First, let us start off with answering the question, what exactly is sleep hygiene? Generally speaking, sleep hygiene consists of a set of behaviors we can practice regularly to improve our quality of sleep, fall asleep faster and for longer, and decrease the number of times we wake up in the middle of the night.
What are some signs of poor sleep hygiene?
Some things we can monitor and keep track of in regards to the quality of sleep we are getting are the amount of times we are waking up in the middle of the night, the amount of day time sleepiness or general lethargy we are feeling, brain fog and the ability to focus on daily tasks, cravings (poor sleep may increase cravings), moodiness, and the amount of time we lay awake before the ability to fall asleep. These are just surface level indicators that we are not getting the amount and quality of sleep needed, however the health ramifications on a deeper level are much more extensive. Being aware of these signs of poor sleep and working to improve is essential on our journey to better health and wellness.
10 Ways Sleep is Essential for Improved Health and Wellness
When it comes to optimizing your health, well-being, and fitness, we all hear about the importance of nutrition and exercise. However, the topic of sleep is often left by the wayside, when in reality it should be one of the fore-front topics in health and fitness. Developing and maintaining a regular and optimized sleep schedule is beneficial in a countless number of ways. The list is extensive but here are some of the ways sleep is essential for performance and lifestyle:
- Helps maintain a healthy body weight by enhancing recovery for the muscles and brain, reducing stress hormones, promoting the release of leptin (hunger suppressing hormone), metabolizing fat, and reducing cravings during the day.
- Helps keep our heart healthy due to reduced blood pressure and a slower heart rate during sleep.
- Helps regulate our blood sugar by aiding in the increase of insulin sensitivity.
- Essential for muscular recovery and hypertrophy(growth) after our daily exercise and activity, which the benefits of increased muscle mass merit an extensive list of their own.
- Improves our mental and cognitive function throughout the day, providing us with the ability to focus better and being more productive.
- Provides us with stress relief and more regulated Cortisol levels.
- Improves athletic performance and greatly reduces the risk of injury.
- Improves our immune system and our ability to fight off infections.
- Overall improved hormone profile.
- Lower your risk of serious health complications like heart disease and diabetes.
7 Lifestyle Habits to Improve Your Quality of Sleep
Now we know some of the benefits of sleep, but how can we do some things in our day-to-day life that can improve our quality of sleep so that we can reap the rewards of this fountain of youth?
- Create a consistent sleep schedule: go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day, even on the weekends. Although this may be difficult to sustain (especially while having a social life on the weekends), we do our best to stick as closely to that sleep schedule as consistently as we possibly can.
- Perform weight bearing or cardiovascular exercises (or both) during the day.
- Have a cut off time of looking at screens at least 30 minutes to an hour before bed. This can disrupt our bodies’ circadian rhythm due to blue light exposure, and can reduce our natural production of the sleep hormone melatonin.
- Create a calming night time routine: opt for reading a book instead of watching TV or looking at your phone, try to worry less about work and life stress, take a hot bath or shower and have a self-care routine (brushing teeth, cleansing and moisturizing skin, etc).
- Avoid Caffeine, Nicotine, and Alcohol before bed, all of these are sleep disrupters. Ideally caffeine should not be consumed up to 6-8 hours within bedtime, so if you are working out after work, avoid the high stimulant pre workouts and opt for stimulant free options or none at all.
- Create a quality sleep environment in the bedroom by bringing the temperature down, making it dark (no screens and closing the shades, you can go a step further and install black out shades), and turn on a fan for more air cooling and a calming noise.
- Make sleep a priority, getting 7-9 hours of sleep is essential for most people.
5 Supplements to Fall Asleep Quicker
Can we use supplements to help improve our sleep quality? The answer is yes, but supplements should not be used as a band-aid for poor sleep hygiene and should be viewed as a cherry on top of an already good routine. Here are some supplements you can use to help get deeper sleep and sleep longer (please consult with a medical professional before adding any supplements to your routine):
- Magnesium Glycinate
- Valerian Root
- Chamomile Extract
Using this information and making these changes to your lifestyle habits and overall sleep hygiene will help improve hormonal health and lead to a better quality of life!