sleep hygiene

baby steps | sleep hygiene

Sleep hygiene: it’s a thing.

What’s one of the first questions every new parent is asked? That’s right: “Is the baby a good sleeper?”

And one of the first pieces of advice every new parent is given? Yup: “Sleep when the baby sleeps.”

Then the infant becomes a toddler, and the topic becomes, when do naps happen, and at what age do they end?

Lots of schoolchildren start resisting bedtime, teenagers actively revolt about it, and we adults seem to pride ourselves on just how little sleep we get and/or need.

And yet plentiful quality sleep—along with proper nutrition and regular movement—is one of the cornerstones of our health. It can make everything better—including:

  • Decreasing our cravings, especially for sugar: because when we’re tired, our bodies beg for quick energy, i.e., refined carbs.
  • Reducing brain fog: shorting yourself on sleep can make you functionally intoxicated.
  • Increasing our energy
  • Improving our decision-making
  • Evening out our moods
  • Ensuring our endocrine system is functioning at peak form: that means our digestion, stress response, blood sugar, and hormone levels are all working correctly. Kind of important.
  • And on and on and on.

Life is, quite simply, better with adequate, quality sleep.

but i can’t sleep!

Many of us would love to get more sleep … if we only could!

Our chronically stressful lives have made us hypervigilant: our minds are not willing to fall into a deep sleep because they think we need to stay awake.

A lot of women 40+ notice that their sleep cycle changes during perimenopause.

And a lot of people notice that as they age, caffeine and alcohol affect their sleep—when they never used to! I heard that our liver loses 1% of its function for every year after age 40. And the liver’s job is to process things like caffeine and alcohol, so this shouldn’t be a surprise.

Sleep issues can range from difficulty falling asleep to difficulty staying asleep to flat-out complete and total insomnia. And as always, there’s  a medication (or 10) for that!

Let’s start a little more gently, though, shall we?

sleep hygiene

Let’s start by taking a look at your sleep hygiene, specifically:

  • How is your physical environment set up for sleep?
  • What sort of behavioral practices do you have around sleep?

Because believe it or not, as much as you have changed and grown since your infant state, some things remain the same:

  • Your need for a safe, comfortable place to rest and recharge.
  • Your need for a bedtime routine.

That’s right! Setting up your bedroom and having a nightly routine are the most basic steps you can take toward better sleep.

There is lots of information out there about good (and bad) sleep hygiene, including from—what else—Sleep Foundation. And if you start reading all those lists, you’ll likely get quite overwhelmed.

So instead of reposting those lists here, I’m going to give you my simple formula: 3-2-1.


stop eating 3 hours before bedtime

Irrespective of when you go to bed (and research seems to indicate that by 10pm is ideal), stop eating three hours before that time.

This gives your digestive tract time to move your dinner to the lower region of the gastrointestinal system and prevents reflux.

You may want to experiment with the amount and timing of your caffeine and alcohol consumption, too. I used to drink coffee with dinner, no problem; now, I have to stop before noon. I used to be able to drink two glasses of wine with dinner, no problem; now, I avoid it entirely on weeknights and limit myself to one glass on weekends if I’m with company.

turn off your screens 2 hours before bedtime

Yes. This means you.

And this means phones, tablets, computers, and—if possible—televisions.

Screens emit a frequency of blue light that tricks your eyes into telling your mind that it’s still daylight out there, making your body unwilling to believe it’s time to wind down. Blue blocker glasses and brown-lit screens are not enough!

If you can get all your technology out of your bedroom, even better! I heard on a webinar about our “always on” culture that sleeping with your phone by your head is like leaving your front door unlocked: your system is so vigilant about incoming alerts that it’s like you’re lying there waiting for burglars and axe murderers to break in.

have 1 bedtime ritual

Babies are not the only ones who benefit from a bedtime ritual/routine! Remember “bath, bed, book?” Turns out we adults can also use rituals to wind down.

You can develop a whole winding down routine—or you can start with one small ritual. It: it can be a cup of tea, some time with a book, meditation, gentle stretching….

This month, try practicing 3-2-1 before bed. If you’re way off base (you can’t eat until an hour before bed or you just have to work in the evening after the kids are in bed), start where you are. Can you figure out a way to shift your meal or bedtime even 1/2 an hour at first? Can you get up earlier to answer those pesky emails? Etc.

Start where you are, then keep tweaking. You may discover that your timing might be slightly different—and that’s fine. But please—don’t kid yourself that your behaviors are not affecting your sleep because they very, very likely are!

make the connection

This is the tenth challenge in a 12-part series that will run for all of 2022: every month, I’ll share a small, simple, sustainable shift to make on your way to healthier food and lifestyle choices. By the end of the year, you’ll be amazed at the difference in your health!

“A YEAR?!? But that’s so long,” you may be thinking. Remember: a journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step.

Let me ask you this: how long have you been making poor food and lifestyle choices? I’ll bet it’s been more than a year, maybe even more than a decade….

And those poor choices have resulted in poor health.

The good news is that you can reverse the downward trend by making better choices, and the only way those will stick is if you make them one baby step at a time.

Practice better sleep hygiene for the month of October and beyond—then come back for November’s Baby Step to Health! Want to make sure you don’t miss a single challenge? Join my email list.