Is the term “Sleep Hygiene” new to you? Well, if it is, this post will go through what sleep hygiene is, and 6 simple steps you can take to clean your sleep for you and even your children.
What is “Sleep Hygiene”
If you guys have been following along with my posts, you know that sleep is a topic I have written about before.
- 4 Natural Ways To Improve Sleep
- 5 Drinks for Better Sleep: Even Safe For Kids
- My Own Sleepy Time Hot Cocoa Recipe
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Could there be such a thing as “dirty” or “clean” sleep? There can be. Sleep is a cornerstone of health that many of us greatly neglect. We “dirty” sleep by letting a ton of tiny disturbances pile up to create a big mess. In fact, over 60 million Americans struggle with sleep-related issues. But where does it start? I believe poor sleep hygiene starts in our childhood and this is something we as parents need to become more aware of.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep hygiene is described as
a variety of different practices and habits that are necessary to have good nighttime sleep quality and full daytime alertness.
To simplify this even more, poor sleep hygiene is brought on by habits and practices that disrupt filing and staying asleep leading to lethargy, weight gain, improper immune function, and mental health disorders.
Why Does Sleep Hygiene Matter
When we sleep, we are not just restoring our energy, but our bodies are literally restoring health to different organs in our body on a cellular level. Here are just a few things our body does when we sleep.
- Our brain sorts out the information of the day and creates long-term memories and figuring out the information we need to store.
- Your pituitary gland releases growth hormone essential to growing new cells that we needed in repairing cellular damage that accumulates during the day.
- Melatonin is released which not only helps you fall and stay asleep but is also essential in blood pressure regulation, immune system function, and stress management.
- Cortisol, often referred to as the stress hormone, decreases initially but then spikes as you wake up, helping you feel perky and ready for the day. (Cortisol is an essential hormone for waking up and not feeling lethargic)
- Our immune system releases an important protein called cytokines which assist your body to fight inflammation, infection, and trauma.
- Organ repair takes place and each system of your body from your lymphatic system to your gull bladder takes turns repairing throughout the night.
So How Do We Improve Our Sleep Hygiene
Now that we have established how important sleep is to the entire body, let’s jump into some super simple steps to improve your sleep and the sleep of your children.
1. Establish a Nightly Routine
A lot of us have routines for our morning, but nightly routines are equally as important!
Figure out what time of the day you need to cook dinner in order to leave at least 2 hours between when you or your kids need to finish eating and need to be sleeping.
Instead of letting them watch a show before bed, let them pick out a few books and create a cozy environment for them.
The American Academy of Pediatrics found that
3- to 5-year-olds who regularly watch TV after 7:00 pm or who watch violent TV shows were more likely to have sleep problems. These problems included things like awakening during the night, nightmares, struggling to fall asleep, and suffering from sleepiness during the day.https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/104/3/e27.short
Reduce as much blue light (including fluorescent lighting) as possible.
This is something I am still figuring out in my house. We have dimmers in our ceilings which help me reduce the light but I recently found out this type of lighting produces “dirty electricity” (exposure to wide ranges of frequencies of non-ionizing radiation).
We have also replaced the lamp in our bedrooms which I’ll explain later in this post to reduce blue light and have en tried eating dinners by candlelight and remaining window light instead of our overhead lights.
2. Decrease BlueLight Exposure
Our bodies are pretty smart, but our hormones do not know what to do when they are constantly receiving messages that say “stay awake” while we are supposed to winding down.
Blue light is not just light from our screens, but the light from our lamps, ceilings, and even the sun. It is important and cannot be fully cut out of our lives. However, we need to know how to use it and how our body interprets it.
Blue light is important to have during the day when our cortisol levels need to be functioning and we need to be alert. The problems start manifesting after the sun sets.
A good practice to have, which our family has adapted well to, is allowing the house to get dark when the sunsets. This means no more screens (unless you are an adult with amber-colored blue light blocking glasses).
These red lights help signal to our body that the sun has set and now melatonin can be released to start settling us into sleep. We are not 100% consistent with using them, but we have seen a huge impact on our sleep quality when we are consistent.
Blue Light Tips
Another good thing to note is the type of blue light you are exposing yourself to. I will be the first to admit, I love watching a show before bed. Yes, I wish I would journal, read, pray, etc- but no. I would much rather watch a baking show and dream of baking walnut cakes with Mary Berry in London.
You do not have to stop watching Tv. You should however be aware of what kind of shows you are watching and if they are ones that spike your cortisol levels. Looking at things like looking at your school debt, work emails, scary movies, intense sports, crime documentaries, action movies… you get the point… those will not shift your cortisol levels in your favor!
Truth be told- one of the most random things that have ever happened in my life was becoming an outrageous hockey fan * GO BOLTS* and last night I stayed up 2 hours past my bedtime to watch a game. I broke all the rules. I didn’t even wear my blue-light-blocking glasses… It was an intense game, we lost lol and I snacked. I think it took me over an hour to fall asleep after and then I tossed and turned until I woke up… a bad choice on my end and I paid for it.
Instead of doing what I did last night opt for shows or entertainment that bring joy or peace. Save the crazy shows for the day or at least nights you know you don’t need proper sleep. The nights I watch TV before bed I usually choose documentaries, baking shows, history shows, or things that will help calm my crazy active brain.
3. Increase Sun Exposure
As important it is for us to decrease blue light during the night- it is equally important for us to increase the exposure our eyes have for the light first thing in the morning!
Especially now that it is summer, my husband and I, and some days even our kids, spend the first 15 to 20 minutes outside right when we wake up.
Getting exposure to sunlight first thing in the morning is important because it sets our circadian rhythm. The light triggers a flood of hormones we need to start energetic and alert and it also essentially sets the clock for when these hormones need to be slowed down and switch.
