What is sleep hygiene?
For someone like me, who works in the field of sleep, this is a no-brainer question. But when I give interviews or when I talk to people and I say, “look, I don't just work with sleep hygiene, a lot of my clients have a perfect sleep hygiene but their problems go beyond that”, I realize that many don’t know what I'm talking about when I mention sleep hygiene.
So today I want to give a couple of examples.
Sleep is this metaphysical kind of thing that is in a way totally untouchable and yet at the same time, we also have it connected to our body and to physical changes so that some parts of it can be measured.
It is really difficult to do. All our organs we can analyze, we can cut open, we can look at the different connections; but with sleep, it is physiological. We have chemicals, we have neurons, we have proteins, we have all kinds of things happening, but it's also psychological. Our mind plays a big role in sleep and sleep hygiene is basically different steps you can take, in order to prepare your body for sleep. It is kind of grooming the path towards sleep, because sleep is not an on and off switch; it is a process. For some people, it's really easy to get sleep and to fall asleep and to stay asleep, and others, it just takes a little bit more pruning and that's when we talk about sleep hygiene.
I have 3 main categories of sleep hygiene: Nutrition, mental health and environment.
For nutrition, you have the obvious one that is to reduce any stimulants that could keep your body awake. Caffeine and sugar will rise your blood sugar levels. They will make you iffy and that will make you nervous and that will not help to relax and fall asleep.
It could also be foods that you are sensitive to that are causing inflammation. That's why I do food sensitivity testing. Alcohol is also a big one. Yes, it might help you sedate yourself, but it's messing with your deep sleep cycle, so it's going to leave you more tired. It's also a diuretic, so it's more likely to wake you up and have you go pee.
Foods can also help you sleep. Think foods great in potassium or magnesium. But even so, you would need a whole damn lot of foods in order to get the levels you really need. So if you're magnesium-sufficient, I argue that a good supplement, especially a topical supplement, like Better You, then that would definitely help there.
Your brain needs to be ready for sleep and some of us just cannot switch off. A lot of us have all of these thoughts going on in our minds. So when I talk about mental health, it basically means that your brain needs to be prepared all day long to go to sleep in the evening. It’s basically keeping that sleep hygiene. For example, if you have things triggering you, you can imagine having a clean room and someone going in and throwing some junk in there. What we tend to do is to shove it aside and then throughout the day, you have more and more junk piling up and then in the evening, you have this room full of junk and suddenly you just don't have the time to take the broom and shove everything aside anymore because it's full and it's going to take so much time...
Instead, what I suggest doing, is that when you have a trigger like that, instead of just taking the broom and shoving it aside, is to actually take a look at it, acknowledge it, and putting it into the correct bin, which might be, "Okay, I'm going to deal with you later" or it might be, "Actually, you're not worth my time" and just putting it aside. That action of actually looking at it, labeling it, is going to be enough to not have it on the room floor anymore. Going through that process throughout the day is a big one. Also, before you go to bed, you can make sure that you have some time to switch off.
"Oh, my god, the deadline is so close" or "Oh no, there's another client "who wasn't exceptionally happy" or “who wants to get one more thing done" or “oh my god, something else on Facebook or on social media, I forgot to comment on…” all these things keep us constantly connected and they don’t give us enough time to go to bed ‘rested’.
So sleep hygiene in this case would mean to give yourself and your brain some time before going to bed. I like to set an alarm clock an hour before I go to bed and then to take that time to relax and enjoy one thing; and it might be watching Netflix, but then only watching Netflix and switching off my emails, for example.
Environment: specifically your bedroom environment.
It means a good bed, a bed that you like with a mattress that is less than 10 years old and actually supporting you. A bed you feel good in, with bedding that feels great, something that you adore, colors that you like. Just an environment that you are happy with.
Those are my main categories and I count all of that to sleep hygiene. So hopefully that has been helping you and if you're someone who already has a great sleep hygiene, you've read books on it, you've read blogs on it, and you still can't sleep, then get in touch because it might be something that's psychological and physiological and that's my specialty.
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