Have you heard about sleep hygiene? Maybe you’ve heard about it, but do you know what it is?
Our head sleep expert and neuroscientist, Dr. Chelsea Rohrscheib, breaks it down in our latest Wesper class.
Find out what sleep hygiene is, why it is so essential, and the top ten tips to improve your sleep.
Keep watching to learn more!
Hi and welcome. My name is Dr. Chelsea Rohrscheib. I’m the head sleep expert and neuroscientist at Wesper. Today’s topic is sleep hygiene. So many of you have probably heard about sleep hygiene, but you need to learn more about it, and it will help you understand the ins and outs of sleep hygiene and why it’s so important to get good quality sleep.
I’m gonna cover a few topics today. The first is, what is sleep hygiene? And why is it important? Why do we need sleep hygiene in our life to get good quality sleep? The next topic is my top 10 sleep hygiene behaviors that you should adopt to improve your sleep. And then, finally, I’m going to talk to you about how to conduct a sleep hygiene audit. So you can identify areas of your life that could be improved or certain things that you’re doing during the day affecting your sleep later on and how to go about that process.
So let’s dive into what sleep hygiene is. So as you’re all aware, literally, everything in our life can affect the quality of our sleep, from our lifestyle, our behaviors, the foods we eat, our hobbies, and our jobs. You know, the comfort of our house.
So many different things can affect our sleep, and we can offset those things by adopting good sleep hygiene practices.
That you adopt will ultimately improve your sleep. You do these harmful things throughout the day that can negatively impact your sleep. Why do you need sleep hygiene?
Clinical research has shown us for decades that if you do certain things in your life and make specific changes, you’re more likely to get better sleep. We also know that certain bad habits that I’ll talk about later negatively impact your sleep, which is very, very well studied. So we know somebody that is a poor sleeper.
When they adopt good sleep hygiene habits, we expect them to experience more consistent, high-quality, restful sleep at night. And it can also help improve people who have sleep disorders. If you have something like insomnia or sleep acne, Adding good sleep hygiene practices on top of those sleep disorders can aid in treating those sleep disorders.
Now we’ll talk about my top 10 most crucial sleep hygiene tips. Now I’m going to go over my top 10, and these are things you should consider as soon as possible. Uh, but I’ll also provide some information after this talk, so you can go to some links to expand on some sleep hygiene tips I didn’t cover.
And my number one tip is to keep a very strict sleep schedule. This means going to bed and waking up at the same. Every single day, no exceptions. That includes weekends and holidays, and vacations. So you’re gonna go to bed at the same time every single night, and you’re gonna set your alarm for the same time every single morning.
Now, why is this so essential? Well, Sleep is partially regulated by a circadian rhythm, a 24-hour biological clock in your brain that keeps track of the day and tells your body to do several things. It tells our body to release hormones at certain times of the day. It tells our body to feel hungry at certain times of the day.
And one of the biggest things that you’re circ rhythm regulates is when you’re. And one year awake. And that’s why most people are gonna feel tired at night because our circadian rhythm is very dictated by light. Um, sensory input, so light from the sun. So obviously, Wednesday, you’re getting a lot of light at night, you’re not getting so much light.
And our brain’s circadian rhythm can tell exactly what time of day it is and put you to bed when you need to go. So what happens when we don’t sleep to a specific sleep schedule? Well, if we’re going to bed at ten one night and midnight another night, it’s really hard for our circadian rhythm to stay regulated and organized because there’s no set schedule.
It’s trying to regulate your sleep too. It just confuses the brain. So even if you want to go to bed at 10:00 PM one night, the Circadian rhythm is not properly keeping track of time. It might not make you feel tired until one in the morning, but we know that when people consistently go to bed at the same time, your circadian rhythm is gonna click in, and it’s gonna start making you feel tired for one to two hours before your bedtime.
Every single time is guaranteed. Now, on the opposite end, you also have to wake up at the same time of day because your circadian rhythm needs to be regulated on both sides. Doing so will make a massive improvement not only in your ability to fall asleep. But stay asleep. How do you improve your sleep schedule?
