I used to have terrible sleep habits. I knew it. My family knew it. My friends knew it. When I was a teen, I basically would break every sleep hygiene rule all at once.
These habits are so ingrained that I continue to contend with many of them even to this day (not to mention the terrible sleep). So what makes me qualified to even write an article about sleep hygiene?
Basically, I have been through the struggle. I have spent years trying to come up with sleep solutions and trying to break bad habits. And, best of all, I have noticed some success. I now feel more rested than I have ever been and routinely get a great sleep at night.
If you struggle with sleep, one of the first things you will want to look at is your sleep hygiene
Of course, your sleep issues could be tied to a deeper medical issue. If you suspect that this is the case, you should absolutely consult a health professional (I am not a medical professional. Please read my full medical disclaimer here).
And please don’t feel that only physical medical issues count. Mental issues such as depression and anxiety can affect your quality of sleep.
Sleep hygiene should be one of the first things that you look into because it is one of the easiest things to change.
Simply setting a routine bedtime and wake-up time can have a profound impact. You can start doing many of these things today. Even better, many of these things don’t cost a dime.
Making Sleep Hygiene Easy
Even though the National Sleep Foundation’s recommendations for improving sleep hygiene are very actionable, your lifestyle may make it difficult for your to really turn them into a habit. Here are some things that helped me.
Use a fan to make your room more pleasant
My childhood bedroom was always extremely stuffy in the summer. I constantly felt like it was too hot to sleep! As it turns out, my room stays at a balmy 82 degrees at all times during the summer.
I personally tend to sleep better in a cool room. The solution for me has been to use a fan to make my room cooler rather than to crank up the air conditioner. It definitely was an inexpensive way to make sleep easier.
If you tend to feel too cold to sleep, consider warming your room with a space heater. Just make sure to turn it off before you go to bed (or use one with a timer).
Use blue blocking glasses if you like to look at the computer before going to bed
Staring at the computer, tablet, or TV can make it more difficult for you to go to sleep because the light tells your brain that the sun is out. Many people may take this as a lesson to unplug before going to sleep.
However, I felt that there may be a better way. That is when I discovered blue-blocking glasses. These glasses block out the light that tells your brain to stay awake. Now I can read an eBook in the afternoon before I go to sleep without worrying about the light keeping me up.
Sometimes stimulants can show up when you least expect them
If you want to sleep better, it is wise to avoid stimulants like coffee and tea. However, sometimes stimulants can show up in (somewhat) surprising places.
One time, I started to eat chocolate covered cranberries for desert after dinner. It seemed like an easy and delicious treat. However, I wasn’t able to sleep that entire week. I wasn’t really surprised by the fact that it kept me up (after all chocolate is a known stimulant) .
I was surprised by the intensity of the effect that it had on my sleep. Apparently, I am highly sensitive to the stimulant in chocolate. As you pay more attention to the food that you eat at night, you may notice that foods may affect you differently than you would expect.
Take control of your light exposure
As I got more and more into sleep hygiene, one thing that almost became an obsession for me was controlling light. Light is extremely important for regulating your circadian rhythm and I definitely benefited from taking some ownership over it.
It all started when I bought black out curtains for my room. Creating a pitch-black, cold environment did wonders for my sleep. After feeling like I was only half-sleeping for years, I really appreciated the deep sleep that I got after I made the room changes.
Nowadays, rather than modifying my entire room, I just wear a sleep mask. It is an adjustment but it has the added benefit of being extremely portable.
Another way that I take control of my light exposure is by using a Verilux lamp in the morning. Many times we need to get up before the sun in up.
When I was in high school, I would wake up at the crack of dawn and stay inside at school all day, never really getting any sort of sun exposure. This can affect your sleep because light helps keep your circadian rhythm in balance.
The Verilux lamp simulates the light of the sun, so you can get some sunlight in the morning even if it is artificial. This lamp does have some side effects so make sure that you read my review and do your own research before you purchase one.
Commit to a sleep schedule
This has been one of the hardest things for me to change. I routinely wake up at about 5:30 for work, yet on the weekends I want to sleep in until about 9.
For this last one, I don’t have any tricks. Just realize that it is a matter of commitment to your health and your sanity. It may take time, but eventually you will be able to wake up early easily. If you slip up, don’t beat yourself up. Just make a commitment to try again the next day.
In conclusion, if you are struggling with sleep and want a solution, look for ways to clean up sleep hygiene. There are many ways that you can make it easier and make it your own. I use a strange combination of shades and lights to manipulate my sleep. It works!
In the comments down below, let me know the things that you have tried to make your sleep better? Have you tried out any of the things that I recommended?