Think you’ve gotta have technology to get a good night’s rest? A sleep health expert thinks that while some technology can certainly help with slumber, sometimes it’s best to get back to the basics.
There’s no shortage of high-tech gadgets, gizmos and other devices specifically developed to help you get better sleep. There are meditation apps that help relax an active brain, trackers that tell you how much time you've slept, bracelets that help regulate body temperature, and even fancy devices that claim to alter your brain waves to help you fall asleep. With all the technology that surrounds it these days, it wouldn’t be a stretch to assume that sleep must be a fairly complicated process.
While many people swear by these technological advancements, when it comes to achieving better sleep, I always recommend getting back to basics. The foundation for a perfect night’s sleep begins with sleep hygiene.
Simply put, sleep hygiene is a combination of behaviors and environmental factors that can help or hurt your sleep. Let's explore some ways you can develop better sleep hygiene to get a better night’s rest.
Timing Is Key
There's no doubt that the human body thrives off of routine. The body clock (known as the circadian rhythm) helps you decide when to feel sleepy versus when to feel awake. By keeping your body clock operating in a regular, normal fashion, the process of sleeping becomes easier. That’s why it’s so important to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, regardless of whether it’s a weekend or a weekday. This helps synchronize your sleep time with your internal clock so that your body is prepared to sleep and wake up at approximately the same time each day.
In addition, it’s wise to give your brain a chance to wind down by performing a sleep routine each night. This 20-minute routine should include a series of quiet, calming activities performed in the same way and at the same time every night leading up to bedtime. Something like taking a hot bath, brushing your teeth, listening to calming music or reading are all great ways to prepare yourself for a good night’s sleep.
Strive for Comfort
Having a cozy, quiet and calming sleep environment is critical to good sleep. This means ensuring your mattress and pillows keep you comfortable the entire night so that you don’t wake up with any aches or pains. If your mattress is old and worn or causing you stiffness, it may be time to find a replacement.
Temperature also affects sleep. Most sleep experts agree that the temperature in your bedroom should be cool, so you’ll want to keep the thermostat set between 65°F and 72°F.
Try to limit potential disruptions by keeping pets out of the bedroom and setting devices to do-not-disturb mode. Noisy roommates? Consider using earplugs. A white noise machine can work wonders if you’re desperate to drown out sirens, car horns and other sounds from outside.
Finally, during your regular day-to-day activities, limit caffeine, alcohol and nicotine whenever possible, as they can prevent you from falling asleep at bedtime.
Avoid the Light
Artificial light can wreak havoc on your sleep because the brain can't distinguish this lighting from sunlight. For that reason, any light consumed from screens such as laptops or smartphones is a signal to your brain that it's still daytime. The blue light from screens is particularly good at telling the brain not to secrete melatonin, your natural sleep hormone. To reduce the risk of throwing off your sleep cycle, be sure to get rid of the light at least 30 minutes prior to bedtime.
While technology certainly has its place in helping you sleep, sometimes it’s wise to simply unplug. By instead focusing on fine-tuning your sleep hygiene, you’ll be establishing a solid foundation for a great night’s rest. Tonight, why not say goodnight to the gizmos and get back to the basics? You may be surprised by how something so simple can work so well.