and how each of them can be impacted just before bed. The lights should be off – darkness encourages sleep. Also, anything you can do to eliminate sounds will help you sleep better as well. Temperature should be set at between 60 and 67 degrees. Consider all the mattress sizes and choose the one that best serves your situation. Choosing a supportive and suitable mattress on a good foundation that addresses your sleep needs means you sleep better but also feel better when you wake up.

The right mattress and bedding support are key to making sure you're comfortable and supported according to your specific needs.

Before-bed regimen: To initiate a good sleep schedule, it is best to put into practice an evening routine. This can mean a warm bath just prior to sleep, or simply transferring from one room into another after brushing your teeth. Your personal system doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s. This is just an indicator to help your mind and body recognize that it is indeed time for sleep.

Things to avoid for better sleep

Taking naps: If you aren’t getting enough sleep at night, it may seem like taking naps to catch up during the day is a good idea. However, by indulging in daytime sleep, you enable the cycle to continue. It can cause you to stay up past your normal bedtime, which means getting less sleep when you rise for your alarm – which leads to taking naps. Stick to your schedule, even if you get off track, and even on the weekends. It will help you in the long run.

The bed during the day: In fact, hanging out in the bed during the day can negatively influence your sleep, no matter if you are napping or not. Avoid doing anything in bed that isn’t restful. This will help to signify to your brain that the bed is a place for sleep.

Drinking the wrong things: Drinking alcohol disrupts the order of the stages of sleep within the sleep cycle.  It can worsen health problems that affect sleep as well such as asthma and sleep apnea. Coffee, tea and caffeinated sodas can result in difficulty falling asleep, even consumed several hours prior to bedtime. The effects can last well into the night, causing fragmented sleep patterns. 

Sleeping with pets: There is a little controversy on whether sleeping with your pets helps or hinders sleep. On one hand, they don’t necessarily undermine sleep quality. On the other, sleeping with a pet increases the likelihood of sleep disruptions. If your pet snores and moves around throughout the night it can wake you up.

Exposure to electronics at bedtime: Aside from the stimulation that electronics can cause, they also emit light. This blue light can work against your brain’s natural production of melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that works as a signal that it’s time for sleep. Without it, it can take longer to fall asleep.

A little forethought can go a long way towards consistent sleep. Many of these sleep hygiene tips are just good tips in general: exercising regularly, avoiding alcohol, and reducing electronic time each provide health benefits outside of sleep. If you think that you aren’t getting enough sleep and continue to have insomnia during the night, see a doctor.