Sleep Hygiene Part I: Understanding What is Getting in the Way of a Better Night’s Sleep
Sleep serves as an essential function in our daily lives, helping us to restore our energy, recharge our minds and allow our bodies to engage in restorative and protective tasks that are meant to keep us healthy. It is not uncommon for many of us to struggle with our sleep cycles. Some of us may have difficulties falling asleep, some with staying asleep and some with not getting enough sleep.
Why Do You Have Trouble Sleeping?
What gets in the way of us being able to achieve the sleep that we are wanting and that our bodies need to survive and function? There are multiple factors that may complicate or change sleep patterns for longer or shorter periods of time.
These factors may include major life events, changes in family dynamics or routines, recent death or loss of a loved on, increased stimulation before bed, increased screen time (phones, computers, tablets, watches, tv screens, etc), intense exercise before bed, stimulant use (cigarettes, caffeine, etc.), room temperature, disruptive noises, and increased mental health symptoms, including heightened energy, lack of desire to sleep, ruminating thoughts or racing thoughts.
Consider environmental factors, including whether or not you share a bed (spouse, partner, pet or children), if you live in a noisy apartment or condo complex, or if you have roommates that have different working schedules than you.
Why is Sleep Hygiene Important?
So, why is understanding and balancing our sleep hygiene so important? The American Sleep Association (ASA) highlights that when we are sleep deficient and struggle to maintain a healthy sleep routine, we may be at a higher risk of experiencing low energy, changes in mood, difficulties with concentration, memory recall and decision making, tiredness, lack of motivation and/or increased headaches.
Associated Health Risks
According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention), poor sleep hygiene and lack of sleep can be linked to a higher risk of developing chronic diseases, including diabetes, depression, and cardiovascular disease. The CDC website also provides an informational chart that describes the estimated appropriate amount of hours that individuals should be getting across the lifespan in a 24 hour day. School aged children should average about 9-12 hours, adolescents should have on average about 8-10, and adults should average about 7 hours or more.
A Way to Improve Sleep Quality
Sleep hygiene is a way in which we can use behavioral interventions to improve the quality of our sleep and sleep habits. Consider what you are currently struggling with in terms of your sleep patterns and habits:
- Do you have a sleep routine- meaning, do you do the same pattern of behaviors every night as you get ready to sleep?
- Do you go to bed at the same time each night or does your schedule require that your bedtimes shift day to day?
- What are your boundaries with screen time before bed and while you are in bed? Think about your habit of looking at your phone while in bed or watching a tv show as you fall asleep?
- What do you notice about the sound level as you are going to bed? Do you need any background noise or are you a better sleeper with complete silence?
- If you have children, do you bed share or do you find that they crawl into bed with you in the middle of the night?
- What major life stressors do you have in your life right now? Are you anticipating any major changes in your life within the next week, month, year? Major stressors may include changes to your family life, job, career, physical or mental health, financial situation, divorce, or residence, as well as loss or death of a loved one?
- What are your eating habits before bed?
- Do you have any pets or animals that share a bed with you or that you can hear at night?
- What type of residence do you live in? If you lived in a shared space or apartment, do you notice if your roommates or neighbors come home at different times or have different night schedules than you do?
- What thoughts do you notice that you have as you are going to sleep? Do you tend to think through the same scenario over and over? Do you have worries for what will happen the next day?
- What is your energy level as you are going to bed? Do you feel energized or experience a lower need for sleep?
In our next blog, we will outline tips for improving your sleep hygiene as well as provide suggestions for apps that you can access on your phone or device to improve transitioning to sleep at night.
Below are links to the American Sleep Association and Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s websites as referenced above:
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