We’ve offered the term a few times before, but we’ve never really gone into what “sleep hygiene” really is. Now, before you head for the shower or try to clean your mattress, sleep hygiene doesn’t mean the same thing as personal hygiene.
Sleep hygiene is what professionals call the routine that you follow before you go to bed.
By practicing good sleep hygiene, you can expect a more restful night’s sleep, and more energy throughout the day. By practicing bad sleep hygiene you can expect late nights, long mornings, and a lot of yawning.
Bad sleep hygiene: Sleep whenever. If you get a little tired during the day, grab your desk pillow and just hit the hay. After all, a tired you is an unproductive you, and it’s just this once, right?
Good sleep hygiene: Try to avoid sleeping at odd times. This sets your body up for bad patterns later on. Plus, sleeping regularly in a place other than on top of your mattress can make it tougher to get to sleep where you should be.
Bad sleep hygiene: It’s bedtime, but you’re just not tired. You should get up and run around the block a few times, or hit that weight machine that’s gathering dust in the corner. After all, you’re going to be exhausted once you finish! Plus it’ll let you get a jump-start on that whole “exercise more” resolution you’ve been ignoring.
Good sleep hygiene: Avoid heavy exercise right before bed (up to about 4 hours before bed). Not only do you prime your heart, lungs, and muscles for action, you also raise your body temperature, making you much more uncomfortable trying to lie down on a mattress and catch some shut-eye. Try to exercise early in the evening, or in the morning to help wake yourself up. Of course, if right before bed is the only time you get to exercise, it’s probably better to do it than not.
Bad sleep hygiene: It’s quitting time, but the boss confiscated your desk pillow, and you’re starting to get your yawn on. You’ve got plans tonight! Time to hit the coffee maker and break into your emergency stash of energy drinks. That should help you get through the now, and you won’t be going to sleep for HOURS anyway.
Good sleep hygiene: Caffeine can affect you for hours after you consume it, with a half-life of about 4 to 6 hours (meaning it loses half its effectiveness every 4 to 6 hours). By avoiding caffeine, and other stimulants, later in the day, you make it easier to let your mattress do its job of shuffling you off to dream-land later.
Bad sleep hygiene: Your mattress is older than most of the linebackers in the Baltimore Raven’s starting lineup, and you’re struggling to get a restful night of sleep on it. You’re thinking about cruising Craigslist for a replacement.
Good sleep hygiene: Although it can be overwhelming, you need to bite the bullet and get some mattress education. (If you’re here, that’s a good start.) Learn about what makes for durability and comfort in a mattress, and what might best fit your sleeping style. The new ComforPedic line is a great place to start your search. These memory foam mattresses come in a range of firmness levels and are built to last, with 25-year warranties as backup.
Do you practice good sleep hygiene, or bad sleep hygiene? A good look at your habits before you hop onto your favorite mattress may help you get better sleep for years to come.