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Sleep Hygiene

Cropped shot of a handsome young man sleeping comfortably in his bed at home

By Cory Sekine-Pettite

March is National Sleep Awareness Month, which is all about improving sleep hygiene and the benefits of great sleep. What is “sleep hygiene?” According to the Sleep Foundation, strong sleep hygiene means having both a bedroom environment and daily routines that promote consistent, uninterrupted sleep. Keeping a stable sleep schedule, making your bedroom comfortable and free of disruptions, following a relaxing pre-bed routine, and building healthy habits during the day can all contribute to ideal sleep hygiene, the organization reports.

We all know that we should be getting consistent and lengthy rest every night (6-8 hours, the experts suggest), but how many of us are able to do that? There are countless obstructions and distractions that keep many of us from sleeping well. I’ve written on these pages before about my own issues with sleep. The pandemic only served to make those issues more difficult to manage. I’m sure many of you have had similar experiences during the past three years. While I still never know what kind of night I’ll have once my head hits the pillow, I do know what sleep hygiene techniques have worked for me.

Although there are numerous gadgets and gizmos on the market whose makers promise better sleep, I have refused to just throw money at my problem. Instead, I’ve gone for a more practical — some might say, obvious — approach. Truly, these small changes seem to work for me, and when I stray, I’m punished immediately. The single most important practice that provides the best slumber is a consistent sleep schedule. Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day (even on the weekends) just puts my body clock at ease. And one late night can ruin it for days.

Of secondary importance is my caffeine intake. I love coffee, and I’ll never give it up. But I do know my limitations. Rarely can I have a second cup in the morning without regretting it that night. So, I adapted by drinking decaf when the mood strikes for more brew. The final component in my routine that seems to improve my sleep is exercise. Yes, my work schedule and home life often can interfere with my intent to exercise — and so does a restless night. But when I do make the time to go for a run, I sleep better. Share with us: What techniques work best for you?

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