The Basics of a Good Night’s Sleep – Practice Good Sleep Hygiene

Sleep deficits have significant short and long-term adverse health consequences. Therefore, good sleep hygiene is essential to your daily routine and is often considered the cornerstone of sleep medicine. Following are tips to help you foster good sleep hygiene.

Create a Restful Environment

Doing your best to create a restful environment can improve the quality and duration of sleep. The basic requirements for good sleep include:

  • A darkened room. The room does not need to be pitch black if that is uncomfortable for you, but ideally, the windows should have shades to allow for early morning sleep. All red, blue, and green lights must be covered up or out of direct eyesight from the bed. Sleeping in darkness allows the production of melatonin, an essential hormone that regulates sleep. Try an eye mask if you cannot restrict your light easily.
  • A comfortable temperature. It is common to wake up when a room becomes too hot. Most people sleep sounder in a cool temperature, with fresh air if possible. A comfortable sleeping range is 60-67 degrees. 
  • Be comfortable. Update your pillows, bedding, and mattress if needed. Make sure your bedding complements your optimal sleeping temperature.
  • Quiet. Wear earplugs if you live in a loud neighborhood or have early morning buses or trucks that may wake you up. Light sleepers are often disrupted by slight noises, interfering with much-needed REM hours.

Develop a Healthy Sleep Routine

Anyone who has children knows that a bedtime routine signals it is time to wind down from the day. As adults, we are not as different from them as we think. Our inner 3-year-old craves routine too. With all that we do in a day, having a routine that signals “rest” (or, to be technical, activates the parasympathetic nervous system) can be a critical factor in settling down to restful sleep.

Some examples of beneficial activities to add to your bedtime routine include:

  • taking a bath or shower
  • lighting candles in the bedroom while you get ready for bed
  • drinking a cup of herbal tea (hops, chamomile, lemon balm, or valerian are good choices)
  • listening to relaxing music 
  • reading a book or magazine
  • meditating

As you can see, a healthy sleep routine is more than just turning off the TV or putting down your phone. If you have trouble sleeping, take your routine seriously and practice it nightly.

Sleep Recommendations

People may say, “I do just fine on four hours of sleep.” You may even say it yourself. Well, that’s what we call a myth. The human body is biologically wired to need a certain amount of sleep to function optimally. Four hours is far from enough, regardless of age. Operating on little sleep is not a badge of honor. If done regularly, it could have far-reaching consequences.

The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) developed age-specific recommended sleep durations with input from experts in sleep, anatomy, physiology, pediatrics, neurology, gerontology, and gynecology. The recommendations are:

  • Newborns: From 0-3 months, babies need between 14 and 17 hours of sleep. This includes daytime naps, since newborns rarely sleep through the night. Older infants (4-11 months) need about 12 to 15 hours of sleep each day. 
  • Toddlers: Between the first and second year of life, toddlers need between 11 and 14 hours of sleep each night.
  • Children: Preschoolers (3-5 years) should get 10 to 13 hours, while school-age kids (6-13 years) should strive for nine to 11 hours each night.
  • Teenagers: As kids get older, their need for sleep decreases slightly. Teens (14-17 years) require about eight to 10 hours of nightly sleep.
  • Adults: Between the ages of 18 and 64, adults should aim for seven to nine hours of nightly sleep. If you’re older than 65, you may need a little less: seven to eight hours is recommended.

Restorative sleep impacts many body systems including hormones, mental health, and metabolic function. Good sleep hygiene is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to curing chronic insomnia, but it is a keystone of sleep health and consequently overall health.

Whether you are having trouble sleeping for just one night, or have had a lifetime of sleep difficulties, take the time to implement the necessary steps to foster sound sleep. Also pay attention to medications, supplements, alcohol, and caffeine as interfering factors. Be your own best parent, and create a nighttime routine for “bedtime”. You may just sleep like a baby.

About the Author

Kim Crabb

Coastal Pharmacy & Wellness Staff

Kim is the marketing director at Coastal Pharmacy & Wellness and has been in the pursuit of wellness for decades. She led a workplace wellness program for over 12 years where she discovered that she loved helping people make positive healthy changes. You can often find her mired in information rabbit holes while researching answers to seemingly straightforward questions. It's ok; she loves it because it means she can share new-found knowledge with lovely people like yourself!

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