An Introduction to Sleep Hygiene
By Jazmin Stearne
2020 has been a very stressful year, to say the least. Due to COVID-19, most of us are spending a lot more time at home than we’d like. Most of us work and/or go to school from home. We do our best to practice social distancing; which helps stop the spread of COVID. However, this leaves many of us feeling isolated. In addition, the recent events in our world (i.e. social unrest, wildfires, and natural disasters) add to our stress and anxiety. Because of this, I am sure most of you are more stressed out and anxious than usual.
All of the above factors (increase in stress levels, isolation, loneliness, and anxiety) have a negative effect on our ability to sleep. Do you have a hard time sleeping at night? If you are like most, the answer is “yes”. How can you overcome insomnia and restlessness in the Coronavirus-era? I suffer from insomnia, on occasion. I have devised a few strategies on how to finally get a good night’s sleep.
You may have heard this term before. If you haven’t, it’s okay. Sleep hygiene is an umbrella term. Think of it as being like personal hygiene. For example, bathing and brushing your teeth. Sleep hygiene can be thought of in that same context. You should practice sleep hygiene in a healthy way to help your mind focus on sleep and relaxation, instead of the daily stressors that keep you up at night. There are so many benefits to getting a good night’s sleep, so I highly encourage you to start practicing a bedtime routine.
Graeme Cowan is a writer and well-known sleep expert. He has written a book on mental health practices, titled Back from the Brink. According to Cowan, sleep hygiene is personalized. In other words, sleep hygiene is not a “one size fits all” approach. Your bedtime routine should be tailored to you. What might help you sleep, might not help the next person. He says, “There is a huge list of practices which can form part of sleep hygiene, but it’s down to you as to which ones will work best for you. As a rule of thumb, though, the aim is to create a routine which you can follow and an environment conducive to restful sleep.”
I am going to list a few scientifically proven tips to include in your new bedtime routine, starting with the most difficult. I have added all of these to my bedtime routine, and they have worked for me.
Use your bed for sleep only
This one may be a bit challenging at first. If you are like me, you probably do other things while in bed. Do you work (or study) while in bed? If so, refrain from doing this at once. Do you use your phone or go on social media sites while in bed? Again, this is a big no-no. I used to do all of these in bed, I admit. However, once I stopped, I realized that I was retraining my mind to only associate my bed with sleep and nothing else. Some find it helpful to also leave their smartphones out of the bedroom, because of the blue light they emit. The blue light from your smartphone is stimulating to your eyes and can interrupt your sleep pattern. This has also been scientifically proven. So, in conclusion, please reserve your bed for sleep only.
Establish a calming routine
According to Cowan, “A bedtime routine, regularly followed, signals to your body that it’s time to start winding down, which helps encourage sleep.” I encourage you to avoid anything stimulating (both physically and mentally) at least a few hours before bedtime. Avoid things like upbeat music, caffeine, eye strain, and alcohol two hours before bedtime. Over the years, I have learned to incorporate a few soothing activities into my own bedtime routine. It is almost like a ritual, if you want to think of it that way. I start winding down at around 7pm. I begin by taking a warm shower or bath, then light candles, listen to soothing music (I created a bedtime playlist on my phone), drink a cup of herbal tea, then meditate for ten minutes. That is my routine, but I encourage you to add similar activities that are unique to you. It is a good idea to add guided meditation to your bedtime routine. Guided meditation is a useful tool you can use to train your mind to relax on command. When I meditate, I normally diffuse lavender essential oil. This really helps my mind and body prepare for sleep. I have also learned to dim the lights at a certain time. This creates a more calming environment. A lot of people use aromatherapy to help with relaxation. Core3 is affiliated with Young Living. Young Living essential oils are of therapeutic grade and high quality. I will provide a link to their site at the end of this post.
I have included a side-note for those of you who work from home. In order to ensure a proper environment for relaxation and sleep, please refrain from your work duties at least a few hours before bed. For example, if your business hours are 9am-5pm, I advise you to refrain from all your work duties at 5pm. If your boss sends you an email at 6pm (after business hours), check it the next morning at the start of your day. The point is to ensure plenty of time for you to relax and unwind before you finally go to bed.
Create a soothing environment for sleep
It is crucial to keep your bedroom dark, quiet, and cool (but not cold). Some of us live in urban environments which remain noisy during the night. For those of you in this situation I recommend using “white noise”. I personally cannot fall asleep without it. White noise can help tune-out any noises from outside. There are white noise “apps” available for those of you with smartphones. If you wish, you can also purchase a white noise machine. These emit tranquil sounds such as ocean waves, nature, etc. Another good way to block out unwanted sounds is by turning on a fan. This way, your room can stay cool and block any noise from outside.
I hope these strategies are helpful to you. I encourage you to experiment with these tips for a restful night’s sleep, as well as add your own. I promise, once you get the hang of sleep hygiene you will start to have better luck at falling asleep and staying asleep. This will lead to better mornings, more productive work or school days, and even a decrease in anxiety from the events of daily life.
Can’t sleep due to chronic stress?
Core3 now offers wellness coaching. A wellness coach can help you achieve your health and wellness goals, including help with insomnia. Give our office a call today! (888) 203-0113. If you wish to sample or purchase Young Living Essential Oils, please follow our affiliate link: https://www.myyl.com/core3tx. ~Be well, and sweet dreams.
Cowan, G. (2018). How to Get a Good Night’s Sleep—Even When You’re Depressed. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 9, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/how-to-get-a-good-nights-sleep-even-when-youre-depressed/