Well, it depends, you know, if your sleep schedule is almost normal, but maybe you could use some improvement, that’s gonna be easy For most people. If you have a really extreme sleep schedule, that’s gonna be a little bit more difficult. So fixing your schedule in baby steps is key to improving your circadian rhythm and sleep schedule.
So if. For instance, I have been on a really late-night schedule. Maybe you go to bed at two, but you wanna go to bed at 11; you’re gonna wanna slowly wind back your clock over time. I usually go to bed half an hour early, every week or so. So if you’re going to bed at two in the morning, Uh, for one week, you would go to bed at 1:30, and then the next week, you would go to bed at one, and you just keep doing that until you land on the time that you want your sleep schedule to fall on.
Same with your wake time. Um, one thing to note is that you must set a sleep schedule that allows you to get at least seven to nine hours of sleep per night because that’s how much sleep a healthy adult needs. To maintain health. Number two is very, very important, and this is almost as important as setting a strict sleep schedule.
Now, most of us are a bit stressed out, and for various reasons, the world is just a stressful place in general. We’re all working crazy hours. Uh, we have a lot of priorities, so we don’t often give ourselves enough time to. Wind down before bed. And this is a problem, right, because when we’re stressed, we raise our cortisol levels.
That’s your stress hormone. And when your cortisol levels are quite high in your system, that is very wake-promoting and stimulating. Stress also causes a racing, active mind, making falling asleep very difficult. So the goal is to give yourself enough. Before bed, allow yourself to unwind.
So I recommend that at least two hours before your set bedtime, you should be taking steps to relax. And that includes putting away stressful activities such as work or priorities or chores and doing something that is relaxing for you. That could be something like taking a bath, reading a book, maybe watching a show that you like, something that’s gonna help you take your mind off of the stress of the.
Number three is to create a pre-sleep bedtime routine. Okay? So this is actually incorporated into the de-stress routine, right? So you’re going to start de-stressing two hours before bed, but then your bedtime routine will kick in about an hour or a half an hour before bed. Now your bedtime routine will be a series of things you do.
Exactly the same every night and doing the same thing, the same routine every single night is gonna send a signal to your brain that it’s bedtime, that it’s time to start feeling tired. So this may be something like yoga. Meditation, deep breathing exercises. Maybe you take a bath, maybe you do a puzzle, maybe you have a routine getting into comfortable pajamas, but the goal is to make sure it’s reproducible because when something is reproducible, our brain remembers that and it helps us.
Keep track of when it’s time to go to bed. So coming up with half an hour of a bedtime routine to do every single night, you can write it down, um, or you can just do it naturally. You may like to read. You can just start. Reading is absolutely ideal for getting good quality sleep and helps you fall asleep faster.
Number four is maintaining a comfortable bedroom. This is very important and a lot of us. You know, many of us use our bedroom for things that don’t necessarily involve sleep or romance. And while I understand that, you know, maybe you have a very small apartment or you just like spending a lot of time in your room, that is the temptation to have a lot of stuff in your room.
Um, it is high. So, most people have a TV in their bedroom. Uh, most people have other electronics and things in their bedroom, but the bedroom should be a sanctuary. It really should be a place of rest. Removing stimulation and clutter is really important for helping our brain make the association between the bedroom.
And sleep or the bedroom and romance and nothing else. So, eliminating the TV, decluttering, or making the bedroom more comfortable, like a sanctuary, is really important. The other thing that is really essential for a bedroom is that it should be dark. Okay? So, no, um, light pollution from the outside.
You know, if you have a street lamp or live in a city, you want to minimize the amount of light coming into your bedroom. You can use blackout blinds, put a blanket up, or put sticky covers on your windows. There are a bunch of different things you can do. Worst case scenario, if you can’t eliminate light pollution, you can always wear a good eye mask at night.
The other thing is you should keep your bedroom cool. So the ideal sleeping temperature is gonna be about. 66 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Um, this is well-researched by science. We know that the body must cool down before it can initiate sleep and stay asleep. And also, it’s very uncomfortable to sleep in a hot, stuffy room.
