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:
- 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.
- 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.
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