Sleep is essential at any age. It powers the mind, fortifies every system in the body, and restores the body.
Experts even say that adults should aim for at least seven to eight hours of shut-eye every day. And it’s not just the total hours of sleep that matter but the quality of sleep on a regular schedule too!
There’s even a term for your nightly habits and bedtime rituals. These behaviors are also known as sleep hygiene. Whether you maintain good or bad sleep hygiene is all up to you.
But how can sleep hygiene really do to your body? That’s our focus for today’s post.
Read on to learn how 7 to 8 hours of sleep can affect your body and other good sleep hygiene tips to help you fall asleep more easily at night!
But before we delve deeper into these tips, let’s first get to the part that really matters and that’s finding out what sleep hygiene really is.
What is sleep hygiene?
Sleep hygiene means the behaviors, norms, behaviors, or rituals you follow around sleep. Following a regular sleep schedule and avoiding a rich mug of coffee late at night are examples of good sleep hygiene.
On the other hand, regularly sleeping in on rest days to make up for the lost sleep or pulling all-nighters are poor sleep hygiene practices.
Why is sleep hygiene important?
Good sleep hygiene is important because of its importance for your physical and mental health, or your overall quality of life.
Maintaining healthy sleep habits can spell a difference between restful slumber and restlessness. These can regulate your mood, make you feel more functional and productive, and help you stay focused during the day.
Important elements of good sleep hygiene
Good sleep hygiene requires the following elements in your bedroom:
- Temperature – neither too cold nor too hot
- Quiet – the quieter, the better
- Darkness – the darker, the better
- A comfortable place to stretch out and lie down
If you have all these important elements in your bedroom, that’s great news! You are on the right path to healthy sleep habits.
What are the signs of poor sleep hygiene?
If you wake up frequently at night, wake up feeling unrested every morning, you have trouble falling asleep at night, or you feel tired during the day, there’s a high chance that you have poor sleep hygiene that is messing with your sleep.
A study about sleep deprivation likewise details the signs experienced by people who are getting too little quality sleep. These include fatigue, mood changes, irritability, difficulty remembering or focusing, and a reduced sex drive.
Now, let’s find out why seven to eight hours of good night’s sleep daily is ideal.
How 7 to 8 Hours of Sleep Affect Your Body?
7-8 hours of sleep impacts the longevity
A healthy sleeping habit is crucial for your mental and physical health. A meta-analysis of prospective studies published in the Sleep journal found that people who slept less than five to seven hours at night were 12% more likely at risk of premature death. Those who slept more than eight or nine hours every night even had a higher risk: 30%.
That meta-analysis involved 16 separate studies conducted over 25 years and covered over 1.3 million people. This just shows that while getting too little sleep is bad for your health, getting too much sleep can also (10 hours or more) have a negative impact on your health.
Sleep enables a well-balanced immune system
Sleep affects almost every tissue in the body. Thus, it only makes sense that sleep also impacts your immune system.
When you sleep, cytokines compounds are being released by your immune system. Some of these cytokines have a protective effect on your body by helping the immune system to fight inflammation due to infection.
So, less sleep means not enough cytokines to keep your body from getting sick. Without enough sleep, other components of your immune system, like white blood cells and antibodies can also be reduced.
Sleep restrictions could even increase the amount of inflammatory activity of compounds in a person’s body, as published in the Plos One journal.
Sleep manages your hunger levels
Poor bedtime habits can increase your body’s energy needs. Supposedly, the need for calories and movement is reduced at night. However, when the body is sleep-deprived, the brain will release a chemical to signal hunger, leading a person to gain weight, eat more, and exercise less.
For a good morning energy blast and to reduce hunger aside from maintaining healthy sleep habits, we recommend you to opt for fiber-rich foods, prepare a healthy smoothie, and eat mindfully in general.
Sleep helps with memory retention
Aside from helping you focus, sleep paired with healthy habits, in general, strengthens and protects your memory. Research showed that sleeping after learning or studying can help with memory retention.
On the other hand, people who are sleep-deprived may interpret events differently, have a hard time receiving information because of fatigued neurons or their brain is overworked, lose their natural ability to access past information, or tend to have impaired judgment.
Sleep increases your exercise performance/ productivity
A study on the effects of sleep on basketball players found that when athletes don’t sleep well, they don’t perform well in sports. So, yeah, they end up just being MVP in their dreams. This is not surprising as sleep does exercise performance and productivity.
That is why if you want to change your body composition or you are building muscle, for instance, you have to go to bed at the same time each night and maintain good sleep health to enhance muscle recovery through human growth hormone release and protein synthesis.
Sleep decreases the risk for adverse health conditions
Maintaining healthy sleep habits lowers one’s risk of developing a number of medical conditions, such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and diabetes. People who sleep seven to eight hours daily were also three times less likely to develop cold symptoms compared to those who averaged less than seven hours of sleep.
Sleep affects your fertility
Since sleep can affect pretty much all aspects of your health, it stands to reason that it also affects fertility.
Women getting less than seven hours of sleep daily are 15% less likely to get pregnant compared to women who practice good sleep hygiene. For men, sleep loss can lead to lowered testosterone levels by up to 15%. This risk increases if you eat testosterone-killing foods.
