During the holiday season, our bodies are dealing with a lot. Everything from colder temperatures, shorter days, longer nights and not to mention all the increased emotional stress that most have to deal with between shopping, travel, and family. One of the hardest yet most important things is to maintain you sleep hygiene.
Hygiene is an excellent way to refer to the routine that we all have before bed. When we use the term hygiene, we think of our morning rituals like showering, shaving, brushing teeth. These habits are usually so ingrained in us that it was difficult to start our day without them. While some of us do have our night time routines, like brush your teeth, feed the dogs shut off all the lights, or read a few passages or pages in a book.
We don’t think about them as much as we should; the morning habits are set up to get us ready for our days. The shower makes sure we don’t have offensive body odor, brushing our teeth makes sure people can stand talking to us, getting dressed keeps us warm and within the social norms.
Often we don’t think about how our nightly rituals are preparing us for a restful sleep. So, I thought I would go through some of the common things that might be throwing your bodies natural Sleep Hygiene ritual off. Get to bed at roughly the same time every night. There was a lot of wisdom in our partners putting us to bed at the same time every night when we were kids. It made sure that we got enough sleep so that we weren’t massive pains in the ass the next day; it ensured that our growing brains and bodies had ample time to grow.
Plus, it gave us stability and routine which is one of the things our psyche craves and thrives. So, honestly, we need to instill an adult bedtime. Your goal should be to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, and yes that includes weekends. I was one of the Monday’s sucked kind of people but once I started getting up at the same time on weekends as weekdays. Monday’s just became another day; there wasn’t any hangover sleep wise from the weekend.
No TV or Computer in or near the bed! This is one of the most important things you can do for your overall health, is getting the TV out of the bedroom. Unfortunately, many people that have taken the TV out of the bedroom have resorted to checking Facebook or Twitter in bed on their computer, tablet, or phone. The problem is that the lights these electronics emit are way to bright and fool your brain and consequently your hormones into thinking it is daytime. This ramps everything up making it hard to get to sleep, and if / when you do finally get to bed it makes it less than restful.
Blackout curtains/ambient lights off in the room The most light that should be in your room is real starlight or moonlight. And I mean the most light, it would be better to have no light in your room at all. The problem is that most of us live in urban or suburban areas with so much ambient light that we can’t even see the stars at night. If you can’t see a sky full of stars at night, it means that there is so much light pollution that it blocks out the stars. This means again that your brain and hormones are being fooled into thinking it is daylight outside and make your hormonal system act accordingly. Meaning wakes you up and gets you going. The other thing in this category is the ambient lights in our rooms like alarm clocks, phone’s, or even the little red lights on electronics even after they are turned off.
Balance your blood sugar. One of my biggest soapboxes is that patients need to balance their blood sugar a lot more stringently than they currently do. This has become even more apparent to me as I have dealt with patients that tend to wake up 2-3 times a night. One of their major problems is that their cortisol is raising at abnormal times throughout the evening, and it wakes them up. Cortisol is predominately produced when blood sugar falls, and sleep is when it is going to fall the most. This is because we are fasting overnight when we aren’t eating. This causes our blood sugar to drop which causes an increase in cortisol. If your blood sugar falls too far, your cortisol goes up and wakes you up so that you can find some food and raise your blood sugar. So, if you are continually waking up to “go pee” then you probably have an imbalance in your cortisol and try eating a piece of fat/protein before bed. I know this is counter to what is being taught for weight loss. But if you keep your blood sugar up overnight it will significantly reduce your cortisol and thus increase your ability to lose weight and sleep through the night.
Keep a cold room I am still working on Erin for this one, but most research says that sleeping in a room temperature between 60-68 is the best for your overall sleep. I have to say anything below 67, and it is uncomfortable for me to get out of the bed in the morning the sleep is not bad. These tips are the easiest to implement, and honestly, they are the biggest bang for your buck in keeping your sleep routine and hygiene. They boil, down to get all the electronics including phone, TV, and iPads out of the bedroom. Put some new curtains up to block all the ambient light from outside. Cool the room off and get to bed at the same time every night.
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