Looking for ways to improve the sleep scores or just save some time? Check out how to make the most of the night in a blink of an eye!
Failing to enter sleep within 15 minutes of laying down results in a loss of valuable sleep time regularly.
While we typically require seven to nine hours of nightly sleep, many spend a significant portion of their time in bed without actually sleeping.
Mastering the ability to swiftly drift into sleep could potentially grant an extra 30 to 60 minutes or more of rest each night. This transformation commences with the adjustment of certain habits and the acquisition of fresh skills.
Healthy sleep habits or behaviors that may assist in improving the ability to fall asleep and maintain sleep throughout the night are encompassed by the term “sleep hygiene.” When good sleep hygiene is established and practiced throughout the day, the quality and quantity of nightly sleep are impacted positively. Additionally, its influence extends to both physical and mental health.
The Effects of Sleep Hygiene
Fluctuations in sleep hygiene are quite common. As long as healthy habits are adhered to and restful sleep is obtained, occasional late nights or interrupted sleep patterns are considered normal. However, when inadequate sleep starts affecting daily routines and overall health, it becomes a concern, particularly when more than one-third of American adults do not regularly achieve the recommended amount of sleep.
Short and Long-Term Outcomes of Poor Sleep
For healthy adults, short-term effects of disrupted sleep include heightened stress, reduced quality of life, emotional distress, mood disorders, and deficiencies in cognitive function, memory, and performance.
When sleep disturbances persist in the long term, healthy adults might encounter increased risks of hypertension, cardiovascular disease, dyslipidemia, weight-related problems, type 2 diabetes mellitus, and gastrointestinal disorders, among others.
Connection Between Mental Health and Sleep
According to a study, mental health conditions like depression and anxiety are associated with sleep disturbances, often coexisting.
Sleep disturbances might arise due to mental health issues. Yet, recent evidence suggests a reciprocal relationship, wherein sleep problems can also contribute to the onset or exacerbation of mental health conditions.
Relationship Between Stress and Sleep
Even everyday stress can disrupt sleep patterns and overall health, as sleep and stress seem to have a causative connection. Reports from the American Psychological Association’s Stress in America 2020 Survey indicate stress levels significantly surpassing averages.
Consequently, the impact of stress on sleep quality and duration is unsurprising. Conversely, there’s a notable rise in stress levels when sleep duration and quality decrease, resulting in higher instances of sleeplessness due to stress.
Given the adverse physical and mental health implications linked to disturbed sleep, it’s crucial to address any underlying health issues that may contribute to sleep disruptions. Consulting with a healthcare provider to develop a sleep hygiene plan is advisable.
Sleep Requirements by Age
|Recommended Hours of Sleep Per Day
|14–17 hours (National Sleep Foundation)
No recommendation (American Academy of Sleep Medicine)
|12–16 hours per 24 hours (including naps)
|11–14 hours per 24 hours (including naps)
|10–13 hours per 24 hours (including naps)
|9–12 hours per 24 hours
|8–10 hours per 24 hours
|7 or more hours per night
|65 years and older
The Practice of Sleep Hygiene
Improving sleep quality commences with making gradual adjustments to lifestyle patterns. Creating routines, engaging in regular physical activity, fostering a conducive sleep environment, and modifying dietary habits can exert a positive influence on sleep quality. Below are some suggestions for implementing healthy sleep hygiene.
- Maintaining a Regular Sleep Routine
Consistently adhering to a set sleep schedule, retiring to bed, and rising at the same time daily not only establishes a pattern but also enhances sleep quality. The duration of nightly rest significantly contributes to maintaining this routine.
Adults typically require a minimum of 7 hours of sleep each night, while older adults aged over 60 may need between 7 to 9 hours nightly . If feasible, reducing or avoiding daytime naps might assist if experiencing difficulties in falling asleep at night.
- Establishing a Nightly Routine
Establishing a nightly routine that involves engaging in enjoyable activities can facilitate relaxation and preparation for bedtime. Whether it involves reading a book, taking a bath, practicing meditation, engaging in restorative yoga, stretching, listening to soothing music, or journaling, these activities aid in calming the body and mind, facilitating the transition from wakefulness to sleep.
- Creating a Favorable Sleep Environment
An ideal sleep environment can promote easier sleep onset. This environment should ideally be devoid of electronic devices, maintained at a comfortable temperature, and sufficiently dark to facilitate sleep.
Striving to switch off all electronic devices, including phones, TVs, tablets, and laptops, at least 60 minutes before bedtime is advisable. Dimming or turning off all room lights and ensuring the room temperature is set between 60° – 67°F / 15° – 19°C as optimal bedroom temperature, can significantly contribute to a conducive sleep environment.
- Reserve Bed Exclusively for Sleep
Engaging in activities like reading, watching TV, or contemplating the day’s events while in bed signals to our body that activities other than sleep are expected in that space.
Instead, instill a habit that associates the bed solely with sleep by refraining from all other activities while in bed (except maybe for intimacy). By limiting the purposes for which we use our bed, we can establish associations that facilitate quicker sleep onset each night.
Moreover, allocate ourself a 20-minute window to fall asleep. If sleep doesn’t arrive within that timeframe, leaving the bed and waiting until drowsiness returns before attempting sleep again is the recommended sleeping technique.
- Incorporating Physical Activity into Daily Routine
Regular physical activity can enhance both the quantity and quality of sleep. For those who exercise in the evening, there is no necessity to shift these activities to the morning hours. Research indicates that moderate-intensity exercise conducted within 60 to 90 minutes before bedtime should not negatively affect sleep quality.
However, engaging in vigorous physical activity ending 60 or more minutes before bedtime might lead to sleep disruptions. Hence, reserving high-intensity workouts for earlier in the day and focusing on moderate-intensity activities like yoga, walking, and low-impact swimming before bedtime is recommended.
- Being Mindful of Food and Drink Before Bed
Optimal sleep often commences with neither an overly full nor empty stomach. Ideally, avoiding substantial meals before bedtime as they have been associated with sleep disturbances, is advisable:
- Acidic foods that might cause stomach upset
- Heavy, fatty, or greasy meals
- Candy or high-sugar snacks
- Spicy foods
- Limiting Caffeine Intake
Consuming caffeine too close to bedtime can hinder the ability to fall asleep. If caffeinated beverages like coffee, tea, or soda are part of your regular consumption, aiming to consume them earlier in the day rather than during the evening hours is advised. Caffeine consumption six hours before bedtime has the potential to disrupt sleep.
- Seeking Professional Assistance
Arranging an appointment with a healthcare provider to discuss sleep-related issues can aid in identifying potential underlying conditions contributing to sleep disruptions. It also presents an opportunity to develop a personalized sleep hygiene plan.
They may recommend a sleep study to investigate potential sleep-related disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea, insomnia, hypersomnia, or REM sleep behavior disorder.
For individuals facing mental health challenges impacting sleep, consulting with a psychologist, therapist, psychiatrist, or other mental health professionals can help assess whether symptoms related to depression, anxiety, grief, or other mental health issues are contributing to poor sleep hygiene habits.
- Adherence to a nightly routine
- Maintain a consistent wake-up and bedtime schedule daily
- Dim lighting and set thermostat to 60° – 67°F / 15° – 19°C
- Disconnection from all electronic devices at least 60 minutes before bedtime
- Stop caffeine consumption several hours prior to bedtime
- Physical activity earlier in the day
- Avoid large, high-fat meals before bedtime