We spend approximately one-third of our lives sleeping, but are we sleeping well? Sleep hygiene refers to the quality of sleep as well as lifestyle habits, sleeping routine and environment. When we focus on achieving more quality sleep, we start to see our physical, mental and emotional health benefit.
How much should I sleep each night?
Recommended sleep amounts vary for different stages of life. Newborns and babies should sleep for 14-17 hours, toddlers should average 12-14 hours, pre-teens should get 12 hours, and adults over the age of 18 should aim for 7-9 hours every night.
If you’re not getting enough sleep, it could show up as these symptoms:
- Sleepy during the day
- Being moody or irritable
- Unable to focus or concentrate
- Increased appetite
- Skin becomes dull; dark circles form under eyes
The average person sleeps less than 7 hours per night.
Why is sleep so important?
Getting enough quality sleep affects your health in many ways. While we’re asleep, our bodies rest and repair themselves from soothing sore muscles, processing data in our brain and building up our immune system. Good sleep also:
- Regulates hormones
- Improves cognitive function
- Aids in weight management
- Reduces risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke
Getting quality sleep each night also benefits your emotional and mental health. In fact, consistent, quality sleep has been shown to reduce stress, anxiety and depression.
What can I do to get more sleep?
When we think of getting quality sleep, we usually think of the actions we do right before bed. However, all the actions and decisions we make during the day affect our sleep. To help make sleep hygiene a priority to your health, consider the following lifestyle choices.
During the day
- Wake up at the same time every morning
- Exercise regularly; move your body every day
- Drink plenty of water; eat nutritious foods
During the afternoon
- Avoid taking naps
- Limit caffeine and sugar intake
- Get exposure to natural light (it helps regulate your circadian rhythm)
During the evening
- Turn off electronics 1 hour before bed
- Avoid nicotine, alcohol and other substances
- Create a ritual that promotes relaxation
Your relaxation ritual can include anything that makes you feel less stressed and ready to fall asleep. This could be reading a book, a warm shower, yoga or stretching, journaling, or listening to soft music.
Takeaway: Your actions and behaviors during the day affect your sleep at night, which in turn affects your overall wellbeing and quality of life. Creating a lifestyle that supports healthy sleep hygiene is important to your short and long-term physical and mental health.
If you have issues with the amount or quality of your sleep, contact your healthcare provider. They can help to determine any potential sleep disorders or other lifestyle changes that will aid in your health.