Sleep Hygiene: Why is this so important?
It wasn’t until the CoVID-19 Pandemic that I realized some aspects about my lifestyle and health could be better. For instance, I realized how poor my sleep hygiene was. I purchased a WHOOP Band and invested in the sleepwatch app for my iWatch to further monitor my sleep. Some of you may be able to relate to this- having a revelation and then finally having the time during the pandemic to improve certain things about yourself by trying to build new habits. For me, once I started tracking my sleep, I started doing way more research, which led me to writing this blog post.
First question I asked myself, which you may be asking yourself now too, is “Why is sleep hygiene so important?”
Generally, healthy sleep is important for both physical and mental health. It doesn’t matter if you're 2 months old or 78 years old. Making sure you get adequate sleep is important for performance day to day whether you’re a desk jockey or competitive athlete. Poor sleep can contribute to increased sensitivity to pain, higher stress levels, mood disorders, decreased memory, reduced physical performance, and chronic disease such as Type II diabetes and heart disease.
Did you know….
“More than 50% of Americans report suffering from sleep problems, yet two third of these individuals do not qualify for a diagnosis of insomnia.” Let that sit for a moment.
After that statistic, you might be wondering- “Well, how do I improve my sleep hygiene?”
There is a one word answer, but it has many parts. That answer is habits. More specifically, healthy habits. Establishing and improving healthy habits will improve your circadian rhythm. Circadian rhythm is a 24 hour cycle that is a part of the body’s internal clock. One of the most important is the sleep-wake cycle. When properly aligned, it can promote consistent and restorative sleep.
What I meant when I said habits is implementing a consistent wake up and bedtime routine for starters. The established routine that accompanies waking up and going to sleep is just as important as having a fixed bedtime and wake up time. Next, optimize your sleep environment- think dark, cool, and quiet. Finally, making sure what you do during the day complements your sleep. I will go into detail on each of these later.
What happens when you sleep?
The body recovers and recharges at night during sleep so you can wake up feeling refreshed and energetic to take on the new day ahead- or so we hope anyways. During your sleep certain physiological processes occur which are tied to bodily functions, such as cellular restoration, energy conservation, weight maintenance, insulin production, and heart health. Therefore, good sleep hygiene is important for you to stay happy and healthy.
What are the stages of sleep?
There are 4 stages of sleep we experience. Each one is responsible for something specific, as well as accounting for a certain period of time during the night. On average you spend between 90-120 mins in each of the four cycles of Rapid Eye Movement (REM) and Non- Rapid Eye Movement (NREM). What we do during the day can positively or negatively affect each stage. It is also important to note sleep is not uniform. There are several “cycles” of the 4 stages of sleep. On Average, a person will go through 4-6 full sleep cycles.
NREM1: This is categorized as light sleep. This is where the transition from wake to sleep occurs. There is a gradual reduction in heart rate, breath, eye movement and brain activity. The stage can last several minutes. In this stage of sleep muscles will relax and sometimes twitch, this is known as a hypnic jerk.
NREM 2: This is the longest of the 4 sleep stages and is also categorized as light sleep. As you enter in NREM 2, there is a continued decrease in heart rate, breath, eye movement, and brain activity. Body temperature decreases and eye movement is no longer occurring.
NREM 3: This is categorized as deep sleep. In this stage, heart rate, breathing, and brain wave activity will get to their lowest possible level. This is where there will be complete relaxation of your muscles. This stage of sleep will be at its longest in the initial phase of sleep, but it gradually shortens during the night.
REM: Final stage of sleep which occurs about an hour and a half into your snooze. As we get older, we spend less time in this stage. Dreaming takes place during this stage and your muscles are temporarily paralyzed. When you’re in this stage of sleep the opposite is happening with your eye movement, heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing as seen in NREM 1-3, because there is actually an increase in all the areas during REM.
How to improve sleep hygiene
Optimize the sleep environment: Comfortable sheets and pillows. Make sure the room is quiet and dark at night, but make sure you are able to expose yourself to light in the AM to improve circadian rhythms. Room temperature should realistically be close to 65 degrees
Avoid Alcohol, Food, Cell Phone/TV/Bluelight: Try to limit the exposure to these 60-90 mins prior to bedtime.
Exercise Regularly: Physical activity during the day will allow you to expend energy. Try to avoid exercising before bed.
Naps: If you take naps, avoid the evening time
Sunlight during the day: Getting outside during the day and exposing yourself to natural light will improve circadian clocks.
3 Ways Ashlyn & Sarah improved their sleep hygiene
Blue light Blocking glasses: we wear them starting in the afternoon until we go to bed.
Weighted blankets- we notice less disturbances during our sleep
Eye Mask- Our sleep environment is darker this way.
Hopefully this helps improve your sleep hygiene and has you waking up feeling more rested and well!