In this day and age, we can’t emphasize the importance of sleep enough. Whether you spend your days sitting in front of a computer screen, working on a construction site or attending lectures at university, your body needs plenty of quality sleep to function well.
The concept of sleep hygiene has become ever more important of late, as more and more people look to prioritize self-care in their day-to-day lives. But what is Sleep hygiene? Broadly speaking it’s an umbrella term for various habits and nighttime routines that a person can incorporate before going to bed. It could include powering down your cell phone an hour or two before bed, reading a book, meditating, or all three.
Don’t fret if your sleep hygiene isn’t where you want it to be. We’ll show you some of our favorite sleep hygiene tips so that you can get the most out of your nightly routine and get the rest your body needs.
Why does sleep hygiene matter?
If you think sleep is for the weak, think again! Your nightly snooze lays the foundation for the next day ahead, and if you get too little or too much of it – between seven to nine hours is ideal – you may be compromising your performance in the classroom, at work or while playing sports.
We understand the appeal of staying up all night perusing YouTube or sleeping in extra late on your days off, and that’s fine from time to time. However, if poor sleep hygiene becomes a constant in your life, you may be falling short of your potential, no matter where your interests lie.
The benefits of practicing sleep hygiene
So, why should you care so much about sleep hygiene? Let’s talk about how better sleep can benefit you throughout your waking life.
Supports health and fitness
In addition to nutrition and exercise, sleep is one of the most critical elements that comes into play on your health and fitness journey. A good night’s rest can make a serious difference in your strength and endurance during a workout. Just think: if you’ve barely slept, you probably won’t feel like pushing yourself to your limits when exercising, and may be low on energy leading to feeling sluggish, groggy and unmotivated.
And if you’re looking to lose a little weight, sleep deprivation is not your friend – it can trigger unhealthy food cravings. That’s because not getting enough sleep can affect the hunger hormones responsible in signaling that it’s time to stop eating to your brain. Also, lack of sleep will elevate cortisol levels, and over time chronically high cortisol can breakdown lean muscle and increase blood sugar, resulting in fat storage rather than fat burning. Getting your zzz’s is a must if you want to see results, no matter what your health and fitness goals may be.
The most apparent reason why sleep is important is that being adequately rested will help you feel alert during waking hours. A good night’s rest can set the tone for your entire day, and if you don’t get enough of it, you may find yourself feeling tired or even nodding off in that important meeting at work.
Simply put, low energy levels equal poor focus. If you get less than seven hours of sleep the night before an important exam or presentation, you may have a difficult time recalling information or have trouble understanding questions asked you asked.
Improves the immune system
Ever notice that you tend to catch a cold or flu after a few days of poor slumber? That’s because a lack of sleep can seriously compromise your immune system. If you continuously curtail your sleep, your body will overuse the stress response, leading to inflammation and eventually immunodeficiency – causing your body to be less effective at fighting off illnesses.
Sleep hygiene tips
Now that we’ve explained the importance of rest let’s think about how you can start to improve it. Here are our top sleep hygiene tips that you can already begin to incorporate into your nightly routine:
Avoid using your phone (screens) in bed. You probably knew this one was coming, and as hard as it is, it’s best to cut down your screen time as much as possible before bed. We know it can feel like the perfect time to scroll through social media, but the blue light that your phone emanates can suppress the production of melatonin – the hormone that regulates your circadian rhythm (aka sleep cycle). For an hour or two before bedtime, do your best to avoid using your phone and instead read something in print like a book or magazine.
Make a ritual of your nightly routine. Turn those last couple of hours before you hit the hay into a relaxing, rejuvenating self-care routine. Light some candles, take a bath, dim the lights and give yourself a spa treatment. Curl up with a good book and a cup of herbal tea, then wind down in any way that makes you feel relaxed.
Avoid caffeine and alcohol. Set yourself a cut-off time for drinking caffeinated beverages like coffee or tea and try to stick to it – four to six hours before bedtime is ideal. Although alcohol may help you to fall asleep initially, it can compromise the quality of sleep you get. Just like with caffeinated drinks, your best bet is to drink your last glass of wine or cup of coffee at least a few hours before you lay down to sleep.
Set yourself a bedtime and stick to it. One of the joys of adulthood is not having to do everything mom and dad say, including turning the lights out early. Even so, choosing to set a bedtime can be rewarding – and you’re the one making the rules, nobody else! Aim to go to bed around the same time every night so that you can get on a schedule where your body knows bedtime is near. You could even set yourself a reminder an hour before bed that it’s time to wind down and get cozy for the night.
Try not to eat or drink too much before bed. Sure, sometimes a big meal can make you want to doze off, but eating right before bed can disrupt sleep. Too much food late in the evening can cause indigestion and other digestive issues. Try to have dinner a few hours before bed – if you feel hungry, opt for a light bedtime snack.
Exercise and sleep: A match made in heaven
After an intense workout, proper sleep is even more critical for building new muscle. Having great sleep hygiene can make a difference in how well you feel when doing an 8fit workout (be sure to sign up for 8fit Pro if you haven’t already). Remember, resting up is vital when it comes to maintaining your health, fitness, and all around mental and physical wellbeing.