“Unlocking the Magic of Sleep: A Guide to Better Bedtime Hygiene”

Imagine eating dinner, washing up, putting the kids to bed AND still having an hour before bed? It sounds magical right? What would you do with this time? How do you unwind? According to a 2021 survey by the National Sleep Foundation, approximately 55% of Americans reported watching TV or streaming content to unwind before bed at least a few times a week but are we really unwinding? 

According to the American Sleep Association, the average American adult gets about 6.8 hours of sleep per night, which is less than the recommended 7-9 hours. Here are some additional statistics on Americans’ sleep habits:

  1. About 35% of Americans report getting less than 7 hours of sleep per night.
  2. About 50-70 million Americans suffer from a sleep disorder, such as insomnia or sleep apnea.
  3. Approximately 40% of adults report snoring, which can be a sign of sleep apnea.
  4. More than a third of American adults report falling asleep unintentionally during the day at least once per month.
  5. People who work in certain professions, such as healthcare and transportation, are at a higher risk of sleep deprivation and sleep disorders.
  6. The use of electronic devices before bedtime can affect sleep quality and duration, with 90% of adults reporting that they use some type of electronic device in the hour before going to bed.
  7. Lack of sleep can have negative impacts on physical and mental health, including increased risk of obesity, diabetes, depression, and anxiety.

I think it’s clear that we are over worked, under rested and our health is suffering for it. So, where do we begin to reverse this process? A healthy bedtime routine may just be the answer. So, let’s look at sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene refers to a set of practices and habits that are conducive to getting a good night’s sleep on a regular basis. These practices and habits include things like maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, creating a relaxing sleep environment, avoiding stimulants like caffeine and nicotine before bedtime, and limiting exposure to electronic devices.

There are several reasons why we should care about sleep hygiene. First, getting enough good-quality sleep is essential for our physical and mental health. When we don’t get enough sleep, we are at increased risk of developing a range of health problems, including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and depression. Lack of sleep can also negatively affect our cognitive functioning, making it harder for us to concentrate and perform well on tasks.

Second, poor sleep hygiene can contribute to the development of sleep disorders such as insomnia and sleep apnea. These conditions can be disruptive to our lives and have serious consequences if left untreated.

Finally, good sleep hygiene can help us to feel more rested and refreshed during the day, which can improve our mood and overall quality of life. By taking steps to prioritize our sleep and establish healthy sleep habits, we can improve our physical and mental health, reduce our risk of sleep disorders, and enjoy better quality sleep on a regular basis.

So, what does a good nights sleep look like? A good night’s sleep typically involves several key characteristics:

  1. Duration: The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night, though individual sleep needs can vary.
  2. Continuity: A good night’s sleep involves sleeping through the night without waking up frequently or having difficulty falling back asleep after waking.
  3. Deep sleep: During a good night’s sleep, the body should cycle through different stages of sleep, including deep sleep, which is important for physical restoration and repair.
  4. REM sleep: Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep is a stage of sleep associated with dreaming and cognitive processing. A good night’s sleep involves multiple cycles of REM sleep.
  5. Efficiency: A good night’s sleep involves spending a high percentage of time in bed actually asleep, rather than lying awake.
  6. Feeling rested: After a good night’s sleep, individuals should wake up feeling refreshed, energized, and ready to tackle the day.

Establishing a good bedtime hygiene regimen can help promote good-quality sleep and improve overall sleep health. Here are some recommendations for a bedtime hygiene regimen:

  1. Stick to a consistent sleep schedule: Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends. This helps regulate your body’s circadian rhythm and promotes better sleep.
  2. Create a relaxing sleep environment: Make sure your bedroom is cool, quiet, and dark. Use comfortable bedding and pillows, and consider using blackout curtains, earplugs, or a white noise machine to block out external distractions.
  3. Avoid electronic devices before bedtime: The blue light emitted by electronic devices can interfere with sleep. Try to avoid using phones, computers, and TVs for at least an hour before bed.
  4. Develop a relaxing pre-sleep routine: Engage in relaxing activities before bed, such as reading, taking a bath, or practicing relaxation techniques like deep breathing or meditation.
  5. Avoid stimulating substances: Avoid consuming caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol before bed, as these substances can interfere with sleep.
  6. Exercise regularly: Regular exercise can promote better sleep, but it’s best to avoid intense exercise within a few hours of bedtime.
  7. Limit daytime naps: If you need to take a nap during the day, limit it to 20-30 minutes and avoid napping late in the day.

When we are well-rested, we should expect to feel physically and mentally refreshed and energized. Here are some signs of being well-rested:

  1. Feeling alert and focused: When we are well-rested, we are better able to concentrate and perform tasks effectively.
  2. Good mood: Getting enough sleep can improve our mood and help us feel more positive and optimistic.
  3. Improved physical performance: Sleep is important for physical restoration and repair, and being well-rested can improve our physical performance and endurance.
  4. Fewer health problems: Chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to a range of health problems, including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and depression. Being well-rested can help reduce the risk of these health problems.
  5. Better memory: Sleep is important for consolidating memories and improving cognitive function, so being well-rested can improve our ability to remember and process information.

What if you are practicing a good nighttime routine and you’re still not sleeping well? There are other factors to consider which can aid in sleep. Many of us don’t sleep well due to irregular hormones. Though I won’t touch on that in this post, I would highly encourage you to speak to a Hormones Replacement Specialist if you feel this is you. It is wide spread and could be the reason for not just sleep disturbances but also weight gain, irritability, mood swings, brain fog, etc… If you have tried a new routine with no success you may consider resetting your sleep patterns with the help of sleep aids. 

There are several supplements that may help improve sleep quality and promote better sleep. Here are some options you could consider:

  1. Melatonin: Melatonin is a hormone that regulates sleep and wake cycles. Taking a melatonin supplement may help regulate your sleep-wake cycle and promote better sleep.
  2. Magnesium: Magnesium is a mineral that plays a role in many bodily processes, including sleep. Taking a magnesium supplement may help relax your muscles and promote better sleep.
  3. Valerian root: Valerian root is a natural herbal supplement that has been used for centuries to promote relaxation and improve sleep quality.
  4. Chamomile: Chamomile is a natural herb that has calming properties and is often used to promote relaxation and improve sleep quality.
  5. Lavender: Lavender is a natural herb that has been shown to have a calming effect on the body and may promote better sleep.
  6. 5-HTP: 5-HTP is a natural amino acid that the body uses to produce serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood and sleep. Taking a 5-HTP supplement may help improve sleep quality and promote relaxation.
  7. GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) is a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in regulating brain activity and has been shown to have a calming effect on the nervous system. In addition to its role in promoting relaxation and reducing anxiety, GABA is also believed to have several other potential health benefits. 

Of the above list GABA is by far my favorite. Here are some holistic uses for GABA:

  1. Reducing anxiety: GABA is often used to help reduce anxiety symptoms, as it has a calming effect on the nervous system.
  2. Improving sleep: GABA supplements may help promote better sleep quality by reducing anxiety and promoting relaxation.
  3. Lowering blood pressure: GABA has been shown to have a vasodilatory effect, which means it can help widen blood vessels and lower blood pressure.
  4. Enhancing mood: GABA is believed to have mood-enhancing effects and may help improve symptoms of depression.
  5. Reducing inflammation: GABA has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties, which may help reduce inflammation and improve overall health.