Sleep Hygiene, Huh? What in the World is Sleep Hygiene??
“Good” Sleep Hygiene is the habits and practices, behavioral and cognitive, which are conducive to sleeping well, routinely. At least 50% of the time, we are not sleeping well due to poor Sleep Hygiene. In order to develop better sleep hygiene, we need to understand how basic things influence our brains and bodies, such as lights and external stimuli. Lights turn off the pineal glands ability to produce Melatonin (the darkness hormone). Melatonin is secreted during the dark period of the day and allows us to naturally glide into sleep (contrary to popular belief, we do not fall asleep). The advent of the light bulb (1879), well over a hundred years ago, was detrimental enough to our natural ability to sleep soundly, however; today we are living in an unprecedented age of human existence; an age of not only artificial lights and television, but also that of computers, laptops, IPads, tablets and smartphones. Most people are completely unaware of the stimulating effects of all these devices. That it is not simply the content of what you are watching, reading or texting that is stimulating, but the operating system itself of the device you are near. If any one of the aforementioned devices is on, and you are near it, the vibrating, electromagnetic frequencies will be stimulating your brain and adversely affect your ability to sleep soundly.
Circadian Clock/System/Rhythm is your internal, biological sleep/wake clock that entrains (aligns) with external, environmental cues; signals from our environment, most importantly; exposure to light or darkness in our environment. Sleep is only a part of a 24 hour cycle - the sleep/wake cycle. So, what you do or do not do during your wake period, and just prior to going to bed, will greatly influence both your quality and quantity of sleep - we need both in order to have good mental and physical health. This cycle is a human, genetically determined cycle, and try as we may to deny ourselves the full complement of the sleep we need, each and every night, is to deny ourselves the ability to maintain excellent health no matter what other health practices we may employ.
These days, most of us seem to have a tendency to burn the candle at both ends and allow our time in bed, sleeping, to suffer. We laugh it off, or even take pride in managing to get it all done in spite of how little sleep we get. However, nothing could be further from the truth; sleep deprivation is no laughing matter and it is nothing to be proud of.
Our metabolism and digestive system are also circadian entrained. It is only during night time, restful, restorative sleep that our bodies make the proper balance of hormones that keep our bodies at a healthy weight. Sleep deprivation causes an increase in stress hormones, an increase in appetite, and blood glucose and lipid (fat) metabolism can become dysregulated; resulting in the likelihood of weight gain and an increased potential for diabetes. Inadequate night-time sleeping confuses the body, making it think that it has to accumulate sugars and fats. It is a well-known fact that shift workers have an increased risk of metabolic syndrome, i.e., obesity, diabetes and hypertension. Furthermore, sleep is when everything we encountered, experienced and learned throughout our day is organized and stored as memory. Simply put; without consistent, good quality and quantity sleep, our learning and memory capacities are also severely compromised.
More than that; sleep deprivation increases our sensitivity to pain, weakens our immune system and we put ourselves at a higher risk of psychological disorders. Astonishingly, studies have shown that just 24 hours of sleep deprivation impairs cognitive abilities and performance equivalent to that of being legally intoxicated. Lack of adequate sleep is not just a sleeping problem. It is a really a 24 hour problem. It is not simply an issue of tossing and turning all night. Lack of good quality and adequate quantity sleep; lack of restful and restorative sleep will negatively impact every aspect of life.
There are a multitude of good sleep hygiene tips and strategies-many more than one would imagine, but, Clearly, for the day and age we are living in with all of our lights and electronic toys-including television, the most important good sleep hygiene tool we can all employ is simply to turn everything off a minimum of a half hour before sleep (some experts recommend as much as two hours). Doing so will give the your brain and body the necessary time to calm down from the stimulating effects of both the lights and the electromagnetic frequencies enough to more peacefully glide into a good night’s sleep.
Author: Kathleen M. Cossette Kathleen M. Cossette is dedicated to working in the field of wellness-holistic wellness. Kathleen is a MN, DHS Certified Peer Specialist; a Copeland Center for Wellness Certified WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan) facilitator; and a Minnesota Recovery Connection trained Addiction Recovery Coach as well as a freelance health and wellness writer. She provides support to those suffering with mental health and addiction challenges; connects others to resources for recovery; and gives one-on-one strength’s-based and holistic wellness coaching. She also spends her time at the Minneapolis and Hopkins Vail Place where she co-facilitates WRAP classes, teaches Nutrition and Mental Health classes and has voluntarily written articles for the Vail Place and Consumer Survivors Network Newsletters.