Getting a good length and quality of sleep supports better emotion regulation and general health. Sleep is an essential part of managing stress but is often the first thing impacted when experiencing stressful events. During times of high stress it is natural to notice major sleep disruptions ranging from difficulty falling asleep to sleeping more than usual. These fluctuations in sleep patterns can be influenced by a person’s emotional state, changes in routine or unhealthy coping mechanisms. Sleep hygiene is a group of practices and habits that promote better sleep. Engaging in good sleep hygiene can be a simple way of managing sleep problems and a core part of self-care. Below are specific aspects of healthy sleep practices to have good sleep hygiene.
Keep the same sleep and wake schedule every day
Maintaining the same sleep time and wake time sets our internal clock. Staying up late or sleeping in throws off our circadian rhythms (a natural, internal process that regulates the sleep-wake cycle and repeats roughly every 24 hours), so it is important to go to bed at the same time and wake up the same time, even on weekends.
Get enough sleep
The recommendation for most adults is 7-9 hours of sleep a night. We are all a little different, so figure out how much sleep you need to feel rested.
Limit naps to 30 minutes
Sleeping during the day will not make up for a bad night’s sleep and could make it harder to fall asleep at your regular time. A 30-minute nap is energizing, without disrupting your sleep later on.
Practice moderation with substances
Stimulants like caffeine or nicotine impact your ability to fall asleep. Depressants like alcohol may make it easier to fall asleep, but prevent a good quality of sleep by disrupting normal sleep cycles.
Staying active is a natural way of promoting better sleep. Be mindful not to exercise too close to bedtime; strenuous activity before bed can increase energy and make it difficult to fall asleep.
Establish a relaxing sleep routine
Anyone with kids knows that a good bedtime routine sets the stage for a better night’s sleep and the same is true for adults. Taking a half hour or hour to get ready for bed helps your mind and body prepare for bed. A sleep routine can include nightly hygiene rituals, reading, stretching, or meditation.
Keep your bed as a sanctuary for sleep
Limit doing waking activities like reading, eating, watching television, or doing work in your bed. When we do waking activities in bed our body does not know that this space is meant for rest.
Get enough sunlight
Try to spend some time outside during the day, it can help set our circadian rhythms.
Create a pleasant sleep environment
A cool dark space is the best environment for sleep. Limit electronic devices before bed, the light and content disrupts sleep. Manage noise with ear plugs, fans or a white noise machine.
If you still have trouble sleeping after trying out all of the techniques mentioned above, you may have a sleep disorder. ECHN’s Sleep Disorder Center can help diagnose the problem and create a treatment plan for you to get you back to sleep.