Sleep Hygiene

Woman sleeping in bed

Many of us underestimate the power and benefits of a good night’s sleep. Consistently going to sleep around 9-10pm will help your mood, concentration and memory. Establishing an excellent sleep hygiene will pay off in the short and long-run. But realistically speaking, we are too distracted by technology, social media, Netflix and cell phones. If you learn to become disciplined by cutting out technology at 9-10pm and training your mind to fall asleep, you will start to notice positive changes to your mental health.

The Importance of a Good Sleep Hygiene

Sleep is one of the most underutilized tools for mental performance. Especially in modern-day society, most of us seek ways to optimize our performance during the day. A lot of people rely on coffee, others seek amphetamines and designer drugs, and some work extremely hard while sacrificing quality sleep at night. Let’s not forget cigarettes; many smoke before activities to get that increased stimulation. What’s missing from this picture? Quality sleep. We’re pumping stimulants and hard work during daylight hours while sacrificing quality sleep during nighttime hours.

Sleep is extremely important for the brain to rest and recover and the body to rejuvenate itself. The brain consolidates memories during sleep and the body heals from stress and pain. With a good night’s sleep, your memory, concentration, alertness and mood can significantly improve. Even a few hours of sleep can make a huge difference! But you can’t just go to sleep early once a week and expect to see consistent changes. You have to make a good sleep hygiene a new habit in your life.

First things first: you must want to go to sleep early. If you don’t want it, it’s going to be very difficult for you to apply the sleep hygiene recommendations I’m about to share with you. Okay, so let’s say you want it, but how do you go about doing it? Right when you feel sleepy around 9pm or so, stop everything you’re doing, turn off the lights and go to bed. I’m serious! If you can capitalize on that sleepy moment by trying to fall asleep, it will be much easier to do so. You won’t even be aware of the time. If you’re willing to do this, then keep reading.

White woman sleeping in bed practicing sleep hygiene

Sleep Recommendations

  • Go to sleep early when you’re actually sleepy (9pm is the sweet spot)
  • Turn off the lights (yes, that nightlight as well)
  • No electronics! (I’m serious, no cell phones, iPads or television)
  • Get out of bed if you can’t fall asleep within 30 minutes (go to the couch and read or just lay there for 15 minutes, then return to bed)
  • Use your bed only for sleep and sex (no laying around just for fun – well I guess sex is fun but you get the point)
  • Go to sleep at the same time and wake up at the same time (your brain doesn’t like change when it comes to sleep)

It might not be easy for you to incorporate the above recommendations, but if you keep practicing, it will eventually come to fruition.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Insomnia

Shadow of sleeping woman on bed

When Sleeping Is Your Worst Enemy

Insomnia is a sleep disorder that causes you to experience difficulty falling or staying asleep. It can happen for many different reasons and in almost all age groups. Considering how essential a good night’s sleep is for your work, educational and athletic performance, as well as your mood and mental health in general, this condition can be quite debilitating if not addressed and treated.

When sleeping is your worst enemy, the last thing that you want to do is actually go to sleep. Part of the disorder is that you already know ahead of time that “tonight will be no different than others.” What happens is that a person will attempt to go to sleep, usually at the same time, and just end up laying there, becoming frustrated and worsening the process.

Acute insomnia can last from 1 night to a few weeks, while chronic insomnia occurs at least 3 nights a week for 3 months or more. There are more than 3 million cases per year in the United States. It can’t be cured but it can be treated! These treatments include:

  • Improving your sleep hygiene
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (a form of psychotherapy)
  • Medication trials (i.e.: Zolpidem, Temazepam, Lorazepam, Trazodone, Eszopiclone, Diphenhydramine, Mirtazapine, etc.)

Medications should always be used as a last resort. You’d be surprised to find out that your insomnia is most likely due to poor sleeping habits or conflicts within your mind. We carry many poor habits in our lives and don’t even recognize them half the time. That’s why seeking therapy with a psychologist or psychiatrist is often beneficial.

Never jump straight to medications when it comes to insomnia. Even though you may be frustrated and experiencing daytime drowsiness, a decreased work performance, difficulty concentrating, slowness in activity, stress headaches or even depression, you want to first attempt to improve your sleeping habits or at least seek behavioral therapy.

Medications should be a last resort because they interfere with your natural sleep architecture, causing your brain to reprogram its sleeping pattern based on the medications that you feed it. In other words, there’s a chance that if you stop the medications, you’ll experience rebound insomnia because of the lack of medications.

In addition, the class of medications known as benzodiazepines are habit-forming and can make you dependent on them. “Benzos” are often abused as street drugs for their sedative and hypnotic effects; aka “xanax bars” or “zanies.” Even though they work well for inducing sleep, this is not the first option that you want to run to.

