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The agony of waiting for the body and mind to calm themselves after a frazzled day of work, errands, and ruminations is a commonality most Americans share to a varying degree.

But unfortunately, the decline of sleep hygiene in our country has only accelerated with the introduction of smartphones, social media, cable news, and tablets. But what is sleep hygiene, anyway? Moreover, what is good sleep hygiene? 

Sleep hygiene is merely the concept of nighttime habits enacted to prime the body for rest.

You may wonder, what is poor sleep hygiene? If it is past your bedtime and reading this on your iPhone, you are engaging in poor sleep hygiene. 

Our overstimulated brains have caused us to lose sight of best nighttime practices and actions to ensure you wake up refreshed, with both body and mind in sound condition.

In theory, it is simple to reverse course.

But (and pardon the word choice), none of this can be done overnight. Sleep hygiene is a form of discipline meant for us to cultivate slowly over time.

Below, check out nine very doable and beneficial sleep hygiene tips. 

1. Your Bed is for Sleep and Sex. That is it.

Your bed is for sleeping and/or having sex. Really. No more watching television from bed, eating in bed, texting in bed, tweeting, or any combination of these. Why?

For starters, once the mind begins to associate your bed with stimulating activities like these, you are, in essence, training your body and mind to think of your bed as a place for an array of wakeful activities.

Sleep becomes just one of a menu of activities to enjoy in your bed, and your brain will be that much more resistant to falling asleep faster.

Train your brain to instead associate the bed with rest by never using it for anything else (aside from ahem or activities with a partner).  

2. Ritualistic Relaxation

Create a nighttime ritual that helps the body wind down.

Your skincare routine, a bath bomb, aromatherapy, ASMR videos, reading a novel. These activities calm the mind and provide a relaxation distraction, but they also help strengthen the aforementioned body-mind association with restful sleep.

It can be as simple as a cup of tea or as “out there” as sound baths; try to make it a consistent, nightly habit. 

3. Limit Naps

On those rough days, when an afternoon rush of drowsiness hits us like a ton of bricks, naps beckon to us as though we are moths hopelessly drawn to a flame.

Naps are not inherently wrong, but they certainly do not have the best track record for maintaining sleep hygiene.

Some experts say that a nap clocking it at less than 30 minutes is a quick way to recharge and clear one’s head, but anything past that can leave you groggy and restless, possibly setting you up for a night of insomnia.

So avoid naps if you can; the payoff comes with resetting the body’s rhythms so that your body knows what time it is each night. 

4. Don’t Force It

You may be surprised to hear that lying in bed wide awake on a sleepless night will only make sleeplessness worse!

Though it would make life so much easier, merely lying horizontal does not necessarily lull the body to sleep.

On the contrary, the frustration and boredom will increase the wakefulness, if nothing else. So instead, do some quiet activities like reading or a light chore until you feel more relaxed and at ease.

Drowsiness will eventually come, but do your best to avoid meditating on it, as it will only result in a counterproductive sense of alertness.  

5. Prime Your Bedroom

Do your best to make sure that your bedroom is a sanctuary that is perfect for rest.

This includes all the senses; make sure your bedroom has light suitable for nighttime rest; dim yellows, oranges, and reds.

Perhaps have a scent plugin in your socket that emits a sedating fragrance like lavender or fresh linen.

White noise, like raindrops or the sound of waves, is available on YouTube in various “live versions” that will play through the night. Lastly, fresh sheets and a plush mattress go a long way. 

6. Caffeine: Time and Place

We are not the caffeine police, but we have experienced the consequences of both caffeine dependence and caffeine mishaps in the form of timing. Take post-work exercise, for instance.

The afternoon lull has already hit you, and a caffeine jolt at 4:30 PM does not sound like such a bad idea. But, get this: half of the caffeine you consume is still in your body after 6 hours.

Caffeine is often a silent impediment to sleep, particularly for those of us who refuse to hit the gym without a solid dose of caffeine.

Remember how long it stays circulating in your system before taking that sip. 

7. Exercise

In addition to the many benefits that regular exercise can give you, it can also help regulate and smooth out sleep patterns.

Post-exercise, endorphins clear the mind and establish a sense of calm, while overall physical fitness is correlated with better quality sleep.

Suppose you are currently suffering from difficulty falling asleep and also seek to get into shape. In that case, you may notice positive, early results in your sleep schedule in tandem with increased muscle mass and loss of body fat.

It is a process, so stay consistent. Helpful tip: try to exercise as far away from bedtime as possible; exercise can stimulate energy levels and the brain. 

8. White Noise

White noise is not a particularly new phenomenon, but for some, it has had success in helping lull restless minds to rest.

The combination of many sound frequencies can produce a neutralizing effect on other noises; think about a whirring fan, an air conditioning unit, steady rain, or the sound of a running shower.

You can find examples of white noise for sleep on YouTube, usually in the form of raindrops or beach waves.

If you are sensitive to noise and find yourself soothed by steady hums like the ones I described above, use one of the (very many) YouTube options to play at a steady volume as you sleep. 

9. About Blue Light

Blue light is the light from our computer and phone screens, and when it comes to sleep hygiene, it is a very problematic light indeed.

It interferes with the body’s circadian rhythms, arouses our brains into a wakeful state, and the gadgets that emit this form of light (smartphones, TVs, and computers) tend to be quite addictive.

So, establish some ground rules with your smartphone, laptop, and TV.

Not only should you disconnect from these gadgets at least an hour before bed, but you should also ensure that the phone is nowhere near the bed; some of us are so reflexively addicted to our phones that we still reach for them if they are in sight. Help us all break the cycle!

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