While reading the title of this blogpost, my guess is you’re in one of two camps. The first camp has heard about sleep hygiene probably more than a few times (from a doctor or other mental health services) and the second camp is wondering how “sleep” and “hygiene” go together. If you are in camp #1, skip this next section unless you want a refresher!
What is sleep hygiene?
Sleep hygiene is basically a regimen for improving the length, quality and schedule of your sleep, much like hygiene is a regimen for keeping one’s body clean and healthy. Getting enough sleep is defined as getting at least 7 hours of quality, uninterrupted sleep. The reason why getting enough sleep is important is because studies show that people who get less than 7 hours of sleep are more at risk for obesity, smoking cigarettes and physical inactivity. 35.2% of Americans get less than 7 hours, so if this describes you, you are not the only one!
The basics of sleep hygiene are as follows:
•Only use your bed for sleep and sex*. This is so your brain associates your bed only with this activities and your bed acts as a cue for your brain for sleep/sex.
•Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even when you don’t have to be awake for work/responsibilities. This is to help you feel tired when you are trying to go to bed for work early, say at 10pm. It’s much harder if you stayed up until 2am the night before and sleep in until noon because you’ve only been up for 10 hours and your body will understandably be confused.
•Limit the amount of bright lights and electronics by using lamps and blue blockers. We are animals, after all, so our sleep/wake rhythms are dictating by the amount of light/sun is in our environment. Opt to use a soft lamp versus harsh overhead lighting and look up blue blocking app or browser add-ons like F.lux if you must use your electronics. Otherwise stop using a few hours before bed or the blue light cues your brain it’s time to wake up because it thinks it’s sunlight.
•Take a hot shower or drink a small cup of hot tea a few hours before bed. Another cue our bodies take to prepare for sleep is a change in body temperature so increasing your body temperature then transitioning to a cool room can help.
•Speaking of cool rooms, your room should be as cave-like as possible. Unless you absolutely need a nightlight to feel safe, cold and dark are the goals here.
•Exercise regularly but not right before bed. Exercising is amazing (and confusing!) because you get more energy despite burning calories during the day, and it can help make you tired for bed at night.
•Avoid eating too closely to bed (2-3 hours minimum) and avoid spicy or acidic foods. While you might feel groggy after eating, your body has to work hard to digest your meal and this might keep you up. Heartburn is no one’s lullaby.
•Moderate caffeine, alcohol and tobacco/marijuana use. Everyone’s sensitivities to caffeine are different, but if you think this might be affecting you, stop at noon and see if getting to sleep is easier. Alcohol and marijuana may have sedative effects but until you are no longer under the influence of these, you can’t go into deep sleep, which can affect your sleep quality. Cigarettes, though behaviorally calming, are a stimulant. Also withdrawing from either of these, even a small amount, can cause insomnia something fierce.
*What does sex got to do with it?
If you are extremely sensitive to your environment and are having trouble sleeping even if following these guidelines, another thing to try is a few things about sex in the bed. You can use this as an excuse to spice up your sex life and only have sex outside the bed (keeping in mind nudity and sex in public is illegal). Or you can try another type of cueing. Here are some ideas:
•Cue your brain it’s sexy-time by making your bed and putting a satiny, velvety or other sexy texture throw or cloth over it.
•Light candles during sexy-time with sensual scents that are different from ones you may use for relaxation. You can also use essential oils (EO), lotions, massage oil, etc. My favorite is: 4 drops sandalwood essential oil, 3 drops rose EO, 1 drop cardamom EO in about 4 tablespoons or so of carrier oil (coconut oil is perfect for massage oil).
•Turn on the lights for sex so your brain sees the lights low as a cue to just sleep
•Keep these sexy cues consistent during sexy-time with yourself and/or a partner
•Alternately, you can differentiate sleepy-time by using pillow-mists, candles, lotions or essential oils in lavender, sage, chamomile, ylang ylang, etc.
Happy sleeping and happy sexy-time!