What is Sleep Hygiene? (and how to practice it)

Sleep Hygiene… wait– what? Is that like washing your face before bed? Or brushing your teeth? And how would that make you sleep better?

Well, to answer the questions above– not exactly. Sleep hygiene, while including things that we do before bed like brush your teeth is much bigger than just practicing good hygiene.  We think of “hygiene” as things we do to stay clean.   But in fact, “hygiene” is any set of habits that promotes health or disease– not just cleanliness. And since promoting sleep promotes health and prevents disease– we have sleep hygiene.

But what is it? Well, think of when you have a baby you are trying to get to sleep. You give the baby a warm bath, with maybe some lavender scented bathwater to calm it. You are careful not to upset or stimulate the baby and get him or her excited. You establish a ritual that promotes relaxation and that prepares the baby for it’s good night sleep.  When you do this with your little bundle of joy, you are practicing good sleep hygiene for the baby.  But somewhere along the way, we stop practicing a relaxation ritual to help ourselves sleep.

So below I have some things to experiment with to see which ones you enjoy.  I have also included some habits to avoid when trying to get to sleep.  These things have been proven to interrupt sleep. When possible, I have given a short description of why these do or do not work. So try some out, and let me know what worked for you! If you like this content, be sure to sign up below for my newsletter- you will receive first notice of new blog posts, recipes, exclusive offers and much more!  In the meantime, scroll down for do’s and dont’s for a good night’s sleep– and what to do if you still aren’t sleeping well:)

What to do:

  1. Turn off all electronics at least two hours before bed. You can leave lights on, but make sure they are not LED. The blue light that comes from computer, phone, tv and LED tell the brain that the sun is still up and prevents your brain from producing the proper hormones and chemicals necessary to regulate your circadian rhythm.  They also stimulate your adrenals, which means you will produce the chemicals that keep you awake. So bottom line: they prevent the natural “downers” and cause the natural “uppers” that our body is capable of producing during the day.
  2. Wear blue blocking glasses or use a blue filter on all possible screens starting at sunset. This will help prevent the things I mentioned above and help regulate your circadian rhythms. So if you go to bed at 10 but the sun sets at 7, then you would use blue light filters or blue light blocking glasses until 8, when you turned off the blue lights completely.  If you absolutely cannot turn off the screens, then these blue light filters and glasses are second best.


3.  Avoid conflict,  or adrenaline-inducing activity.  While this includes family or relationship squabbles, it may also include exciting tv shows, murder mystery novels, going for a run or techno music.  Some alternatives would be to read gentle stories, such as educational or self-help, doing yoga or listening to a noise machine or meditation music. I find this is a great time to practice self care such as dry brushing, detox baths and doing my nails. I top this self care off with a chapter in a book on my book list. You may choose something else instead.. after all, if it is something you don’t really want to be doing it will only increase anxiety and prevent you from relaxing. Experiment to see what works for you.

4. Take a warm bath, preferably a detox bath.  A warm bath with epsom salts and baking soda is a great way to relax both muscles and mind.  The warmth and the magnesium from the salts relaxes muscles while the detoxing effect of the salts and baking soda help our bodies rid of toxins that can lead to anxiety and joint pain.   A hot bath also lowers blood pressure, which can have a sedating effect.   If you have low blood pressure already, then use caution with the temperature of the water and opt for a luke-warm bath instead of hot.   For a detox bath recipe try 1 part baking soda to 2 parts epsom salts with a few drops of your favorite calming essential oil.

5. Find things that relax you.  Above, we talked about experimenting with things that you like to do with the extra time you created by turning off electronics.  It may take some experimentation to find what you like to do with this time before bed. At first, I made the mistake of using this time to schedule something else for me to accomplish, like yoga. But I quickly discovered that didn’t work for me and  why. You will very likely try some things that do not work for you.. and that is ok.  You will find the things that do work for you. Some things to try would be reading, journaling, yoga, coloring, visiting with family members, playing a game with your kids, stretching, meditating, etc. If you are weird like me then you will use this time to clean the kitchen, lay out your clothes and bathe. Apparently, this is what I want to do.

6. Try some sleepy time tea.  For those that get a burst of energy at night,  you may try some natural relaxants. Sleepy time tea, chamomile tea, lavender tea, L-theanine, Valerian root and other natural herbs have been used by many to sleep better and deeper. It can help calm a busy mind and make going to bed easier.

If you like this content and you would like to tips on how to heal, get notice of new articles, and receive exclusive offers and more, simply sign up for my newsletter above. These will come straight to your inbox.  In the meantime, get some sleep! it is the best way to heal.


Just Show Up: A “Radical” Way To Start Working Out When You Are Chronically Ill.

When I decided to start working out the idea seemed ridiculous. I could barely get to restroom without help. But I also knew that if I just laid there, that my muscle mass would follow and that my journey towards health would stall.  I have to be honest and transparent though: I really wanted to be able to move.   I really wanted to be able to exercise. I had always been able to go for a hike, a walk, a swim, or take an aerobics class without a single thought of “can I make it through this? Am I going to be able to make it back home or am I going to need to be carried?”