When sleeping is your worst enemy, try to analyze why. There’s no need to keep an enemy around, especially at nighttime.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Can’t Keep My Eyes Open

Tired young man laying in bed with sunrays shining on face

Exhausted But Still Kicking

The lack of sleep is a silent killer, similar to uncontrolled high blood pressure. While high blood pressure viciously attacks your organs such as your brain, heart, kidneys and more, the lack of sleep nonchalantly attacks your mental well-being. And so you start to rely on coffee, energy drinks, stimulants or a bunch of sugar.

While not the best way to go about your day, millions of people worldwide are sleep-deprived due to a poor sleep hygiene. Not having enough time to sleep is only an excuse propelled by those who actually do not have the discipline to get a full night’s 8-hour rest. It’s not hard to get good sleep, but are you interested in getting it in the first place?

The worst days are when you wake up and can’t keep your eyes open! All you can think of is emailing your employer, “leave me alone for today, I don’t want to think about you” and climb back into bed and peacefully snooze. That sounds nice and can definitely be done once in a while, but should not be your go-to-strategy.

And even if you sleep all day, it’s just not the same quality of sleep as you get during the night, especially when going to bed earlier in the evening. Sometimes it’s worth considering taking days off from work in order to refresh your mind and unwind your chakras. But your best strategy should be an awesome sleep hygiene!

You may be exhausted and still kicking, but is that really how you want to go about your day? Wouldn’t have it been easier to just go to sleep on time the previous night? But that’s where a lot of us struggle: we want to watch another episode of a Netflix show, talk an extra hour on the phone, fall deeper down the YouTube hole, etc.

The excuses for not getting enough sleep at night can pile up, until you become chronically sleep-deprived and start to experience a change in your mental well-being. Lack of sleep is associated with irritability, sadness, anger, anxiety and a poor outlook on life; it’s associated with feeling incomplete!

Can’t keep your eyes open but are still kicking? Good. A little pain is what it sometimes takes to make a change in poor behavior.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

The Benefits Of Sleep

The sleep hygiene of a cat sleeping under a white comforter

A Proper Sleepy Head

It is unimaginable how important sleep is to your wellbeing. To properly function and maximize your potential in life, you need a proper sleep hygiene. A sleep hygiene is a set of routines that you consistently stick to that allows you to maintain a good sleep over the long run:

  • Do not exercise the immediate hours prior to sleep (this will keep you awake since you are already energized from the workout)
  • No not consume a large meal before sleep (your body will be focused on the digestion process rather than resting)
  • Do not drink a lot of alcohol before sleep (alcohol may make you fall asleep easier, but it actually interrupts your REM sleep, causing you to wake up more frequently, resulting in morning tiredness)
  • Go to sleep at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning (your internal clock which is located in a region of your brain called the hypothalamus becomes used to a set schedule – mess up this schedule and you will start having problems with sleep)
  • Stay away from caffeine before sleep
  • If you find yourself not being able to fall asleep after laying down for 30 minutes in bed, get out of bed and go do something else, and return back to bed in 30 minutes (laying in bed while not being able to fall asleep actually trains your mind to relate the bed with poor sleep)
  • Do not read, watch TV or utilize electronics while in bed (the bed should be associated only with sleep and sex; the rest can be done during the day outside of bed)

Did you know that sleep keeps your heart healthy? Lack of sleep has been associated with worsening of blood pressure and cholesterol, increasing your risk for heart disease and stroke.

Sleep may prevent cancer! Light suppresses the sleep hormone called melatonin; hence, why it is not produced during the day by your pineal gland. If you use electronics while going to sleep, you are telling your brain “I’m not ready to go to sleep” and your brain interprets this as a signal to shutdown melatonin production. Melatonin is thought to suppress the growth of tumors.

Sleep reduces stress! When you do not sleep properly, your body experiences stress. This results in stress hormones being released as well as an elevation of blood pressure. Stress hormones make it harder for you to fall asleep, promote inflammation and elevated blood pressure, increasing your risk for heart disease and stroke.

Sleep increases your energy level! After a good night’s sleep, you feel energized and mentally refreshed, allowing you to tackle the day’s work with a positive mindset, promoting happiness. This is why sleep hygiene is important!

Sleeps improves memory! During sleep, a process called memory consolidation occurs. Your brain is busy integrating everything that happened during the day, including new information that you have learned. Improved memory helps you become a better communicator, score higher on tests and feel better about yourself.

Sleep may help you lose weight! People who sleep less become hungrier during the day; the appetite hormones Leptin and Ghrelin become disrupted, resulting in hunger. Therefore, maintain a proper 7-8 hours of sleep every night to keep your hormones functioning in the normal range.

Overall, sleep is good for your mental and physical wellbeing. It is important that you maintain a good sleep hygiene; especially in this day and age, where we are living in an ultra-competitive and cut-throat society.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)