Faye Arcand

What Does it Mean to Practice Good Sleep Hygiene.

Auntie Says… Get More Sleep

I can’t believe it’s nearly September. School will soon be in full swing, the beaches will be empty, and everyone will be resetting their new normal. I’m excited to get back into a routine after having a rather scattered summer.

My least favourite thing however, is getting up early in the mornings after many late nights with no set schedule. For me, this summer has been a time to relax, enjoy out of town guests, and sleep in. That first week of back to school is going to be the hardest. 

To transition, I’ve been forcing myself to get up and start the day earlier. Sleeping and getting up is just a matter of habit, right? Well, apparently there’s more to staying up too late and then dragging myself out of bed the next morning after pushing the snooze twelve times. Studies and experts say that we need to practice good “sleep hygiene” and this has nothing to do with brushing our teeth. 

Wikipedia defines sleep hygiene as “the recommended behavioral and environmental practice that is intended to promote better quality sleep.” I guess that makes sense but I still don’t like the name. If I think of the idea of cleaning up my habits prior to going to bed then I can accept the concept.

Things like making sure I don’t have a latte with a double espresso shot at 8 pm. That would be an example of poor sleep hygiene because I’d be up for the next two days buzzing around until I finally passed out. Okay, seems like there’s a bit of common sense at play there. 

According to the experts you’re also supposed to 1. Limit naps. 2. Exercise during the day.

3. Avoid heavy or spicy foods before bed. 4. Get lots of natural light. 5. Practice a regular nightly routine. 6. Make sure your sleep space is comfortable and 7. Avoid screens.

Ahhh… finally one worthy of discussion. Screens: whether a phone, iPad, TV, or computer—all act as stimulants and have a physical affect on the brain. Many people are aware of this but it’s one of the hardest habits to break especially when our phones are like an extension of ourselves. We often have them somewhere on our person (or within easy reach) 24-7 and I think they’re the culprits we really need to break free from in order to get a better nights sleep. The problem is that our phones are like a lifeline for many of us. 

To practice good sleep hygiene, leave your phone out of the bedroom but if you use your phone as an alarm like I do, one thing I’d recommend is that you turn off the vibrate and silence the ringer when you go to bed. It can be really difficult to ignore an incoming message/call and then if you’re anything like me, you have to roll the conversation around in your head afterwards and it takes forever to either fall, or get back, to sleep. This can exacerbate, or create, anxiety which is something you want to avoid, especially at bedtime. At least silenced and non/vibrate you aren’t summoned to pick it up so with practice can ignore it until morning. It’s a start.

Lack of sleep can show up the following day as a simple yawn, an inability to concentrate, or a snippy attitude. Though I don’t like the formal term “sleep hygiene” I believe we do need to be conscious of our habits, or lack thereof, to maintain a semblance of health and mental health. These rules and practices should be established at a very early age but it’s never too late to change. I suspect that many young people have poor sleep hygiene which doesn’t help with all the angst of life. If you’re tired or exhausted, problems can seem so much bigger or difficult than they have to be. So as we start the new school year make a conscious choice to get more quality sleep. I think you’ll be happy you did.

Originally published by Black Press August 31, 2018

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