National Sleep Awareness Week: The Benefits of Practicing Sleep Hygiene

Amid Sleep Awareness Month is National Sleep Foundation’s Sleep Awareness Week, kicking off on Daylight Saving Time, March 14 until March 20 this year. For more than two decades, this week has served its purpose of illuminating the facts about American’s sleep habits and promoting proper sleep hygiene. At Nolah Mattress, we’re here to do the same and we encourage you to, too.

While the reason behind the purpose of sleep is still obscure, scientists know for a fact that the average person needs around eight hours of sleep every night to maintain a happy and healthy life. Proper sleep provides rest after a long day, allows the body to recharge, and promotes healthy development and growth in adolescents and kids.

In addition to being necessary, sleep has countless benefits in the various aspects of life. When it’s lacking, either in time or quality, all aspects suffer and the drawbacks are instantaneous.

Physical Health Benefits

Most people tend to notice the adverse effects of poor sleep before they notice the positive. After all, a single night of bad sleep could leave a person groggy and tired. But the need to be in perfect shape increases as the world faces a pandemic that is much harsher on people with poor physical health.

For one, proper sleep optimizes the immune system, allowing the body to rest, ensuring it’s in tip-top shape when it comes to fighting viruses and illnesses. And while on the topic of COVID-19 and the flu-season, a study by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine found that sleep can increase vaccines’ effectiveness.

In addition to the countless stationary benefits that sleep offers, such as having a healthier heart, losing weight, and improving memory, it also supplies the body with the energy and resources it needs for physical and mental activity.

Sleep works by ridding the brain of adenosine, an organic compound that the body naturally produces. When awake, adenosine levels increase in the brain throughout the day, causing tiredness and fatigue later on in the day. While caffeine provides a temporary energy boost, sleep is the only thing that clears the brain adenosine receptors and rewinds to full energy.

Mental Health Benefits

Mental health also benefits greatly from quality sleep. For one, sleeping for enough time every night reduces the need for coffee and energy drinks, which tend to make people jumpy, panicky, and anxious after long-term use.

Additionally, while most anxiety disorders have been modestly linked with reduced sleep, new research suggests that it goes the other way round. People with chronic insomnia or who suffer from general sleep deprivation are more likely to develop anxiety disorders.

On a lighter note, while poor sleep—even for just a single night—can result in mood swings and overall negative emotions, the opposite is also true. Proper sleep has been linked to a better mood and having more positive emotions and thoughts throughout the day. And unlike other benefits, the positive effects sleep has on mood manifest after a single night of rest.

Social Life Benefits

When it comes to socializing, whether with close friends and family or with strangers on the bus, reading facial expressions is crucial. After a single night of poor sleep, a person’s ability to read micro facial expressions drops, which might lead to avoiding social situations altogether. While limiting socializing when a person is tired isn’t inherently harmful, severe damage to an individual’s social life might manifest itself due to poor sleeping habits.

Alternatively, sleeping well can increase a person’s emotional receptivity and reduces irritability, allowing them to form stronger connections with the people around them. It also improves their self-esteem and performance in group situations such as teams at school or work.

So basically, good sleep makes people happier and more pleasant to be around.

Practicing Sleep Hygiene

In order to reap any of the benefits, proper sleep needs to become a regular habit and not something to indulge in on the weekends or before an important event. One way to do so is by including sleep hygiene practices into daily habits and getting help from those who care the most about quality sleep.

While the name might not be as clear, sleep hygiene isn’t just about sleeping in a clean room and bed—although that’s necessary. It’s a set of behavioral and environmental practices that improve sleep quality for the long-term.

Sleep hygiene doesn’t start and end in the bedroom; it needs implementation in various life aspects, from waking up and daily chores and tasks to falling asleep. In honor of National Sleep Awareness Week, here is a list of practices that are essential to improving sleep quality from the roots up:

Having a Good Diet

Eating healthy food is a great start to a healthier life. But it's also important to know when to eat different types of food and when not to.

Eating food containing high concentrations of sugar, caffeine, or alcohol can mess with the body’s internal clock and chemistry, interfering with healthy sleep patterns. But bad night food isn’t limited to those three categories; nutritionists recommend avoiding any food that affects the body a few hours before bedtime. These include:

  • Citruses – The high levels of the tyramine amino acid and Vitamin C increase brain activity, which isn’t very beneficial at night.
  • Cruciferous Vegetables – They’re high in fiber and could lead to indigestion and uncomfortable sleep.
  • Spicy Food – It can increase the body’s temperature, inhibiting the body from lowering its temperature while sleeping.
  • Acidic Food – The high acidity could result in acid reflux when the person lays down, making for poor sleep.

Regularly Exercising

Exercising, but also physical activity in general, is excellent for quality sleep. It not only improves overall mental and physical health, exercising reduces stress and tires the body out for when it’s time to sleep at the end of the day.

However, it’s important not to overdo it. Exercising above one’s capabilities could put more stress on the body than it takes out, resulting in restless sleep and short-term insomnia.

Limiting Screen Time

Limiting screen time, especially a couple of hours before bedtime, is essential. All types of screens emit some degree of blue light that messes with the circadian rhythm, making the body think it’s still early in the day instead of bedtime.

Alternatively, if it’s hard to limit screen time, using a blue-light filter in all devices that support it can help.

Creating a Proper Sleeping Environment

The final ingredient to proper sleep hygiene boils down to the bedroom; it needs to elicit calmness while being quiet and dark.

The same applies to the bed. It’s essential to have a healthy, comfortable, and breathable mattress to sleep on every night. The wrong type of mattress could intervene with quality sleep and even cause or worsen back problems with long-term use.

Conclusion

Many aspects play into living a healthy life, and sleep is the most important of them all. Sleep can either have detrimental effects on one’s health and quality of life or provide notable benefits, depending on its quality.

While it might be hard to stick to a strict sleep schedule in a world that values busyness and productivity, one must take the time to take care of themselves before providing for others and their communities.

We want to hear from you! What are you doing to keep your sleep in check during Sleep Awareness Week? Tag us and share with #NolahPromotesSleep.