What is Sleep Hygiene?
Sleep hygiene refers to healthy sleep habits. Good sleep hygiene is important because of how crucial getting good sleep is for your mental and physical health, as well as your overall quality of life. There is also clear evidence that sleep deprivation has a negative effect on emotion and performance. Studies indicate that a night of restful sleep may reset the brains’ ability to effectively prepare for the emotional challenges of the next day.
Ongoing poor sleep can be a risk factor for the development of major depressive disorder. The risk of feeling depressed and/or anxious (as well as worsening existing anxiety and depression) increases with the severity of insomnia, and so it is important to recognize and sort out sleep problems as soon as they are identified.
Sleep & Mental Health
A good night’s sleep can enhance your memory and problem-solving skills.
Maintaining a healthy sleep schedule helps you stay motivated, alert, and engaged. A full night’s sleep can help your mood and even prevent feelings of depression. Missed sleep can lead to psychological and physical ill health in many ways.
Psychological symptoms and effects include:
- Low mood
- Erratic behavior
- Poor cognitive functioning and performance (e.g., forgetfulness, making mistakes and slower thinking than normal)
Sleep & Physical Health
A solid night of sleep can help you maintain a healthy weight. Sleep helps your immune system stay strong. The less you sleep, the harder it can be to fight common infections.
Physical symptoms and effects include:
- Physical symptoms of anxiety
- Elevation in blood pressure and stress hormones
- Negative effects on cardiovascular health (increased risk of strokes and heart attacks)
- Immune damage which may lead to physical problems.
Ten steps to improve your sleeping habits for better mental and physical health.
- Establish a regular sleep-wake cycle – try to sleep and wake at regular times consistently. Get up at the same time every day. Set a bedtime to get at least 7 hours of sleep every night.
- Try to ensure that you have a comfortable bed and bedroom – noise, light and temperature should be tailored to your preferences if possible. A cooler room with several blankets is best.
- Limit the use of stimulants – such as caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol near bedtime.
- Avoid drinking excessive liquids – especially in the evening to minimize chances of waking to empty your bladder.
- Avoid going to bed until you are drowsy and ready to sleep.
- Participate in regular daily exercise – but not too late in the evening as this could be stimulating.
- Avoid electronic devices late at night – such as computers, mobile phones, tablets and so on; the bright light can be overly stimulating and keep you awake. Turn off electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bed.
- Use your bed for sleep and sex only.
- Use relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and grounding exercises.
- Avoid napping during the day.
If you feel that poor sleep is contributing to feelings of anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues, consider finding a qualified therapist you trust who can help you manage sleep hygiene, as well as well as teach and support you with other healthy coping strategies.
Carol Van Kampen, LMSW
Carol Van Kampen, LMSW is an individual private practice psychotherapist who specializes in anxiety, depression, grief, and trauma treatment at Marsh Psychology Group. Carol is EMDR trained. Contact her at marshpsychologygroup.com