5 Ways to Improve Your Sleep Hygiene For 8 Hours of Restful Sleep

Woman sleeping soundly
Are you having trouble focusing or keeping your tired eyes open right now? Do you have trouble waking up in the morning without a boost of caffeine? If you answered yes, you may be suffering from sleep deprivation and chances are your sleep hygiene choices are the reason for your state.

Sleep is our body’s first line of defense not only against fatigue but also infectious and potentially fatal diseases. That’s because when we doze off, our body produces proteins called cytokines, which helps fight off inflammation and infection so we don’t get sick.

Normally, if our immune system is exposed to harmful pathogens or even stress, our body produces cytokines to offset them. However, when we are sleep deprived, this response is hindered, which increases our chances of catching illnesses. That is probably why you get colds more often than others!

Needless to say, lack of sleep can compromise your immune response and allow diseases to take hold. This can happen if you have poor sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene refers to behaviors and habits that are necessary to acquire quality sleep to ensure we remain alert during the day.

Signs of Poor Sleep Hygiene

Memory and Focus Issues – When we sleep, our brain forms neural connections that can help us process information and remember it later. If you have poor sleep hygiene, chances are you are forgetful and have trouble focusing at work. Similarly, you may also have trouble coming up with solutions to the simplest problems and can get into accidents easily.

Mood Swings – Poor sleep hygiene and sleep deprivation can make you hot-tempered, moody, and emotional. If left untreated, this can lead to depression and anxiety over time.

High Blood Pressure – If you sleep less than five hours at night, your risk of getting high blood pressure increases. In time, this can lead to heart conditions or worse, a stroke.

Weight Gain – If you are sleep deprived, your brain fails to realize that you are full when you are eating. As a result, you are more likely to binge or overindulge to the point that you start gaining weight.

Reduced Sex Drive – Your libido can weaken if you don’t sleep for at least eight hours a night without interruption. In men, a decreased sex drive is typically due to a drop in testosterone levels.

Poor Balance – If you walk in a daze during most of the day or trip and fall quite often, you are sleep deprived. Lack of sleep can affect balance and coordination, which can make you prone to accidents.

Top Tips for Improving Your Sleep Hygiene

Good sleep hygiene practices can help you avoid the aforementioned symptoms and remain alert and productive throughout your workday. Here are some sleep hygiene habits you should adopt to ensure this:

Sleep Hygiene Tip #1 – Set your Body Clock
Your body’s internal clock determines when you feel tired enough to go to bed and how productive you remain. To maintain a healthy routine, go to sleep at the same time each night. This includes weekends, no matter how much you want to stay up and binge a show on Netflix.

If you do this successfully, your internal clock, as well as, the hormones that control your state of sleep and wakefulness, will harmonize. This will take some time to perfect in the beginning. You may even have some sleepless nights. However, if you stick to the same routine for some time, you will start getting extremely sleepy as soon as your bedtime rolls around.

Plus, do not disrupt your daytime routine even if you have trouble sleeping at night. Naps can disrupt your routine and you won’t feel sleepy at night. You can go to bed earlier than you usually do to catch up. That way, you can get up at the proper time the next day, refreshed.

Sleep Hygiene Tip #2 - Start Winding Down When Bedtime Rolls Around
If you feel charged up before bedtime, your brain won’t let you sleep for hours when you lie down. So before that time rolls around, spend an hour of quiet time with yourself. Read a book, have a warm bath, or listen to soft music to ease your stress.

When you are good and relaxed, make sure your bedroom is dark and quiet before sleeping. The sheets should be comfortable and the pillow should be fluffed up. If you feel a bit hungry, have a light snack before bed. Hunger pangs can interrupt your sleep and you may wake up feeling as tired as you were before.

Just don’t have a heavy meal. A warm glass of milk should be sufficient. The tryptophan in the milk is a natural sleep inducer, which should relax you.

Sleep Hygiene Tip #3 – Unplug an Hour Before Bed
The more screen time you have, the longer it will take you to fall asleep at night. Before heading to bed, limit your use of smart devices at least an hour beforehand. The light can disrupt your internal clock and the emails, social media posts and games will keep your mind active.

Prevent that from happening by keeping your phone out of reach by keeping it in another room. If you need it (for the alarm, for instance), switch it to Airplane Mode or nighttime mode to block vibrations and the light if you receive notifications. You can also keep it face down on your nightstand for the same effect.

Sleep Hygiene Tip #4 – Don’t Watch the Clock
If you stare at the digital clock on your bedside table or your cell phone every half hour, you are ruining your sleep. The bright light will interrupt your circadian rhythm by fooling your body into believing it is daytime. In other words, you will go to bed with a stressed mind and will wake up as tired as you were before.

Prevent this from happening by turning the face of the clock away from you and turning your phone face down. If you wake up in the middle of the night and cannot return to sleep for 20 minutes, get up. Do some light reading or listen to some soft music, instead. Do NOT grab your cell phone! You will remain awake until the wee hours of the morning then. When you cannot keep your eyes open, then turn over and doze off.

Sleep Hygiene Tip #5 – Do Some Light Exercise
If you are too restless to go to sleep at night, do some light exercise to tire yourself out. A small workout will also encourage your body to release sleep hormones called melatonin. Just time these small exercises wisely.

If you work out too close to your bedtime, you will be too full of adrenaline or stimulated to fall asleep quickly. Do some light stretches or yoga an hour beforehand. It will allow your body and mind time to wind down as well. Better yet, maintain a morning workout regime. At the end of the day, you will crash as soon as your bedtime rolls around without adrenaline keeping you awake.

Top Reasons Why You May Have Trouble Falling Asleep

If you are unable to fall asleep despite having a good sleep hygiene regime, you may have insomnia. The condition can manifest in anyone who has high-stress levels, suffers from chronic pain, or even an illness (such as asthma or restless leg syndrome). Or, perhaps you are on medication that has side effects, which prevent you from nodding off.

If those issues are not nipped in the bud, you will set yourself up for chronic pain, depression, and stress. Remaining awake at work will be the least of your problems. Lack of sleep may make you irritable and destroy your focus – two things that can jeopardize your job and personal relationships.

The bottom line is, if you want to achieve deep, restful sleep, and cannot fall asleep, you should consider visiting a doctor. A physician will be able to determine the cause of your insomnia and will also provide solutions that can work for you. If nightmares keep you awake, you may be prescribed therapy. In either case, you will be able to finally get the restful sleep you need to remain productive.

Our sleeping habits define how we spend each day. Poor sleep hygiene can make you tired at work when your mind should be alert. The aforementioned tips should help you prevent this for a healthier lifestyle.