So if you are too sick and fatigued to work out– Keep reading. I promise to make this for you and others like you.

Too Sick and Weak to Work Out?

This is my favorite group of people because I have been there. I totally get it. And when you also “get it”, then you will be as excited to talk about how you got there as I am to share it with you.

First I am going to talk about how I got there and then I will use my story as a way to break down the steps for you, so that you can start this leg of your story– the exercise leg.

When I started working out, I could barely make it to the bathroom without holding onto the walls.  I couldn’t stand for more than a minute and had to push myself to do that.  I had good days and bad days.  On Good days, I could sit up and touch my toes but on bad days, that felt like too much work.  So I made a deal with myself.  I rolled out my yoga mat, and I left it there. I made sure it was in a place i would use it (This would alternate in front of the tv or in my bedroom where there was more room) and I left it there.  Secondly, I observed what time of day I felt most physically able. Maybe you are a morning person, or maybe you feel best in the evening. For me it was the mid afternoon. I designated a time to get on the mat.  Third, I established a minimum I was willing to do each day.  On a bad day, all I could agree to do was to meditate– lying down.  Sometimes I fell asleep. And that was ok. On good days, I was able to do some sitting yoga stretches. On in between days I was able to do some laying down poses– ones where you pulled your knees into your chest or used a strap to stretch your legs.

After a while, I was able to have some days that were good enough to do some standing poses, intermingled with days that all I could do was meditate.  Later, my “minimum” became meditation and journaling.

As I was able to do more standing poses, I was able to walk the dog around the building– albeit I would need to rest afterwards.  And yes, there was some days I needed someone else to do it for me. And that was ok.

The next step was to get in the pool. I could walk to the pool since it was about 20 feet from my front door.  The water was cool and the floating meant that swimming around with a kickboard would allow me to exercise more than I could when I was in the heat, or on land.  And I could reward myself afterwards by laying in the sun for a few minutes afterwards to get some Vitamin D.  There was one day the heat was too much for me walking back. I got weak from the heat and had to sit in the grass. My husband came out to carry me home.  And from that, I learned not to do this during the heat of the day but rather in the morning– At least until I was stronger.

So let me break this down for you..

  1. Establish a space and time that you can and want to do this. If you find you don’t really want to do this.. then start with the tips below under “If you do not really want to work out”.  If you don’t have a space, then try a spot of grass, or even some stretches on your own bed or couch. Figure out where you are when you want to move. Pick that spot.
  2. Pick a “minimum”: This should be something you are willing to do even on your worst day. It could be meditation, journaling, prayer, get some fresh air by sitting outside– something that is self care that doesn’t feel like ” too much”.
  3. Let yourself have bad days. Healing journeys are full of good days and bad days. And that is ok. Those on a healing journey often experience ups and downs. And the joke goes “2 steps forward and one step backwards– think of it as a cha cha!”.  Be kind to yourself. Listen to your body and respond to what it is telling you. Bad days mean you need a something restorative: so try some restorative yoga  or some deep breathing exercises. Good days mean you have energy to do more: so do more.
  4. Take advantage of good days but don’t overdo it. This means to only go one step at a time. Don’t overdo it or you will create bad days. One way to know if you overdid it is to see how you feel the next day.  Feel wiped the next day? Then it was too much. Feel good the next day? Then it was probably just right.
  5. Take Baby Steps. This goes along with don’t overdo it. Break the steps of progresssion into as small of steps as you can. If you start off laying down, then the next step is to sit up.  If you are at “walking to the mailbox and back” then the next step is to perhaps add something at the end like a yoga pose for balance or to simply take a few extra steps or maybe you just try to beat the time from the time before. Set yourself up for success, not failure.
  6. Do this every day even if all you do is sit there and breathe.  By creating the habit of taking time for yourself and for your body, you create time and space for self care. As you heal, this time and space will already be a habit and then this self care will evolve as your health does.
  7. Noone is going to judge your progress ( or lack thereof). You will move forward at your own pace. If all you do is develop a meditation practice or a time for self care, then you have won.
  8. JUST SHOW UP. This really is the only thing you need to remember.  This is the only thing you are required to do in this journey toward fitness. Show up. Be present. And you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do.. except find something you are willing to do when you get there. Even if it is just breathe. So when you are talking in your head and saying   “but i don’t want to”.   Answer back and tell yourself ” all you have to do is just show up. That’s it. Just SHOW UP”

Start with step one and take your time. When step one is done, move onto step two. Each step may take a little while to get right. If you struggle with a step, then go back to it. For example, it may take a while to figure out what your “minimum” is.. so give yourself time to experiment. You may have some bad days while you are figuring this out, and that is a good opportunity to practice accepting yourself for where you are, without comparing yourself to yesterday or tomorrow or anyone else’s today. Just give yourself permission to be you.

If you like the content and you would like to receive articles, offers and more directly to your inbox… fill out the form below. You don’t want to miss a thing and this is the best way to stay up to date. In the meantime, keep moving forward.

Rebecca at MyCrazyJourney

Photo by Jason Briscoe on Unsplash