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Alcohol and Health

Healthy Sleep Hygiene Habits for More Restful Nights

September 16, 2023
18 min read
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Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
September 16, 2023
18 min read
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
September 16, 2023
18 min read
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
September 16, 2023
18 min read
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Reframe Content Team
September 16, 2023
18 min read

Every night, it’s the same thing: you get into bed, turn off the light, and close your eyes. But instead of being lulled into a sound, restful sleep, you find yourself staring at the ceiling, tossing and turning, and ruminating over all the tasks on your to-do list. You wake up exhausted and spend your day chugging coffee, only to experience another terrible night of not-sleeping the following night.

In this post, we’ll shed light on the importance of sleep and good sleep hygiene. We’ll also offer tips and tricks for getting a good night’s sleep. Let’s get started!

Why Sleep Is So Important

Ever noticed how things just seem easier when you’ve slept well? Little daily stressors don’t seem to affect you as much, and you tend to feel more alert, energized, and productive. 

On the flip side, a bad night’s sleep can ruin our day; that’s why we talk about “waking up on the wrong side of the bed.” Lack of sleep can cause us to be agitated, irritated, and annoyed — even at little things. It can also make it difficult to focus and concentrate.

There’s a reason sleep affects us so much — it plays a crucial role in nearly every aspect of our health. Let’s take a look at six main reasons why regular quality sleep is so beneficial: 

  • Keeps us mentally sharp. Sleep protects our brain, helping us stay mentally sharp, regardless of our age. During nightly rest, our brain clears out toxins that can build up throughout the day. This includes proteins that can damage brain tissue and impair healthy cognition. Overall, sleep helps enhance important cognitive functions, such as attention and learning.
  • Restores and repairs cells. Studies show that every night of high-quality sleep fuels the restoration and repair of our cells, tissues and organs, contributing to youthful appearance, energy, and strength. 
  • Helps store memories. Research shows that disrupted sleep interferes with our brain’s ability to make and store memories; it also negatively impacts other cognitive functions, such as problem solving and attention to detail. Poor sleep has been shown to increase our risk for Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases. 
  • Improves mood. Sleep, especially rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, helps our brain process emotions. Studies show that sleep-deprived people report increases in negative moods, such as anger, frustration, irritability and sadness, and decreases in positive moods. Research has also shown a connection between poor sleep quality and mood disorders, such as depression and anxiety. 
  • Supports healthy metabolism. Quality sleep is also important for heart health and a healthy metabolism. Without enough rest, we’re more at risk for high blood pressure and other cardiovascular problems. Chronic sleep issues are also linked to high blood sugar, poor insulin function, and greater risks of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. 
  • Strengthens immune system. Over time, a pattern of poor sleep impairs the body’s natural disease-preventing defenses, weakening our immune system. It undermines the healthy functioning of cells and the activity of our genes, making us more prone to chronic diseases associated with aging.
  • Boosts longevity. Interestingly, recent research suggests that quality sleep can even add years to our life. One study noted that strong sleep patterns are one hallmark of people who achieve exceptional longevity, living into their 90s and beyond. On the flip side, just a single night of sleep deprivation can speed up biological aging on the cellular level. 

What Is Sleep Hygiene?

The importance of sleep to our physical, mental, and emotional health is clear. But how can we get some better zzz’s?

Enter “sleep hygiene” — the healthy habits and practices that help promote quality sleep. Just as we practice good personal hygiene by brushing our teeth, washing our hands, and showering, good sleep hygiene is about taking certain steps and building healthy habits to help facilitate a good night’s rest. 

Paying attention to sleep hygiene is one of the most important ways that we can set ourselves up for better sleep. Poor sleep hygiene can get in the way of a good night’s rest. And it’s not just about what we do before we go to bed that counts. The habits and practice we engage in during the day can also make a difference.

When we think about our body’s circadian rhythm, this actually makes sense. Our body’s internal clock regulates the timing of periods of sleepiness and wakefulness throughout the day. Light exposure, meal times, physical activity, and other factors can influence our circadian rhythm. 

Additionally, the neurotransmitter adenosine builds up in our brains during wakefulness and decreases during sleep. High levels of adenosine promote sleepiness, so ensuring sufficient wakefulness during the day can help us fall asleep at night.

Sleep Hygiene Tips

Sleep Hygiene Tips

Let’s get practical: what specific sleep hygiene habits and practices can we do to get better sleep? Below are 10 science-backed tips:

1. Be mindful of what you’re consuming — and when.

Try to avoid large meals, caffeine, and alcohol close to bedtime. All of these can disrupt our sleep. In fact, the effects of caffeine can last 3 to 7 hours after we consume it. This means that our afternoon cup of coffee may keep us awake and alert longer than we’d like. 

Similarly, while it can be tempting to indulge in an evening snack, eating signals to the local “clocks” in our liver, heart, muscles, and kidneys that it’s time to work. In other words, food tells our body that it’s time to get moving, not rest. Plus, eating at night results in poorer control of blood glucose, which can lead to metabolic disease. 

2. Reduce or eliminate alcohol consumption.

While alcohol can make it easier to fall asleep, it actually decreases our overall quality of sleep. As our body continues to metabolize the alcohol throughout the night, it can cause wakefulness and sleep disruptions. Research has shown that alcohol suppresses rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, one of the most important sleep stages for physical and mental restoration. Because of this, it’s best to limit our alcohol consumption and avoid it late into the evening. 

