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Why You Should Include Reading in Your Sleep Hygiene

Quick question for you: How well did you sleep last night and what’s your sleep hygiene like?

Sleep is so important yet sometimes I feel it’s such an underrated and under discussed part of self care. I also know that getting a good nights sleep can feel elusive at times because even though you do sleep, there are days when it feels like it’s never enough.

March is National Sleep Awareness Month, so it’s the perfect time to take a look at your sleep hygiene, think about ways you can prioritize sleep and start new healthy sleep habits.

Honestly, most of my mornings are like this meme.  I feel terrible because every night I ask my husband to wake me up and bless his heart he tries.  Most mornings I feel so exhausted I never get out of bed right away.  Then of course it’s the mad rush to get ready, out the door, grab a cup of coffee and pray the caffeine kicks in so I can start my work day.  So the truth is, I don’t have this whole sleep thing figured out and I need to work on my sleep hygiene!

Sleep hygiene is defined by the National Sleep Foundation as “a variety of different practices and habits that are necessary to have good nighttime sleep quality and full daytime alertness.”  I also read we naturally feel tired at two different times of the day: about 2:00 AM and 2:00 PM.  It is this natural dip in alertness that is primarily responsible for the post-lunch crash.

Obtaining healthy sleep is important for both physical and mental health. It can also improve productivity and overall quality of life. Everyone, from children to older adults, can benefit from practicing good sleep habits.

When Kelsey at Penguin Random House shared her idea for their Read to Sleep campaign, I knew this was something we could get behind and I wanted to incorporate it into my life as well.  Read to Sleep is encouraging us all to put our phones away before bedtime.  It’s well known that screen time right before bed keeps you up and disturbs your sleep cycle.  So let’s swap scrolling through Instagram and checking emails for a book or audiobook instead.

Have you ever found yourself dozing off as you’re reading?  It’s a perfectly normal response to being still and not exposing yourself to blue LED light (assuming you’re reading a paper book). If you’ve chosen to read something particularly boring, it’s likely to put you to sleep even faster.

Still feeling doubtful? Think back to childhood or consider the behavior of your kids (if you have them). Bedtime stories are a nightly ritual, and many toddler and young children will tell you that they need to hear a bedtime story before falling asleep. There’s no reason that this ritual can’t continue into adulthood.

Other benefits of reading before sleep include:

  • Reduces stress
  • Boosts brain power
  • Better concentration
  • Improves creativity
  • Relaxing
  • Increases Empathy

I’m going to kick start a new sleep hygiene routine and this is what I have planned:

  1. To put my phone away two hours before my planned bedtime.
  2. I’m swapping my usual shower gel for a lavender scented one.
  3. Brew a nice hot cup of chamomile or peppermint tea.
  4. Engage in five minutes of meditation.
  5. Select a book from my nightstand’s TBR stack to help me unwind.

Get started with your new sleep hygiene routine by putting down your phone, grabbing a book and settling in for the night. Avoid e-readers in the bedroom because the blue LED lights disrupt melatonin production and can prevent the onset of sleep.

Happy sleeping!
Victoria Wood

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