So keeping your bedroom temperature slightly cooler is gonna be really important. And finally, make sure your bedroom is nice and quiet. So eliminating things that cause noise in your bedroom, like a tv. Or if you have animals in your bedroom that makes a lot of noise, consider having them sleep in another room.
You know, if you are in a city or have a lot of traffic. Um, you can always wear earplugs or noise-canceling headphones to sleep, but that’s also very important. Another thing you can try would be a white noise machine, which will help block out, uh, You know, noise pollution that could disturb your sleep.
Number five is making sure at the end of your night, at least an hour before you go to bed, you start dimming all of your lights. Okay? And so what I mean is trying to exist by as little light as possible. For the hour before you go to bed, and this is really important. So we’re gonna jump back to our circadian rhythm again and talk about how light influences our circadian rhythm.
So, As I said earlier, your circadian rhythm keeps track of time with light sensory information. So what happens is when light enters our eyes, it stimulates a nerve, which sends a signal to the brain to suppress a hormone called melatonin. Now, I’m sure most of you have heard of melatonin before you combine the drug store; you know it’s a sleep.
But melatonin is our circadian rhythm-regulating hormone. So when melatonin is suppressed and hits very low in the brain, we’re very alert and energized. We’re not gonna be able to sleep. Now, as it gets darker throughout the day and into the night, that tells the brain to increase its melatonin production.
So our melatonin levels are going to go up when they reach a certain threshold. That’s when our brain is gonna know when to initiate sleep. So we need our melatonin levels to get nice and high to sleep well. Now, what happens when you have bright lights in your house, or you’re looking at a mobile device or a laptop that has a lot of light, is that you’re confusing your brain.
So by dimming all the lights in your house, maybe you just use a low light reading lamp and put away the electronic devices. You’re helping your brain create the melatonin it needs. Now, if you’re somebody who absolutely refuses to stop using their electronics, I understand it’s hard. Most of us wanna look at our cell phones before we go to bed.
I don’t recommend it, but if you can’t get away from that habit, Make sure that you turn the light as far down as possible on your mobile device, phone, or laptop. Another thing you can do is wear light-blocking glasses, so they filter out that light that specifically causes us to stop making melatonin.
Again, ideally, you wouldn’t use those devices, but if you have to take steps to minimize their impact of those. And that brings me to my next tip, which is no electronics. I don’t really have to go into that. We just did. So that goes with dim light, dim lighting, um, but just making sure that you put away the electronics at least an hour before bed.
Kindles are usually fine because the light from a Kindle is not as strong as your cell phone. So if you like to read off your Kindle, that’s fine. You can continue doing so that shouldn’t. Your s sleep too much. The next one will stop using caffeine too late in the day. And most people know this, right?
This is, this is one of those things we all really understand is that drinking things like coffee or energy drinks or black tea, it’s very stimulating. It. It helps us stay awake. It energizes us. The problem is that caffeine. It stays in our system for a really, really long time, and many of us don’t allow the caffeine to leave our system completely before we go to bed.
For healthy adults who don’t have a ton of sleep issues, we recommend that you cut off all caffeine-containing drinks and foods at least six hours before bed. If you struggle with your sleep and find it difficult to fall asleep, or your sleep is restless at night, you need to extend that time out.
So I would recommend for poor sleepers at least eight hours before your last caffeine consumption and going to bed at night. It’s also very important to keep in mind that there are a lot of products with hidden caffeine in them. This includes food. And various drinks that wouldn’t, you know, you wouldn’t assume have caffeine in them.
So make sure you’re checking labels to ensure that what you’re consuming does not have hidden caffeine. The next one is no food within two hours of bedtime. So, you know, some of us eat relatively late, or some of us like to have a snack fee for bed. It affects more people than others, but for the most part, when your stomach is very heavy with food, and it can take a while for your food to digest, it can make you very bloated and uncomfortable, and it can make it very difficult to fall asleep.
