Sleep hygiene is something people rarely talk about other than to say that you should get eight hours of sleep a night. But there is so much more to getting healthy sleep than the eight-hour rule. And that rule isn’t exactly accurate either. The main issue surrounding sleep hygiene is that people just don’t know about it. It’s only recently that people have started learning more about how to get healthy sleep.
You may think you’re doing enough by just getting eight hours every night. But that can be far from the truth, depending on your sleep habits.
When and How Long to Sleep
The eight-hour suggestion is good rule of thumb, but it doesn’t work for everyone. Parents love to give teenagers a hard time for sleeping in. But teenagers actually need more sleep than adults. The brain does quite a bit of growing during the teenage years and sleep is an important part of that process. As you get older you most likely don’t need as much sleep. But eight hours still might not be enough for you. Some scientists now recommend getting closer to nine hours of sleep a night. If you work long hours or have kids this probably isn’t possible most nights. But it’s something to keep in mind for vacation or when the kids are older and don’t wake up so early.
The time you go to bed is also important. Your body knows the difference between sleep from midnight until eight in the morning as opposed to 10 at night until six in the morning. Now both examples are eight hours so they must have the same effect on your body, right? Nope. The later you go to bed the more your body gets thrown off of its rhythm. Remember, as humans we are meant to go to sleep shortly after the sun sets. So your body is happier if you go to bed closer to that time. You might notice that you get a better sleep and feel more rested when you wake up if you go to bed early.
Keep Your Timing the Same
It can be difficult to set a bedtime and stick to it. But this is the best way to get your body adjusted to your sleep schedule. It’s best to get into bed around the same time at night and wake up at the same time the next day. Think about the family dog. While they may try and stay awake with the humans some nights, they are often going to bed earlier and waking up earlier on a similar schedule each day.
The Myth of Catching Up On Sleep
The only way to truly “catch up on sleep” is to get consistently good sleep for a long period of time. So sleeping in on Saturday morning isn’t going to do it. It can be good to get more sleep on vacation but the longer you have healthier sleep the better.
What Interferes with Sleep?
Many things can interfere with you getting a good night’s sleep. Drinking caffeine during the day can make it hard to fall asleep and limit the amount of sleep you get. Drinking alcohol before bed or even close to bedtime degrades the quality of sleep you get. Watching TV or looking at your phone before bed makes it harder to fall asleep.
So drinking coffee or a nightcap should be avoided. And TVs and phones should be switched off long before bedtime. These aren’t easy changes to make for many people and sticking to a sleep schedule isn’t either. But if you are able to get healthier sleep you may be able to be healthier in other areas of life as well. Sleep is so important. We spend a third of our lives doing it. So we might as well get it right.