Just like brushing your teeth, flossing, and rinsing with mouthwash are an important part of your oral hygiene routine, establishing proper sleep hygiene is vital to your well-being. The National Sleep Foundation spearheaded a worldwide study that took place over a two-year time period that established new guidelines for sleep recommendations. They take into account variability among individuals, some of whom require more sleep and some whom require less sleep. A summary of the recommendations can be found here.

Sleep is a critical component to maintaining your health, and inadequate amounts of sleep can lead to harmful side effects, such as an increased risk of heart disease, an impaired immune system, cognitive impairment, and weight gain. Since we spend almost a third of our lifetimes in bed, getting adequate rest time is vitally important.

How do you know when you’re practicing improper sleep hygiene? If you are sleepy during the daytime, are taking more than 20 minutes to fall asleep, or are sleeping only intermittently during the night, you might want to consider changing your pre-bedtime routines. Here are several crucial factors for fostering sleep health.

The most important aspect in establishing a healthy sleep routine is sticking to a regular sleep schedule. For example, if you regularly go to sleep around 11 pm on the weekdays, try to maintain that same time frame on the weekends. Going to sleep too late on the weekends can create a disturbance in your body’s internal sleep cycle, so be consistent about your bedtimes. Additionally, maintain a consistent wake-up time, even on the weekends. Even if you missed out on a couple of hours of sleep the night before, resist the urge to sleep in. The following night, you will have an increased sleep drive, which can help you fall asleep easier.

Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual. You can wind-down by doing some relaxing bedtime yoga, reading a book, having a calming herbal tea, or meditating with some scented candles in the room. Certain scents like lavender and chamomile help to soothe you to sleep, while other scents, like peppermint and lemon, should be avoided until the morning, as they act like stimulants. Create a tech free hour before bedtime that does not include watching TV or scrolling through the internet. The light from electronics like your TV and your phone disrupt your natural rhythm and are too stimulating at a time when your mind should be winding down along with your body.

Make your bedroom into a sleep-promoting environment. The temperature should be not too hot, or too cold, but a comfortable level between 60-75 degrees. If you live in an environment with many distracting external noises, such as dogs barking or car horns honking, try playing some white noise. Disposable ear plugs are also another option. Heavy curtains will help ensure that your bedroom stays dark and cool at night. If curtains are not in your budget, try an eye-mask, which can be purchased for just a couple of dollars.

Exercise wisely. Exercising too close to your normal bedtime can prevent you from getting a proper night’s rest. Energetic exercising, whether it’s running, biking, or lifting weights, should be done in the morning until the early afternoon in order to avoid it interfering with your sleep cycle. If you must exercise before you sleep, make-sure that it’s a gentle form of exercise, such as yin-yoga or restorative yoga, not an intense vinyasa practice.

Re-train yourself to associate your bed with sleep. Don’t take food, social media, or television into your bed. Read, journal, have sex, and sleep in your bed. When your body makes the connection between your bed and sleep, you will be able to fall asleep quicker. If, however, you cannot get to sleep in less than 20 minutes, try going to another room and doing a soothing activity until you start to get sleepy.

Do not take your worries into bed with you. This stimulating activity disrupts your natural sleep rhythm. Try pouring your emotions into your journal, or just on a piece of paper. Once your mind is empty and you’ve let go of your thoughts, you can go to sleep peacefully and take care of all of your worries tomorrow.

For more information about why sleep is so vital in your weight-loss journey, click here.

If you are interested in finding your seasonal sleep rhythm, click here.

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