If you’ve ever laid awake in bed all night, endlessly replaying the day’s events in your head, then you already know the value of a good night’s rest. For some people, sleep has always felt like an elusive prize, an unattainable goal. For others, nodding off after a long day and maintaining a full night of restorative sleep has never been a problem. Today, with anxiety and uncertainty looming thanks to an unprecedented global health crisis, many of us are experiencing sleep difficulties for the very first time.
Whether you live in a studio apartment or something with a larger footprint, the new “normal” of stay-at-home orders and remote work can mean complicated new dynamics when it comes to sleep. We talk a lot about how to work from home, while paying relatively little attention to the parallel issue of how to home from work. In other words, if working where you sort laundry and watch Netflix is difficult, then sleeping where you balance accounts and Zoom with coworkers probably is, too. But navigating this new world of at-home work and play shouldn’t come at the expense of restorative sleep.
In times like these, getting enough sleep is especially crucial to help us manage stress and keep our immune systems functioning at their best. This is where a little thing called sleep hygiene comes in. Sleep hygiene refers to a set of practices or behaviors designed to improve or preserve the quality of your sleep. Keep reading for six easy sleep hygiene tips to help you sleep better during this time of crisis.
1. Consistency Is Key (Even on Weekends)
We reached out to Dr. Kori Ascher, a Miami-based Sleep Medicine Physician. Her number one piece of advice? “The best sleep hygiene tip is to get a routine that works and stick to it. This means maintaining the same bedtime and rise time seven days a week (including weekends).” According to Dr. Ascher, our bodies have a natural sleep-wake cycle, which fluctuates based on our hormones. Sticking to an AM/PM routine will help regulate this cycle. “Otherwise you may be trying to sleep when your hormones are telling you to be awake, or alternatively you may be trying to be awake when your hormones are telling you to be asleep.” Either way, it’s a recipe for a less-than-satisfactory snooze.
2. No More Napping
You’re exhausted, we get it. But excessive napping during the day could interfere with restful sleep at night. If you must nap, experts agree that you should limit them—some suggest 30 minutes or less, while others say to aim even shorter, between 10-20 minutes. Long story short, set a timer and keep it brief.
3. Don’t Look at the Clock!
It may sound ridiculously simple, but according to Harvard Medical School’s Division of Sleep Medicine, this one’s vital. You know when you’re tossing and turning in bed, either trying to fall asleep or trying to fall back asleep, and you casually catch a glimpse of the time? What? It’s already 3:52 AM! I only have two hours and eight minutes until my alarm goes off… Suddenly, the impending doom of morning sends shockwaves to your brain and next thing you know, you’re spinning with thoughts of tomorrow. Looking at the clock can add unnecessary stress that makes falling asleep that much harder. So skip the numbers. Turn your clock to face away from your bed and avoid picking up your phone to check the time.
4. Stay Active During the Day
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, at least 30 minutes of exercise today could help you sleep better tonight. While researchers have yet to discover why—or rather how—physical activity and quality of sleep are connected, it’s clear that they are. How you choose to get your blood pumping is entirely your choice. The one caveat here is to avoid working out too soon before bedtime, as intense activity may make it more difficult for some people to fall asleep.
5. Eat Dinner Earlier
Planning to eat a heavy three-course meal and plop into bed? Think again. Allow yourself ample time to digest a meal before getting horizontal. Indigestion can cause discomfort that in turn interferes with sleep. While you’re at it, avoid foods that may trigger acid reflux (like spicy, garlicky, chocolatey, tomato-based, or citrusy foods), as well as caffeine and alcohol, all of which may keep you up.
6. Upgrade Your Bedroom
Did you know that your sleep environment can affect your quality of sleep? It may sound excessive, but everything from your mattress down to the color of your walls can impact how well you sleep. The National Sleep Foundation suggests setting your thermostat to somewhere between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit. While you’re at it, they also recommend dimming your bedroom lights one hour before bedtime, making your bed every morning, keeping your room uncluttered, and masking outside sounds with a noise conditioner or fan.
There you have it, six practical tips to help you own your sleep—even when everything else feels out of your control. At the end of the day, a good night’s rest can do a world of good for both body and mind. Rest easy, LIV Fam!