This switch is important because our pineal gland is dependent on this clock and proper exposure to light allows this gland to release melatonin when it is supposed to.
This process can help you sleep in less than a week!
In a 2013 study from the University of Colorado Boulder, integrative psychologist Kenneth Wright showed that people who removed themselves from artificial light restored the sync of their natural circadian rhythms within less than one week.https://www.sleepassociation.org/blog-post/how-light-and-sunsets-affect-circadian-rhythms-and-sleep/
If you know getting outside will never be a priority for you or your husband first thing in the morning, ditch your sunnies. Not wearing your sunglasses in the car on your way to work or school drop-off will still have an effect on your eyes and the cortisol reaction your body needs to signify it is daytime.
Going from one inside environment to the car with sunglasses on, to another inside work environment will not allow your body the information it needs to fully wake up.
4. Black Out Your Room
If you have read my blog post 4 Natural Ways to Improve Sleep you know that black-out curtains can massively improve your sleep quality.
I shared some interesting research from the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program that showed how people who slept with light exposure were more likely to report fatigue, wake up confused during the night, and have excessive sleepiness and impaired functioning during the day.
This is such an easy and effective way to deepen your sleep quality and the sleep of your children. A lot of us underestimate how much light creeps into our room as we sleep.
A lot of Clean Sleep Hygiene Starts with Light
Even a tiny bit of blue light from the street light, the moon, and even headlights can disrupt our sleep without us knowing.
Black-out curtains can be hung in minutes and can affect your kid’s and even your baby’s quality of sleep so much.
Kaylee Woodard, a certified infant and child sleep consultant and pediatric and NICU occupational therapist, says
“At that point, the absolute absence of light helps signal the body to produce melatonin– our natural sleepy hormone.”https://www.romper.com/p/are-blackout-curtains-good-for-babies-experts-weigh-in-32143371
If curtains are not your jam you can also find black out window film to help keep the rooms dark.
5. Sleep Cool
Is Sleeping Cold Good For You?
The short answer is yes! Sleeping cool, not necessarily “cold” is definitely good for you for multiple reasons.
Contrary to popular belief, heat and sleep do not go well together. Being too warm actually leads to tossing and turning in sleep and disrupted sleep patterns.
According to a study by the University of South Australia
insomniacs have a higher core temperature and are kept awake while their bodies are losing the heat that is interrupting or delaying their sleep. Lowering the temperature in the bedroom can help fight insomnia by dropping the body’s core temperature.https://www.unisa.edu.au
Cooler environments do not just keep the body’s core temperature in the proper zone, but it increases melatonin as well.
What Temperature Should Your Bedroom Be At Night For Clean Sleep Hygiene?
To benefit from a cool room your thermostat should be set anywhere from 60 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
Better “sleep hygiene” or not I know a lot of you women shudder at the thought of this, but hear me out. You do not want to feel cold as you fall asleep, that’s not what I’m saying. Being cold will disrupt your sleep as much as being too warm. But a lot of us don’t realize how much we are heating up, sweating, and tossing as we sleep, especially if we are sleeping under heavy blankets.
Cooling down your room can be done by your AC but you can also go old school and just leave your window open as you sleep!
What Can I do for Cooler Sleep
- Buy yourself some cotton sheets! If you can go 100% cotton and leave out the polyester you will have much more breathability. Cotton will keep you cooler as you sleep.
- The least amount of clothing, the better! If you can sleep in the nude, this would be ideal. Not just for keeping your body cooler, but overall health benefits of unhindered breathing and comfort. If nude isn’t ideal, a cotton loose-fitting nightshirt or tank top would also work.
- Sleep with a fan on. If you don’t have a ceiling fan, a box fan will work as well. This will help circulate cold air throughout your room to give more of an even distribution of temperatures.
- Buy a cooling pad. This has been on my list of things to buy for at least a year but they are a bit pricey. This cooling pad is awesome though if you sleep really hot and cannot control the temperature of your room very well. It works by pumping small amounts of cool water throughout the mattress pad to keep your body steady.
Having perfect sleep hygiene is impossible, especially in motherhood. We cannot control all of the sleepless nights with newborns, the dreaded middle of the night wake-up calls from puking toddlers or the endless seasons of breastfeeding needs. We do, however, have control over our sleep habits and how we can clean up the sleep hygiene of our whole home!
6. Get a Good Noise Machine
I know a lot of you are skeptical about noise machines and becoming dependent on them. I really do understand because, to be honest, I am hooked for life! But they can truly take your sleep to the next level ESPECIALLY if you are a light sleep and have a snorer next to you (my husband could win first place in a snoring competition).
I use the Hatch and so do my girls and my baby. I never thought in a million years I would spend $60 on a noise machine but the Hatch… it was just what we needed!
The noise it makes actually fills the room. It is soft and not harsh like the cheap noise machines we used to buy and it connects to your phone so you can change the lighting and the sound from your bed or if you are on a date and need to help the babysitter figure it out.
It also has a red light feature so if you don’t want to buy incandescent red lights for your bedroom at night, you can use the hatch as a lamp. Or girls hatch is programmed to turn on every night at 7:30 with white noise and a red light. They know that when the “light is red we stay in bed” and when the “light turns green it good morning”. It turns green and the noise stops at 7:30 and then they know they can come out of their room.
BEST PARENTING CHOICE EVER. I know not everyone will agree, but mornings are so sacred to my husband and me. It is when we pray, journal, and meditate and when the kids get up and out of bed we blast that praise and worship and are ready to start our day.
I hope this post was helpful and if you have any tips on how you cleaned up your sleep, please drop it in the comment section below!