Sleep Hygiene : Sleep Like Your Life Depends On It!

Sleep Hygiene : Sleep Like Your Life Depends On It!

At 9:07am, while standing over my Keurig I though to myself, "I am really proud of myself!" Here we are on a rainy, late summer morning and I am dressed, my face is beat, my teeth are flossed and brushed, my kids are at their appointed places, to which they arrived with pressed clothes, fed and loved. My bed is made and I am ready to get started with my online classes. 

Just a year ago, I was praying for this day to come. Back then I was struggling to get out of bed each day. I was overwhelmed, exhausted and depressed. I remember writing in my journal how I wanted to show up at the bus stop in the morning dressed like a mommy blogger. I wanted to get up before my children and get fully dressed. I wanted to feel motivated without the use of unhealthy stimulants. 

I wanted what happened this morning. But back then I didn't know how to accomplish it. The only thing I did know was (a) If I continued to desire it, I would eventually figure out how to do it.  (b) It was going to take me doing something new and radical that I had never done before. And; (c) It wasn't going to happen over night. So how did I get here? There were many steps and the road was not easy, but the biggest factor was learning to manage my sleep hygiene and finally prioritizing quality sleep.

Here's the story: As a busy, stay-at-home-mom and military wife, getting the recommended sleep per night is a challenge. Between night feedings, nightmares and a husband who’s a night owl, I had difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep each night.

Then I began to wonder if my lack of consistent sleep, over the last three years, could be responsible for how I was feeling. The feelings of being overwhelmed, the irritability, lack of concentration, etc. I shared those thoughts with both, the Military Family Life Counselor as well as my Primary Care Provider. They each asked me about my sleep hygiene. I had no idea what that term even meant!

However, after a little research I have learned what sleep hygiene is and the effects of sleep deprivation. I have identified the causes of lost sleep in my household and developed a strategy to improve sleep hygiene for all members of my household.

What Is Sleep Hygiene?!

Sleep hygiene, according to “Sleep Hygiene” (2015) by Jennifer R. Goldschmied & Patricia J. Deldin is a “structured set of guidelines created by sleep researchers to improve sleep in those with insomnia or difficulty initiating or maintaining sleep”. Included in the strategies are:

  •  Keeping a regular sleep schedule.
  •  Limiting caffeine intake to mornings and early afternoon. 
  • Winding down one hour before bedtime. 
  • Optimizing the bedroom for sleep  

How Much Sleep Do I Need & What Happens When I Don't Get It?

 According to “Are You Getting Enough Sleep?” an article on WEbMD adults need between 6 and 10 hours per night. According to this same article some of the effects of not getting the recommended hours each night are:

  • Memory problems.
  • Depression. 
  • A weakening of your immune system thus increasing your chance of becoming sick.
  • An increase in perception of pain.

Did You Know Sleeping Can Help With Your Mood and Overcoming Depression?!

According to “The Dark Night: The Casual Relationship Between Lack of Sleep and Mood Disorders” (2013) by Sarah Deweerdt, “There is ample evidence that sleep and mood are entangled at the very root. People who sleep poorly are more likely to develop depression than those who sleep well.” She also concluded by her research that patients of hers who kept regular schedules for waking, eating, socializing and going to sleep “seem[ed] to be protected against new episodes of bipolar disorder” and such consistent sleep helped people come out of their depression more quickly.

Armed with all this information, I paid attention to my own sleep habits and compared them to the suggestions for good sleep hygiene. Remember the consistent bed time, limiting caffeine, winding down one hour before bed time? I wasn't doing any of that! I allowed my husband's schedule to dictate what time I went to sleep, which made my bedtime anything but regular. I was not conscientious of how late in the day I was drinking caffeinated beverages and would regularly have a cup of coffee in the evening to get through after dinner chores. I also did not have wind down time.  With my never ending to-do list, I would just go-go-go all the way until I got in bed. Thankfully, identifying the causes of lost sleep in my lifestyle has equipped me to make necessary changes.

How Did I Implement Sleep Hygiene Strategies?!

I conducted a two week experiment where I set a consistent wind down time. The wind down time was one hour before I actually needed to fall asleep. This time was determined by first deciding what time I needed to wake up in the morning; and deciding how many hours I wanted to sleep (8).

During wind down time, I massages my feet, or took a shower or listened to guided meditations. I even purchased two new pajama sets to make changing into bed clothes a pleasant routine. The important part of the one hour wind down time is that there was no cell phone or television use. No homework, nothing! Just winding down.

I cut off my caffeine intake at lunch time each day .

What Were the Results Of Following Sleep Hygiene Suggestions?

The results were amazing! For the first time in a very long time I fell asleep easily and stayed asleep all night! I felt a lot less agitated during the day and seemed able to bounce back more easily from obstacles during the day.  Since starting the experiment I haven’t gone back to my old, unorganized ways of getting to sleep. I will continue to manage my sleep hygiene and stay committed to my bedtime.

What do you think about all this information? How is Your Sleep Hygiene? Did you learn anything from this post? Which sleep hygiene suggestion will you try tonight?

Thanks for reading! Happy Sleeping.
~Sunshine Abuwi


WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS ( July 30, 2016).  Are You Getting Enough Sleep? Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/guide/sleep-requirements

Goldschmied, Jennifer R., Deldin, Patricia J.,(2015) Sleep Hygiene. Salem Press Encyclopedia of Health

Deweerdt, S. (2013). The dark night: the causal relationships between lack of sleep and mood disorders remain murky. But one thing is clear as day: better sleep can have psychological benefits. Nature, (7450), 14.

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