Seven Sleep Hygiene Tips

Like many of you, I have struggled with lack and quality of sleep. Through trial and error, here are the exact ways that I have improved my sleep!

Insufficient sleep.

Did you know that more than one third (38%) of Indiana adults report that on average they get less than 7 hours of sleep each night?  Getting sufficient quality sleep has been linked to improved learning and problem-solving skills, maintenance of hormonal balance, support of healthy growth, and sustained productivity throughout the day.  However, long-term sleep deficiency has been linked to chronic (long-term) health conditions (i.e., heart disease, high blood pressure) as well as mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety.


What can I do?

Sleep hygiene are behaviors and actions an individual can take to promote more restful sleep each night. I, like many other Americans, have struggled with lack of quality sleep over the years. The following seven tips are ones that I have implemented at one point throughout my journey to improved sleep.


1. Purchase blackout curtains.

Blackout curtains are a great investment in transforming your bedroom into a peaceful and calming environment. Artificial light from headlights to porch lights can delay the brain’s production of melatonin: a sleep-inducing hormone. Making your bedroom dark can help keep your sensitive brain in sleep mode until it is time to wake up.

There are a wide variety of blackouts curtains from simple panels to thicker curtains with liners. I have a blackout curtain in my kitchen that has a liner and have noticed a significant difference in energy efficiency compared to the single layer panel in my bedroom. With a wide variety of colors and patterns, a decorative change to blackout curtains are a cost-effective way to improve your quality of sleep.


2. Develop a bedtime routine.

What is your evening ritual? Does it involve blue light from an electronic screen? TVs, tablets, smart phone screens, and laptops emit what is known as blue light; this triggers the brain to stay awake. Remember when I said our brains are sensitive to light?

This week, identify one evening ritual that you can incorporate into your bedtime routine to relax the body and signal the brain that it is time to wind down for the day. This might be reading, listening to calming music, or meditating.


3. Avoid caffeine at least six hours prior to bedtime.

In a 2013 study, the disruptive effects of caffeine administered 30 minutes, 3 hours, and 6 hours prior to bedtime were analyzed.  The small study of 6 males and 6 females found that even up to 6 hours prior to bedtime, the consumption of caffeine can reduce overall sleep time by one hour.  These findings add to established research that caffeine consumed prior to bedtime can disrupt sleep patterns.


4. Diffuse lavendar essential oil.

I have recently started to diffuse lavender essential oil while I sleep and have noticed a significant difference with decreased "racing thoughts" before falling asleep.  Lavender has a wide variety of uses, but is most commonly known for its calming and soothing benefits.  Lavender essential oil can also be rubbed into the soles of the feet and/or the shoulders before bed.  For more information on lavender essential oil, click here.  I have linked the diffuser that I use - it's under $20!


5. Wash your sheets once a week.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, the average American spends 49 to 63 hours in bed each week. In that amount of time, a wide variety of allergens can build up. Washing your sheets once a week can help keep germs at bay, especially during the colder months when the flu and other illnesses are commonly present.

Is washing your sheets once a week too daunting? Try throwing at least the pillow cases in with another load of laundry.


6. keep a consistent sleep schedule.

Similar to a bedtime routine for a child, practicing good sleep hygiene will help you fall asleep quicker and stay asleep. Try to stay on a consistent schedule even during the weekends. This helps set your body’s internal clock known as circadian rhythm. While you may feel inclined to sleep in during the weekends, sleeping in throws off our internal clock and this why you may struggle waking up come Monday morning.


7. Exercise for 150 minutes each week.

In a national study of 2,600 men and women, 18 to 85 years old, it was found that by following the national guidelines for exercise (150 minutes of moderate activity each week) sleep quality improved by approximately 65%.  Additionally, participants meeting the exercise guidelines compared to those that did not, were less likely to have trouble falling asleep, have difficulty concentrating when tired, and feel unrested during the day.

Like many of you, I have struggled with lack and quality of sleep. Through trial and error, here are the exact ways that I have improved my sleep!

Do you currently incorporate any of these tips into your nightly routine? If not, which one do you plan to try this week?