It's fascinating to consider that humans spend approximately one-third of their lives sleeping!
For this reason, optimizing our sleep quality becomes imperative to harness the benefits of this vital restorative process, ensuring we make the most of the portion of our lives dedicated to sleep.
According to a 2015 study, sleep disturbances are one of the most common health complaints, affecting 10-15% of the general population! In turn, poor sleep can significantly affect your daytime health, influencing your energy levels, cognitive function, mood regulation, immune system efficiency, and overall quality of life.
That’s where the practice of sleep hygiene comes in.
Sleep hygiene encompasses various practices, sleep rituals, and relaxation techniques that help contribute to a more restful sleep.
Read on as we uncover the most important components that contribute to effective sleep hygiene, and how they can impact your sleep quality.
Before it’s time to lay your head to rest on your pillow, it’s essential to curate an environment conducive to a blissful night's sleep.
According to the National Institutes of Health, the setting you sleep in can influence how well you sleep. Lighting, temperature, noise levels, and even scents can all be optimized to create a blissful sleep sanctuary.
Here’s how to create an ideal sleep environment:
Cultivating a relaxing sanctuary for the mind and body can be an art form. Fortunately, several techniques and sleep-time rituals promote total mind and body relaxation.
Setting the stage for a peaceful slumber starts the moment you enter your bedroom.
Here are some tips to get you in the mood for sleep:
Now that you’ve primed your system to begin to unwind, it’s time to jump into more advanced tips and techniques that help induce deeper levels of relaxation.
Before bedtime, our minds often become inundated with thoughts and emotions accumulated throughout the day. Whether it's pondering over an awkward conversation you had with a friend or facing criticism at work, dwelling on the day's mistakes or setbacks can lead to rumination, hindering sleep and impacting overall sleep quality.
Mindfulness is a practice of cultivating present-moment awareness. It involves bringing our attention to the here and now, without allowing our thoughts to focus on criticism or judgment.
Taking this practice one step further, mindfulness meditation becomes more intentional, carving out a space for cultivating awareness and acceptance while simultaneously fostering a sense of tranquility and mental clarity.
Research has shown that mindfulness meditations can significantly improve sleep quality, helping you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. It’s found to minimize ruminative thoughts, lower emotional reactivity, and allow us to look at important experiences without taking sides – all of which facilitate healthy sleep patterns.
Here’s how it works:
Breathwork is a fundamental practice rooted in conscious breathing techniques. These exercises are shown to significantly improve sleep quality. The thought behind this is that breathwork can effectively regulate the nervous system by activating the parasympathetic “rest and digest” system, promoting relaxation, reducing stress and anxiety levels, and facilitating a smoother transition into a restful state conducive to better sleep.
Three methods you can try include:
Begin this exercise by inhaling deeply through your nose for 4 seconds. At the climax of your breath, hold for 7 seconds before exhaling through your mouth slowly for 8 seconds. Repeat this cycle for 1-2 minutes, gradually extending the count as you feel comfortable.
This exercise involves a steady 4 count of breaths. Inhale through your nose for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 4 seconds, exhale through your mouth for 4 seconds, then hold once again for 4 seconds. Repeat this pattern for 1-2 minutes, creating a box-like pattern with each cycle of breath.
Start by laying down comfortably on your bed, resting your head on your pillow. Place your right hand on your chest and your left hand on your abdomen near your belly button. Inhale deeply through your nose, feeling your abdomen rise as the air fills your lungs. Exhale slowly through your mouth, feeling your abdomen fall. While you breathe make sure your chest remains still, and focus on engaging your diaphragm throughout the exercise.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) is a relaxation technique that involves slow and progressive tensing and relaxing of major muscle groups in the body to promote physical and mental relaxation.
PMR is shown to help alleviate stress, reduce anxiety, and prepare your mind for a night of restful sleep. A 2022 study found PMR fosters extended intervals of slow-wave sleep, which is crucial for the revitalizing phases of our sleep cycle.
Here’s how it works:
Creating and maintaining a consistent sleep schedule is central to our health and well-being.
Here, we explore the essential do's and don'ts that contribute to establishing a healthy and effective sleep routine.
When navigating the myriad of challenges life presents, seeking professional guidance can be instrumental in addressing various issues, including sleep-related concerns!
Through relaxation techniques, sleep hygiene education, stress reduction strategies, and exploring underlying psychological factors contributing to sleep disturbances, therapy aims to improve sleep quality, establish healthy sleep patterns, and alleviate the root causes of sleep-related issues.
Written By Sally Polus LAPS, BSW, MSW, RSW