What is sleep hygiene and how does it help you create healthy sleeping habits?
According to the Sleep Foundation, paying attention to your sleep hygiene leads to better sleep, so you can wake up well-rested. Like many others, you may be having problems with sleep deprivation during the pandemic. This is not surprising during such a challenging time.
Many emotional and physiological effects derive from sleep deprivation, including increased anxiety, depression, and stress. These effects impact our partners, as well as ourselves.
Fortunately, there are many ways you and your partner can work on improving your sleep together.
Here are 4 ways you and your partner can have better sleep hygiene together.
1. Set up your sleep environment together.
A supportive sleep environment is conducive to falling and staying asleep. Work together with your partner to create a “sacred space” for sleeping.
Eliminate as much noise as possible — earplugs can help. Turn off the television and any devices that emit “blue light.” Keep the temperature cool at 60 to 70 degrees, and keep the humidity at 30 to 50 percent.
You can also add an air cleaner to the room. Have nice bedding and make up the bed when you’re not using it. Move pets out of the bed, if they’re disturbing your sleep. And control the amount of light in the room
Neuroscientist Dr. Mark Moss of Boston University suggests leaving on as little light as possible during the night.
On the other hand, Tibetan master Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche says in his book, The Tibetan Yogas of Dream and Sleep, that leaving a candle or small light on during the night can “connect you to the internal light, to the luminosity that you are.” A small light at a distance should be OK since the further you both are from the light source, the fewer lumens are received.
You will need to work this out with your partner!
2. Prepare to go to sleep together.
You can support each other’s good sleep habits by agreeing to go to bed together. Sharing that time and space as a couple increases your intimacy and your sleep.
Make some agreements about going to bed at the same time. This may be difficult if you work different time shifts. If it’s possible, look into trying to change that.
Agree to shut off computers and television at least one hour before you go to bed. Reading newspapers before bedtime can also disrupt your sleep.
Read something relaxing together in bed, instead — either separately or to each other. Snuggling and touching for a few minutes while falling asleep might also be nice to enhance your relaxation. If you’re going to make love, do it early enough in the evening to give yourselves time to get to sleep at a decent hour.
3. Develop some good habits for sleeping together.
If either you or your partner goes to bed feeling anxious, one or both of you are likely to have trouble falling asleep, have lighter sleep, and less REM time for dreaming, which can be disorienting over time.
According to Dr. Moss, that anxiety can lead to stress for both of you, which may lead to insomnia, depression, decreased impulse control, and a suppressed immune system over time. So, avoid alcohol and drugs before bedtime. They interfere with sleep patterns and can reduce dream time.
Also, avoid caffeine and large meals several hours before you go to bed.
Meditate for 20 minutes before bed — separately or together.
Discuss what you’re grateful for from the day and consider keeping a Couple’s Gratitude Journal. Use positive imagery that you create together.
If you have any conflicts, resolve them before going to bed. Agree on a time to discuss it in the next day or two.
In his book, Don’t Stand Too Close to a Naked Man, comedian Tim Allen says that he tells his wife that he’s sorry every night before they go to bed. He doesn’t always know what for, but it always helps them both! Tibetan master Tenzin Rinpoche also says, “Think of good things that promote devotion and practice, such as generating compassion. This, anyone can do.”
So, make it a habit to talk about these good things together while you are in bed before you go to sleep. Also, work on your dreams together. While you’re lying in bed together, think about a problem you might want to solve together and “program” yourselves to dream about that.
Then, share your dreams in the morning. Whatever you remember will be helpful. If one of you had a nightmare, sharing it with each other can help reduce its impact on your waking and sleeping life.
4. Seek professional help.
If after trying all these things one or both of you is still suffering from sleep deprivation, you might want to consult a professional. Your physician may be able to prescribe a sleep aid that will help.
If one of you is snoring a lot, you might need to be tested for sleep apnea. If either of you is developing symptoms of anxiety or depression that are interfering with your sleep and daily functioning, you may want to consult a psychotherapist.
It’s increasingly common in these stressful days of COVID-19 for people to have problems with sleep deprivation.
According to Dr. Moss, people in the U.S. are currently reporting more stress than any other country. Couples report the top-three stressors are the nation’s future, finances, and work.
All of these can create conflict with your partner and affect your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Any or all of these tips can help deal with these stressors, so try a few of them at a time and have a fun conversation about which ones work best for you as a couple.