Sleeping between six to nine hours every night is a restful and restorative activity for people of all ages. Not only is this activity essential for growing children, but also for adults who have daily responsibilities to their family and work. However, modern life in a post-pandemic world, means that many of us do not get the high-quality sleep that we need.
In 2020’s Great British Sleep Survey, researchers found that an average person (age 18 or older) gets about 6.66 hours of sleep every night. While city-dwellers tend to get less sleep than those living in rural areas, the numbers are still close to the bare minimum hours of sleep the body needs.
Your sleep can be affected by many things: the weather, your work schedule, your dinner or bedtime activities, your gender, your age and your overall health. Something as erratic as a sudden power outage can affect your sleep, or having to prepare for a long commute to work.
What is Sleep Hygiene?
Sleep hygiene describes the lifestyle of habits that we build, so that we can sleep properly and improve our quality of life.
Here’s a checklist of poor sleep hygiene symptoms:
- You have a difficult time falling asleep
- You frequently wake up from sleep disturbances
- You feel sleepy throughout the day
- You do not have a regular sleep schedule
If you fit any of these descriptions, it’s time to address the issues right away.
Why is sleep important?
Getting enough hours of sleep each day is important for your holistic wellbeing.
- Better immune system
While we are asleep, the body is busy repairing itself. Giving our body enough time to recuperate lowers our chances of getting sick. Subsequently, you also lower your risk for serious health problems such as diabetes, chronic migraines, heart diseases and insomnia.
- Stable blood sugar levels
Studies also show that you are more likely to gain weight when you overextend your waking hours. Since your body is used to a certain routine, not getting enough sleep can negatively affect your blood sugar levels.
If you continue to stay up late, your brain triggers your ghrelin, the hormone responsible for making you hungry. Sleeping earlier can improve your diet and metabolism, as your body is able to predict when you are going to eat and how much energy you will use up during the day.
- Efficient performance and improved interpersonal skills
When you don’t experience chronic sleepiness during the day, you are able to think more clearly and perform better at school or work. As you are able to manage your time better and finish your tasks on time, your stress levels are reduced and your mood is also improved.
As a result, your interpersonal skills also improve. You are able to get along with people, communicate your thoughts clearly and avoid any miscommunication.
- Decreased chances of a vehicular accident
In a study conducted by the Sleep Research Society, researchers show that drivers who have slept for less than seven hours are more likely to crash their vehicle. And the risk only increases when they sleep for less hours.
When you sleep at the right time, you are not only keeping your mental and physical health in check, but also your safety and security.
Establishing a Bedtime Routine: The Basics and The Tips
A big part of improving your sleep hygiene is to form good habits that are beneficial for your body and practicing them until they become second nature. Thankfully, it only takes 21 days to form a new habit! All we need to do is to build an environment that reinforces our goals while creating routines that help us to succeed.
A bedtime routine consists of the different activities you do each night before you go to bed. These activities can differ per person, lasting between 30 to 60 minutes.
As we are creatures of habit, creating and practicing these steps will help our brains recognize that it is time for bed. This will prompt your pineal gland to release melatonin, the hormone responsible for making you sleepy.
Repeating these activities daily can reduce late-night stress. Often, it is anxious thoughts that activate our mind and prevent us from relaxing. By following a bedtime routine, you are encouraging your mind to stay focused and fall asleep faster.
Here are ten different ways you can work towards a healthier sleep hygiene:
- Do some light exercises
Experts recommend staying away from strenuous exercises that can increase your heart rate and body temperature. If you were to lie in bed shortly after an intense exercise, it will take a while for your body to adjust back to normal.
If you want to do an intense workout session to release some well-deserved endorphins, you may do them during the morning or afternoon. This way, you are also preparing your body for a restful sleep because you have used up all of your energy.
During the nighttime, however, we also recommend doing stretches, going for a walk, or participating in yoga an hour to 90 minutes before bedtime. Taking some time to focus on your breathing and your body can take your mind away from pressing concerns that may keep you up at night. Poses such as downward-facing dog, cat-cow and child’s pose help your muscles relax and loosen up.
- Have a cup of tea
It’s a good practice to avoid any caffeinated, alcoholic or sugary drinks before you go to sleep. Making yourself a cup of warm milk, herbal tea or almond milk is a great way to warm up your body for bed without affecting your melatonin levels. You can also try some light snacks such as banana, nuts, berries or yogurt.
- Take a shower
If you’re not practicing yoga, you can choose to take a shower around one to two hours before bedtime. A warm shower can lower your body temperature and encourage healthy sleep. At the end of the day, your body starts to produce melatonin in preparation for sleep. During this time, your body temperature begins to drop. Mimicking this drop in temperature through showering can also trigger a similar reaction from your body.
As your body heats up from the water, it also cools down quickly when the water forms into steam. This sensation can cause you to feel more tired and relaxed.
From a psychological standpoint, this activity signifies that you are washing the day’s stress off your body.