3. Avoid long naps.

Taking long naps, particularly late in the day, can interfere with our sleep schedule and lead us to go to bed later. In general, napping during the day can make it harder to fall asleep that evening and may make us more prone to waking up during the night. Those of us who do nap should try not to do so after 2pm and be sure to keep it to 30 minutes or less.

4. Exercise regularly.

Regular exercise can make it easier to sleep at night (in addition to offering many physical and mental health benefits!). In fact, as little as 30 minutes of aerobic exercise per day can improve our sleep quality and overall health. Exercising outdoors is even better! Exposure to natural light helps regulate our sleep cycle. Just make sure to avoid vigorous exercise within an hour or two of bedtime. Exercise increases our energy levels and body temperature, which can make it harder to relax and fall asleep. 

5. Manage stress.

Stress and sleep are closely linked. It’s a cycle: stress adversely affects sleep quality and duration, but insufficient sleep can also increase stress levels. Try incorporating relaxation techniques into your daily and nightly routine, such as meditation, yoga nidra, mindfulness, or deep breathing exercises, such as diaphragmatic breathing or alternate nostril breathing. For more ideas, check out the 10 best meditations for stress relief. You can also explore these 7 science-backed supplements for stress relief

6. Restrict in-bed activity.

A comfortable bed is tempting! We might want to use it for reading, working, talking on the phone, or watching TV. But it’s important for our brain to associate our bed with sleep (sex is the only other bed-related activity). If you usually read before going to sleep, try reading on the couch before moving to your bed.

7. Be consistent.

It’s important to go to bed at the same time on most nights and get up at the same time most mornings, even on weekends and holidays. As tempting as it is to sleep in on the weekends, we should still get up at the same time we do during the week. Even a couple of late nights and late wake ups on the weekend can reorder our biological clock and leave us feeling tired and not rested when we get back into our routine. Be sure to set a time for “lights off” — and stick to it! Keep in mind that experts recommend getting at least 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night. 

8. Develop a sleep routine.

Create a bedtime routine that you follow every evening. This signals to our brain that it’s time for sleep. For instance, maybe take a shower or bath, put on pajamas, brush your teeth and start reading. Or try developing the habit of doing 15-20 minutes of meditation, yoga, gentle stretching, or deep breathing before bedtime. The goal is to find activities that help us relax, then condition ourselves to know that our routine means that it’s time to sleep. We can also try incorporating progressive muscle relaxation, a technique in which we focus on one part of our body at a time, tensing and relaxing muscles until our whole body is relaxed. 

9. Unplug from technology and electronics.

Exposure to blue light suppresses the body’s release of melatonin (a hormone that makes us feel drowsy), making it difficult for us to fall and stay asleep. Try to establish an electronic curfew — a time in the evening when all TVs, phones, and computers are turned off. This should be at least 30 minutes before bedtime, ideally an hour before. If you enjoy reading before bed, opt for printed copies of books, newspapers, or magazines rather than an electronic device. 

10. Create an optimal environment.

Make sure your sleeping environment is optimal. Cool, dark rooms are typically more conducive to restorative sleep. Experts recommend setting your thermostat to 60-68 degrees F (65 degrees is usually ideal). If it’s too noisy or too quiet, create white noise in the form of a fan, humidifier, or noise machine. We can also use black out curtains or an eye mask to prevent light from interrupting our sleep. Another tip is to use light smells, such as lavender, which may induce a calmer state of mind and help facilitate sleep.

The Bottom Line

Sleep is vitally important for our physical, mental, and emotional health. Without it, we wouldn’t survive! Practicing good sleep hygiene can help facilitate restful, quality sleep. Poor sleep hygiene, however, can prevent us from getting a restful night’s sleep. What we do during the day is just as important as what we do at night. 

Some of the best sleep hygiene habits we can adopt include not eating late at night, limiting our alcohol consumption, avoiding late afternoon or long naps, exercising regularly, managing stress, using our bed only for sleep and sex, developing a consistent, evening bedtime routine, unplugging from technology, and creating an optimal sleep environment in our bedroom. When we do these things, our mind and body will thank us!

If you want to cut back on your alcohol consumption and start getting better sleep, consider trying Reframe. We’re a neuroscience-backed app that has helped millions of people reduce their alcohol consumption and experience more restful nights.

Summary FAQs

1. Why is sleep so important?

Sleep plays a vital role in nearly every aspect of our health, including our mood, metabolism, energy levels, immune function, and cognitive functions, such as memory, learning, and attention. 

2. What is sleep hygiene?

Sleep hygiene refers to the habits and practices that we engage in to help promote quality sleep. This includes practices both during the day and before bedtime. 

3. What are some of the most effective sleep hygiene habits?

Good sleep hygiene includes not snacking at night, limiting or avoiding alcohol, avoiding late afternoon or long naps, exercising regularly, managing stress, using our bed only for sleep and sex, developing a consistent evening bedtime routine, unplugging from technology, and creating an optimal sleep environment in our bedroom.

Get Better Sleep With Reframe

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually, with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

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