We’ve adapted and implemented good Corona-virus hygiene, but what on earth is sleep hygiene and why does it matter? Well, believe it or not, getting a proper night’s sleep – not just once, but regularly – plays a vital role in our mental health and wellness. According to John Hopkins Medicine, establishing a regular sleep pattern is key to maintaining better health and wellness.
Do you toss and turn? Go to bed late and get up early, then drag around during the day as if you are in a fog? According to Harvard Health, not getting at least seven to eight hours of sleep a night can cause irritability, memory struggles, problems with concentration and focus, and can also increase anxiety, depression, bipolar and ADHD symptoms.
During sleep we are rejuvenated, like when we recharge our electronic devices. Our brain doesn’t just need sleep, it needs healthy sleep. Experiencing all the stages of sleep during the night allow our brains to learn and make new memories, as well as reprocess the events of the day. Believe it or not, your brain works to reprocess painful memories while you sleep. A restful night's sleep helps neurons communicate with each other. It also improves cognition, metabolism, mood, and improves our ability to fight off disease. We also get rid of toxins while we sleep. Wow. That sounds helpful, right?
So, if sleep is so important then why don’t I just catch up on it over the weekend? It doesn’t work like that. Going to sleep at the same time every night and getting up around the same time every morning helps establish a healthy sleep routine, and it’s the routine and regularity of our sleep patterns that help maintain good health. And by the way, women need about twenty more minutes of sleep than men, so there you go, ladies, now you have an excuse to go to sleep earlier or lay there for twenty extra minutes.
We’ve all heard sleeping on a good mattress improves sleep, but what about setting aside the electronic devices before bed, at least an hour before? Modern technology allows us to put hundreds of books on one device, but is reading an electronic book or watching TV in bed really helpful for good sleep hygiene? Not really. Melatonin release is delayed when we are exposed to the blue lights our computer and electronic screens emit. They can change the circadian rhythms in our internal clock and give us insomnia. Children are having a serious problem getting proper sleep because of these devices.
Falling asleep faster can be as simple as reading a traditional book while in bed. Reading the bible in bed can create feelings of calm and peace. Taking a shower 1-2 hours before bed can also help you relax. No alcohol before bed.
Don’t argue or try to handle major issues later in the evening. Cortisol and adrenaline are released during times of stress and the excess energy provided by the flight or fight response can prevent healthy sleep. Just think about how long it usually takes you to unwind after a startling scare, frightening movie, or argument.
If ruminations and repetitive thoughts keep you from falling asleep, try deep diaphramic breathing. Three seconds in through the nose, eight seconds out through the mouth. This calms the overactive brain and turns on the vagus nerve, which put the brakes on that cortisol dump.
No matter how old you are, good sleep hygiene is vital for physical and mental health. It’s a part of self-care we need desperately. Improve your concentration, mood, anxiety, and help your brain have a healthy conversation with itself by implementing good sleep hygiene.
Psalms 4:8 In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety.
I’d like to hear about your successes and healthy sleep patterns.
God Bless, and see you next time,
Lori C. Helms M.A., LMHC