Sleep Hygiene: The Secret to Self-Care

Sleep is a fundamental human need crucial to physical and mental well-being. It provides our body with the rest and recovery it needs to function optimally and helps us maintain a healthy immune system, a sharp mind, and a positive mood. Unfortunately, in today’s fast-paced world, many aging adults are not getting enough sleep, which can be harmful to our health.

Sleep Science

Sleep is a complex physiological process that helps our body restore and repair itself. During sleep, our brain and body work to consolidate memories, repair damaged tissues, and regulate hormones that control appetite, growth, and stress. Sleep also plays a critical role in our immune system, helping fight infections and diseases.

One of the fundamental mechanisms that regulate our sleep is the circadian rhythm. This biological clock regulates our sleep-wake cycle and helps us feel alert during the day and sleepy at night. However, disruptions to our circadian rhythm, such as irregular sleep schedules or exposure to artificial light at night, can interfere with our ability to get a good night’s rest.

Sleep Hygiene

Sleep hygiene is generally defined as behaviors you can practice regularly that promote healthy sleep. Dr. Michael J. Breus, a board-certified sleep specialist, believes prioritizing sleep hygiene is a game-changer for overall well-being and healthy aging.

Healthy sleep hygiene means maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, keeping your bedroom free of disruptions, following a pre-bed routine, and building healthy daily habits.

Sleep Tips for Mature Adults

Overall, older adults get much less sleep on average than younger adults, even though their sleep needs are the same- around 7-8 hours each night.

The good news is that improving your sleep hygiene doesn’t have to be daunting. Simple changes can increase your chances of sleeping well and promote healthy aging. Here are some tips to get you started:

1. Develop a sleep routine and schedule

Try to go to bed at the same time every night. Developing a relaxing bedtime routine can signal your body that it’s time to wind down and prepare for sleep. This can include taking a warm bath, trying bedtime yoga, or listening to calming music.

2. Let your mind and body slow down close to bedtime

Avoid late-night stimulating activities such as eating, screen time, or drinking alcohol. Quiet music or reading are better bedtime choices. Experiment with muscle relaxation—systematically tensing and then relaxing all the muscle groups of your body.

3. Get regular exercise

Aim for 20 to 30 minutes of exercise daily, but avoid exercising within three to four hours before bedtime. Exercise in the morning, outdoors if possible, as sunlight helps set your circadian clock, increasing your energy for the day and allowing better sleep at night.

4. Control your bedroom environment

Keep your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet. Temperature changes, light, and noise levels can interrupt your sleep. A clean and clutter-free bedroom can promote a calm and relaxing environment conducive to sleep.

Sleep Technology

Technology can significantly improve our understanding of sleep and help track and improve our sleep hygiene. For example, sleep-tracking devices, such as smartwatches and fitness trackers, can provide valuable insights into our sleep quality, including the duration and depth of our sleep.

Additionally, several sleep apps can help improve sleep quality by providing relaxation exercises, white noise, and guided meditations. However, it’s important to remember that technology should not replace healthy sleep habits and that excessive screen time before bedtime can interfere with our ability to fall asleep.

Healthy sleep hygiene can improve your mental and physical health, boost your productivity, and enhance your mood. In addition, you can improve your chances of getting a good night’s sleep by changing your habits and environment. So, prioritize sleep hygiene in your self-care routine, and enjoy the benefits of a well-rested mind and body for years to come.

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