Sleep Hygiene: Before Bed

This blog is the third in a series on cultivating good sleep hygiene. You can click the links to read the first blogs in the series, What is Sleep Hygiene and Sleep Hygiene: Your Sleep Schedule.

“Sleep Hygiene” refers to the practices and habits you can cultivate to help you sleep well at night. Just as you shower and brush your teeth on a regular schedule to practice personal hygiene, you can adopt habits to help you sleep well at night.

When you sleep well, you’re generally healthier mentally and physically. Sleep allows your body to heal and to regenerate energy stores, while allowing your brain to process and store information effectively. A proper amount of sleep—between 7 and 9 hours for most people—can reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and a range of other health problems.

Your Evening Routine

Building a regular evening routine signals both body and mind that it’s time to wind down and prepare for sleep. A regular order of events—put on your pajamas, brush your teeth, read in your favorite chair—can help condition your body chemistry to induce sleepiness. Try to avoid late-night television, computer screens, or even back-lit e-readers, as the artificial light can signal your body to remain wakeful.

Daytime Habits

You can create daytime habits that help you to manage stress and remain more relaxed at bedtime. When your mind is at ease, you’ll find it easier to drift off to sleep.

  • Meditate. Whether you choose morning or evening (or both), whether you concentrate on your breath for five minutes or enjoy an hour-long guided meditation, any practice designed to still the mind or promote relaxation during the day can help you learn to quiet your mind at bedtime.
  • Practice “Worry Time.” The Medical College of Wisconsin suggests taking 30 minutes out of your day (preferably in the evening, even as part of your bedtime routine) to think through your to-do list and allow worries into your head while you’re still wakeful. Giving your brain a chance to think things through with pen and paper can help you set aside your worries when it’s time for bed.
  • Journal. Writing can be an excellent way to organize our thoughts and concerns, cutting down on the “clutter” in our headspaces when it’s time for bed. Even journaling in the morning can have a positive effect on evening restfulness, since it seems to help organize our thoughts for the day.

Things to Avoid

Just as there are positive actions we can take to promote sleep, there are also negative actions we can avoid. These include:

  • Eating heavy meals late in the evening.
  • Indulging in caffeine or alcohol less within the 4-6 hours before bed.
  • Staying up excessively late at night or sleeping excessively late in the morning.
  • Watching television or looking at a TV screen right before bed.
  • Going straight from work to bed without a “wind down” period.

Dedicating a minimal amount of time to waking habits can have a noticeable effect on your quality of sleep. Allow yourself a sleep schedule, use techniques to keep your stress under control, and avoid a few unhealthy behaviors, and you can avert a range of health problems by getting quality sleep on a regular basis.

Author Bio: +Michelle Gordon is a sleep expert who researches and writes about sleep and health, and is an online publisher for the latex mattress specialist