Some foods can be irritating, especially when we’re in a sleeping position. So greasy foods, spicy foods, rich foods, when we’re lying down, can cause issues like heartburn or acid reflux, and a and gas, and a whole bunch of problems. That makes sleeping very uncomfortable. So the rule of thumb is to give yourself at least a two to three-hour window between the time you eat and the time that you go to bed Now.
You don’t want to go too much longer than that because you want to ensure that your blood sugar is nice and stable when you’re sleeping. Because if you have a massive blood sugar drop while you’re sleeping, that can actually wake you up because your brain is basically saying, I need to get up, and I need to eat to raise my blood sugar levels.
So, you know, don’t eat too far out from bed, but don’t eat too close either. Next one. Making sure you get your exercise during the day. And again, we’ve all heard this a million times, like we need to exercise to maintain health. Yes, that is true, but it’s also really important for sleep as well. We know that people who get at least 30 to 60 minutes of physical exercise have better sleep quality, and there are many different reasons.
One, healthier people, in general, just sleep better. Uh, but two exercises can help reduce cortisol in the blood and go back to cortisol, which, you know, I talked to, or I talked to you about earlier. You know, cortisol raises stress, but cortisol doesn’t just raise stress. It also makes you feel very awake and energized.
So exercising earlier in the day can help reduce those cortisol stores and cortisol levels in the blood, which can make us more relaxed and make it easier for us to fall asleep. So ideally, you would be exercising in the first half of the day because we don’t actually want you to exercise too close to bedtime.
Because that can have the opposite effect. If you exercise too close to the bed, then you’re gonna be too stimulated, and then you know, that doesn’t really play into the two hours of relaxing before bed. So desks get exercise but make sure you do it earlier in the day, so it doesn’t affect your sleep.
Finally, my last one, number 10, is conversely from what we were talking about, about dimming the light. Ensure you get enough daylight and sun exposure during the day. And you know, this goes back to our CIAD rhythm again. You know, we need it to be nice and dim and dark at night to create that melatonin, but we also need it to be nice and light so that our brain suppresses that melatonin during the day because that really helps keep our circadian.
Well regulated. You guys are getting the point. Our circadian rhythm is extremely important in our sleep quality, and we must do everything we can. To make sure that we’re well-regulated. Okay? So light time during the day, and low light at night will keep your circadian rhythm nice and happy.
So those are my top 10 sleep hygiene tips. And honestly, that only scratches the surface. There are so many more. So, as I said, I’m going to throw some links up at the end where you can visit some websites that talk. About a huge list of things that you can do to improve your sleep quality. Let’s talk about conducting a sleep hygiene audit on your life.
So I’ve given you all the tips, but we have to figure out which ones will work for you and which will make the biggest impact. So I recommend that every quarterly, so every, you know, four months, three to four months or so in the. You go through the list of sleep hygiene habits, and you identify problem areas that you can work on.
So you’re going to go down the list, and I recommend writing down the top five that are problematic for you. And so you make that list every three to four months, and then you slowly, so you give yourself a few weeks to a month to work on these habits. You slowly either incorporate good sleep hygiene Or break bad sleep hygiene habits.
And once you’re consistently doing those, you know, you stick to them rigorously and try to do them every single day. But it’s important to constantly remind yourself, remember to do your sleep hygiene. So doing something like keeping a sleep diary where you write down your nightly activities, or you could record it in a spreadsheet, can be very helpful for poor sleepers.
So what I want you to do after watching this video is think about the top 10 sleep hygiene habits I listed and think about whether you are bad at following those and whether it’s something you can do. Some changes with, um, now I can’t really go through how to make those improvements in-depth because we only have so much time in this webinar.
But what you can do is, let’s say, you want to work on your sleep schedule. All you have to do is go to a website like the Sleep Foundation or the CDC and look up how do I improve my sleep schedule? And it’s gonna provide you with a wealth of information. Or you can consult with me or contact me via email; tell me your situation, and I can help you improve your sleep schedule.
And, of course, that is the same for all those sleep hygiene tips and those I have not mentioned. That brings us to the end of our sleep hygiene video. There is so much I’ve left out. You know, we’re running out of time here, but please go and do some more reading. Educate yourself and start doing that sleep hygiene audit today.