Compared to morning baths, we recommend taking your time showering before bed and massaging your scalp or neck. This way, you will be more relaxed when you step out of the shower. Relaxing your body will also help you sleep better.
- List down your tasks for tomorrow
There are people who find it therapeutic to write things down in a journal. Not only does the activity help you reflect on and record the day that has passed, but it also encourages you to prepare for tomorrow.
If you can list down the top five things you need to prioritize for the next day, you are already reducing stress, improving your memory and strengthening your brain’s capacity to regulate emotions.
Spending some time to organize your thoughts can help you refocus on falling asleep right away. Once your brain understands that you are prepared for the following day, you begin to calm down. Overall, being less anxious about the future can also improve your immunity and decrease your risk of mental and physical illness.
- Warm up your bed with electric underblankets
Electric blankets, underblankets and foot warmers are known to be a great support when you want to improve on your sleep hygiene. You may know that sleeping with extra layers of clothing can feel uncomfortable and restrictive, along with adding extra blankets to your bed.
While you’re taking a shower or doing some light stretches, you can leave your underblanket to warm up for 10-15 minutes, before turning it off or using it at the lowest temperature setting. When you’re ready for bed, you’re greeted with a comfortable warmth that soothes any stiffness and encourages a full night’s sleep.
During the three stages of sleep, our body stops regulating our body temperature during the last stage in favor of connecting and reconnecting our neurons. This stage is essential for our brains to enhance its memory and process data. If you were to wake up from uncomfortable levels of heat or cold, your body will prioritize temperature regulation over this stage.
Having an electric blanket can keep your temperature consistent throughout the night.
- Dim the lights
Our body has a circadian rhythm that wakes us up when there is light or makes us drowsy when the opposite happens. As we want you to build up a healthy sleep hygiene, we recommend dimming the lights (or turning them off completely is an even better choice) a few minutes before bedtime.
If you want to sleep with some type of light on, it is believed that blue light disrupts sleep the most. Because of this, you may choose colored lights from the opposite side of the spectrum. Research shows that our eyes are less sensitive to red, orange or yellow-hued lights, thereby not affecting our melatonin production.
As there are people who also work the graveyard shift, it is important to fit your windows with room-darkening or black-out shades that filter out the sunlight.
- Put away your phone
Screens from televisions, smartphones and laptops emit blue light that keeps your brain awake long after your supposed bedtime. Just like keeping your lights on at night, experts discourage people from using their gadgets as they wind down for bed. Because your body has reduced melatonin levels, you are more likely to delay your sleepiness and your needed REM sleep.
If you find that you cannot keep away from your phone every time you hear a notification, you can try putting it on silent or placing it in a drawer far from your bed. This can keep you from constantly checking your phone each time it pings.
- Meditate and practice gratitude
Aside from practicing yoga, you can meditate for five to fifteen minutes. Mindfulness meditation can help you intentionally release the day’s stress and prepare for sleep. This gives you a change to reflect on your thoughts and feelings, letting them go once you have accepted them. Breathing in and out can also help your body slow down.
You can follow these steps, if you want to begin practicing meditation:
- Sit on a mat or on the couch, or lie down and relax your lower back
- Inhale for four seconds
- Hold your breath for seven seconds
- Exhale for eight seconds
- Repeat the breathing technique five times
- List down three things you’re grateful for today
- Tell yourself that the day is over, and embrace it for what it has been
- Breathe deeply a few more times, until you feel prepared for bed
Being thankful for the day encourages positive and peaceful thinking, bringing an inner calm that can soothe you for sleep.
- Read a book or listen to some music
Some people also find that listening to calming music or an audiobook can soothe them better than meditation. Soothing music can trigger the release of endorphins, calming your nerves and relaxing your muscles. While it may be tempting to sing along to your favorite song, we recommend playing tunes that don’t have any lyrics.
You may also play ambient sounds such as white or pink noise, both of which have shown to improve sleep quality and help listeners fall asleep faster. This may include listening to the sound of ocean waves or a soft rain.
You can also add other calming activities such as reading, drawing or coloring to your bedtime routine, as well.
- Make yourself comfortable
Clutter can also hinder you from sleeping properly. Setting your mind to fixing your room can also lead your body to release endorphins. By the time you are ready for bed, you can sleep soundly.
We also recommend making your bed every morning, to help you start your day right and keep the rest of your room tidy. At the end of a long day, there’s nothing more inviting than a clean bed and fluffed pillows.
Discipline is Key
Getting proper sleep is an important factor for your mind and body’s wellness, but it will take some time to practice. If you are starting on your sleep hygiene journey, we recommend personalizing your routine with activities that work well with your schedule and preference.
Sleep Better with WellCare
At Wellcare, we believe in advocating spreading care to everyone around us. With the help of our innovative 4D DWF technology, we are on a mission to let each of our customers experience comfortable warmth the Wellcare way.
Our products are also equipped with the 4D Dynamic Warmth Flow system (4D DWF). An innovation in electric heating technology, the 4D DWF mimics the human body’s breathing to ensure even heat distribution throughout the surface of the product.