Sleep leads to a good mood
Healthy sleep habits are closely linked to enhancing well-being and good mood. Do you know what it means to wake up on the right side of the bed? It makes so much sense in this case.
When you have healthy sleeping habits, you wake up feeling well-rested and this helps your energy level soar. Consequently, you notice that life’s little changes no longer annoy you as much. So, always get a good night’s sleep and everyone around you will likewise thank you for it.
Good Sleep Hygiene Tips to Fall Asleep More Easily at Night
Below are general suggestions and other lifestyle adjustments you can do that may help improve your sleep cycle.
1. Know how much sleep your body needs
You can begin improving your sleep quality by knowing exactly how much sleep your body needs. All throughout our lives, our sleep needs change. But adults, in general, typically require 7 to 8 hours of sleep. Teens may need eight to 10 hours, those in school-age (16-13 years old), between nine to 11 hours.
2. Optimize your bedroom for sleep
Another important step to fall asleep more easily at night is to create the perfect sleep environment. This could mean making your space more serene, investing in a comfortable mattress, or playing soothing music.
Illuminated clocks and small night lights may be okay, but some people who are light-sensitive may find these bothersome. Know what works well for you. You can also take a warm bath before sleeping or use an eye mask to block light – a powerful cue to your brain that it is time to sleep.
3. Follow a regular sleep schedule
Having a consistent sleep schedule, meaning going to bed at the same time and waking up at the same time makes it easier for your body to fall asleep every night. This is because a regular sleep pattern reinforces your circadian rhythm.
Ideally, your goal is to sleep as much as you need to without using an alarm clock. Although at the start, you may use one. Once you select the wake-up time that you observe in your body (yes, both weekends and weekdays), you can consider your selected sleep time too, as long as you complete the 7 to 8 hours of sleep daily.
However, if it is possible, anchor your wake-up time with morning sunlight. That way, it will enhance your wakefulness. We’ll discuss more of this later.
4. Remove items that remind work from your bedroom
The next tip is to band reminders of work from your bedroom. Remember, your bedroom is designed not for working in. Putting items that remind you of work can disrupt sleep. Thinking about your bills will definitely not help as well.
5. Limit daytime power naps
There are many benefits to a power nap. Among them are enhanced cognitive function, long-term memory improvement, increased creativity and lowers risk of heart problems.
Yet, please pay attention to the amount of time you nap during the day as daytime naps can affect your sleep patterns. Longer siestas and frequent naps can seriously interfere with your nighttime sleep.
Our suggestion is to limit your daytime nap to 30 minutes or less. Anything longer than that and you may already be entering deep sleep, which makes it tougher for you to sleep at night.
6. Limit screen time before going to bed
Stop using electronic devices at least 30 minutes (best if at least one hour) before you go to bed. This is because looking up close at tablets, mobile phones, and computer screens shortly before bed could be detrimental to your sleep.
The blue light may trick your brain into thinking that it’s daytime when it’s already close to bedtime. Worth mentioning also is that blue light is the strongest light wavelength that the brain perceives as sunlight. Rather than using your phone, do some relaxation exercises instead.
7. Watch what and when you eat and drink
Dinner before bedtime is often enough to hold you over. If you want to sleep better, eat a more nutritious diet and avoid caffeinated drinks (like coffee, chocolate, cola, and tea) before bedtime.
Moreover, drinking alcohol may make you drowsy in the beginning but it can still disrupt your sleep later in the night. It prevents you from getting that essential amount of deep sleep and REM. If you really need, just limit alcohol consumption to one to two drinks per day but not close to bedtime.
8. Get a daily dose of sunshine
This may seem counterintuitive, but getting a daily dose of sunshine is actually a part of good sleep hygiene. This is because exposure to sunlight can increase your brain’s release of serotonin hormone, which is associated with helping you be more focused and feel calm.
Healthy sunlight exposure can also trigger the brain to make melatonin, a hormone that helps your body know when it’s time to wake up and sleep.
9. Exercise during the day
As we have now discussed a good relaxing bedtime routine, we encourage you to exercise during the day. As much as possible, don’t work out close to bedtime because your body needs time to wind down.
For intense athletes, maintaining a quality deep sleep is important to maintain their athleticism and recovery process. That is why you should not ignore this message that you should avoid exercising at night.
10. Get help when you need it
Don’t ignore sleep disorders or sleep problems. If you’re feeling drained of energy despite having more than adequate sleep may be a sign of a condition, such as sleep apnea, insomnia, anemia (a deficit of red blood cells), or a thyroid problem.
It’s best to talk to your doctor as he or she can provide medical advice. This is most important for those with severe sleeping problems.
Make Sleep a Priority Today
The tried and true seven to eight hours of sleep wisdom still holds. By following these good sleep hygiene checklists, you will help yourself get into a healthy routine that promotes a good night’s sleep.
Remember, it’s never too late to practice healthy sleep hygiene.
Was this article helpful? If it is, you might want to read our other health tips at ExpertFitness.org.
Nathan Lloyd, MSc
LICENSED PERSONAL TRAINER
I’m a personal trainer, based in Boulder, Colorado.
I service clients physically in the Boulder area, mainly in the ONE Boulder Fitness Gym, but am also available for online consulting and coaching.
If you’re interested in my personal coaching programs, please contact me via the contact page.