Nothing feels better than a good night’s sleep, especially if you’ve had quality sleep. Considering that we spend a third of our lives asleep (or at least trying), it makes sense that improving your sleep is important: It will make your waking hours more productive, focused, and happy. You can think of the actions you take for a good night’s sleep as your “sleep hygiene,” which just like brushing your teeth must be done consistently. Where and how you sleep, your sleep habits, and even the type of mattress and pillow really do matter.
How to improve your sleep hygiene
If you struggle with sleep, know that it takes trial and error to find solutions. Here’s a few things that will make a difference:
1. Your sleep environment. You want an atmosphere in your bedroom where you step inside and your brain subconsciously knows this is where you’ll sleep. Many people use their bedroom to study, watch TV, or go online. All of this is not good for your sleep hygiene. You don’t want to associate your bedroom with feeling anxious or thinking about work or school. To emphasize relaxation, try redecorating your bedroom, turning down the lights, and keeping it dark and quiet.
2. Your mattress. You want to be physically comfortable no matter what your sleeping environment. When buying a new mattress, find one you can first try out at home. Many online mattress retailers have in-home trials for a certain number of days. Another option is at some high-end hotels, you can buy the mattress and bedding you sleep in. In any case, always try the mattress out first. You should know if it suits you within a week or so.
3. Your pillow. Pillows are a personal choice. Whether you like a soft or firm pillow, make sure it’s comfortable and not contributing to allergies. Some people want a down or feather pillow, but then they realize they have an allergic reaction. If you have allergies, you won’t breathe as efficiently and you’ll be more likely to snore, breathe through your mouth, and wake up with a dry mouth. Talking with your physician may be helpful if you think allergies and associated breathing difficulties are disrupting your sleep.
4. Your bedtime routine. One hour prior to bed, start preparing yourself for sleep. Like anything, if you do the prep work, the result will be better and sleep is the same way. Try calming activities that signal to your brain that it’s time for bed, such as turning off electronic gadgets and turning down the lights.
5. Your sleep position. Once you’re in bed, sleep apnea is more likely to occur if you sleep on your back, as your tongue tends to fall backward and your breathing can become compromised. Sometimes, positional therapy can help. Try to avoid sleeping on your back and try elevating your head with a couple of pillows. If you’re expecting a baby, find out the best sleep position and how to get better sleep while pregnant.
Contact a sleep medicine specialist at Intermountain for more information.