Introduction Sleep Hygiene
Hey guys, I want to talk here for a sec about sleep hygiene. When you hear this word, you must be thinking about germs and bacteria, and how keeping a clean sleeping environment will improve your quality of sleep. Even though you should indeed wash your sheets regularly (like, really, don’t be a gross college student), that is not what sleep hygiene is about. I actually don’t know why they call it this, it has nothing to do with cleanliness.
What is Sleep Hygiene?
Sleep hygiene is about what habits you can develop and how you can structure your environment in order to foster high quality sleep. Every night you go to sleep, you go through 4 or 5 cycles of sleep which are more or less identical. Every sleep cycle starts out with some light sleep, then moves over to deeper sleep, and always ends with REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. A full cycle of sleep takes around 90 minutes, and it is of vital importance that you get enough of all types, so that you can be rested and energized for a fruitful day.
Good sleep hygiene fosters high quality sleep, since it induces you to fall asleep faster and sleep deeper, so that you can move through all the cycles effectively, and get all the REM sleep that you need.
First Habit: Turn of the Lights!
So, what can you do to improve the quality of your sleep? First of all, you should try to reduce the amount of light that reaches your eyes late at night, especially the blue light that is emitted from our technological devices. There is this hormone that is created in our bodies to regulate our cycles of sleep and wakefulness. Its name is melatonin (you might have heard of this before). Increased melatonin levels can decrease the amount of time needed to fall asleep. However, light inhibits the production of this hormone, so if you stare at your smartphone for half an hour right before you go to sleep, this will drastically increase the time you need to fall asleep.
A great way for those of you that are suffering from insomnia to fall asleep fast, is to shut off all electronic devices one full hour before you go to sleep. You can relax by lighting up a candle and reading a book, or try meditating for a bit and then go to sleep. If you really can’t go an hour without your smartphone, then turn of all the lights in your house, and make the light on your phone super yellow (filter out all the blue light). Also, put the brightness level of your phone as low as it can be, that is, so that you can still read the screen. This might not be the most perfect solution, but it will significantly reduce the time you need to fall asleep.
Another tip I have for you is to stop drinking beverages with caffeine around 3 o’clock in the afternoon. Granted, the peak effect of caffeine wears down after an hour, but that does not mean that all the effects completely disappear so fast. Caffeine has a half-life of 5 hours, that means half of the milligrams of coffee that you consume disappears in your body in 5 hours. However, the rest of it needs to be broken down as well, and that takes another 5 hours for half of it, etcetera, and so on. So even though your three cups of coffee have no noticeable effects after an hour, they are still actively present in your body, inhibiting your sleep without you knowing it. Man, I can’t fall asleep and I have no idea why! Sounds familiar?
But coffee and energy drinks are not the only beverages with caffeine that will keep you up at night. A lot of sodas like cola or ice tea also contain lots of caffeine. But did you know that black and green tea also contain substantial amounts of coffee? One glass of such tea is around half a glass of coffee. Instead, you can try all natural herbal teas, which have many other health benefits besides not keeping you up at night.
Check out part 2 of this article on sleep hygiene for more tips on improving the quality of your sleep.
Be sure to check out our YouTube playlist on general lifehacks as well.
Make sure to read this article on how to improve sleep by understanding brainwaves.
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