We spend one-third of our life asleep. Everybody wants a good night’s rest. Everybody wants to sleep healthy. We all agree on that. But what is “healthy sleep”?
The National Sleep Foundation defines “healthy sleep” as sleep that meets the following:
- You fall asleep within 15-20 minutes of lying down
- You regularly sleep a total of seven to nine hours in a 24-hour period.
- While in bed, your sleep is continuous—you don’t have long periods of lying awake when you wish to be sleeping.
- You wake up feeling refreshed.
- You feel alert and are able to be fully productive throughout the waking hours.
- Your partner or family members do not notice any disturbing or out of the ordinary behavior from you while you sleep, such as snoring, pauses in breathing, restlessness, or otherwise nighttime behaviors.
The Harvard Medical School devotes significant resources to studying sleep and promoting healthy sleep. They have an extensive video library here if you would like to hear from medical experts about the importance of healthy sleep.
Why is Healthy Sleep So Important
Healthy sleep is essential for overall physical, mental, and emotional well-being. The following are some of the ways that healthy sleep can benefit your health, supported by scientific research:
Physical health: Sleep helps to restore and repair the body, promoting overall physical health. According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), sleep plays a critical role in immune function, metabolism, and the repair of tissues and cells.
Mental health: Sleep has been shown to have a positive impact on mood, cognitive function, and emotional regulation. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), people who get enough sleep are more likely to be happier, have better problem-solving skills, and be more resilient in the face of stress.
Heart health: Sleep plays a crucial role in maintaining heart health. The NSF states that sleep deprivation is linked to increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke.
Weight management: Sleep affects hormones that regulate hunger and fullness, which can have an impact on weight. According to the APA, people who get adequate sleep are more likely to maintain a healthy weight compared to those who do not.
11 Tips for Healthy Sleep
Most experts agree that there are steps you can take to get to sleep, stay asleep, and wake refreshed.
- Get some sun
- Avoid caffeine late in the day
- Use lotion on dry skin so you don't wake up itching
- Limit your exposure to back-lit electronic screens on televisions, computers, tablets, and cell phones.
- Establish a bedtime routine and keep it
- Exercise daily, but not just before bedtime
- Keep your bedroom dark and cool, 65°F to 72°F
- Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows
- Minimize noise and light by using earplugs or white noise machines to block out noise and use blackout curtains or eye masks to block out light.
- Avoid alcohol, tobacco, and heavy meals just before bedtime
Healthy Sleep Hygiene
The debate rages about whether to shower or bathe at night before you go to bed or in the morning when you rise. That is one sleep hygiene fight we will not wade into. If it helps you sleep, bathe or shower before you sleep. If not, do it in the morning.
However, bathing at night does reduce the amount of skin and body oils in your bed. Those are just food for dust mites.
Speaking of dust mites, it is important to control their population if sneezing, wheezing, or coughing keeps you from getting a good night’s sleep.
So, consider what you put on top of your mattress. Choosing a sheet set that feels good will make it easier to fall asleep and decrease the likelihood that you wake up during the night from being too hot or too cold.
BTW - be sure to wash your sheets, pillowcases, and blankets every 7 days in hot water. This will remove the skin cells that are food for the dust mites as well as removing the dust mites themselves not to mention can help reduce the risk of infections and skin irritations caused by bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms that can build up.
I know there have been some studies done that show it's ok not to wash sheets about once a month, but that is just gross.
Protect your mattress and pillows with zippered dust mite-proof covers. Yes, dust mite covers not only work to protect you against allergens, you’ll extend the life of your mattress and pillows and make it much easier to keep your bed clean. A waterproof cover or pad will also protect your mattress from wet accidents.
For temperature regulating comfort, choose natural fibers for sleeping. 100% cotton sheets are cooler and wicks away moisture to keep you dry. Both silk and wool, we really like wool products for fighting allergies, fibers work to regulate body temperature as well. This makes these fibers great choices for comforters, blankets, and duvets.
Bedroom hygiene starts with good cleanliness practices, but it doesn’t end there. Even small steps focused on your bedroom’s hygiene will greatly increase your ability to rest comfortably and decrease your exposure to microscopic particles that can hurt you.
For additional suggestions on creating a healthy bedroom check out How to Optimize Your Bedroom for Healthy Sleep: The Ultimate Bedroom Hygiene Guide from Slumber Yard.
For those of us who have a hard time with seasoal time changes "Daylight Savings" you more will find more helpful tips in our resource center "7 Ways That the Time Change Can Disrupt Your Sleep"
Til Next Time!
- National Sleep Foundation: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/sleep-and-disease-risk
- American Psychological Association: https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/sleep/2006/08/positive-impact
- National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Understanding-Sleep