Written by: Phoenix A. Muhammad, LMFT, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
Long before the evolution of technology as we know it today, families went to bed for the night, and slept through the night.
Answering the question, of why is sleep hygiene important, the Sleep Foundation (yes, it's a thing!) states that:
“Obtaining healthy sleep is important for both physical and mental health, improving productivity and overall quality of life. Everyone, from children to older adults, can benefit from better sleep, and sleep hygiene can play a key part in achieving that goal.”
Garbarino et al further state that sleep deprivation has clinical implications in infections, cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, autoimmune diseases as well as metabolic and vascular diseases.While it is a city that never sleeps, the people in it certainly did. I did not grow up with cell phones. We had two landline phones, one in the kitchen and another in my parents’ room. We used ten-foot-long extension cords to be able to talk in our rooms. There was call waiting, busy signals, and operators who would find the right number if you were too lazy to find it in the phone book. Speaking of the phone book, it could easily be ten inches thick and often used as a step stool to reach higher areas in your home. Even the television went off. Exactly that, off. There were about five channels. At a certain time of the night, all the channels would simultaneously play the Star-Spangled Banner. All you saw was an image of the American flag and then fuzz. Loud fuzz. This meant that TV was off for the night and would resume the next morning. The point is, that we did not have phones the way we know phones today. There was no internet, or social media to fiddle with if you woke up overnight. In fact, the city was quiet. The only sounds I recall ever hearing overnight were sanitation trucks. Work was different as well. People went to work. People went home. The end. The technology did not exist for work to continue after you left the worksite. There certainly was no telework. Working from home was an unheard-of concept because jobs were different. The economy relied on humans to accomplish the work, instead of technology. As a student, we had textbooks. Hardcover, thick, and heavy textbooks that we carried to school every day along with our three-inch, three-ring blue binders. Sound tiring? Well, it was. People were legitimately tired home from work or school. The lifestyle of our society back then unknowingly contributed to healthier sleep habits and hygiene. Unfortunately, today, working tirelessly at inhumane levels has become a bragging right, hence Team No Sleep. The idea is that being overworked is equivalent to success. This concept not only drives society backwards in time when there were no labor laws in place to protect how many hours in a day one can legally work, it also dismisses the impact of sleeplessness on the emotional, mental, and physical well-being of an employee. Many are unaware that by law, an employee must take a thirty-minute meal break. For example, as stated by the New York State Department of Labor, by federal law, your employer must provide you with a minimum of thirty minutes time off for meals and a “day of rest”, which is at least twenty-four consecutive hours to rest within the same workweek. Further, employees may not waive their meal period in exchange for a shorter workday, unless they are part of a union whose collective bargaining agreement allows for it. Oftentimes patients in my practice come with poor sleep hygiene. While they may not be bragging about how little sleep they got in correlation to their giant work bonuses, many have poor sleep cycles resulting from shift work or simply experiencing life-related issues that provide for inadequate sleep habits. Substance use can also reduce one’s pallet for sleep. Others may have a genuine sleep disorder which is different and requires a clinical evaluation to achieve a formal diagnosis. In an article titled Role of sleep deprivation in immune-related disease risk and outcomes, Garbarino et al states.
“Besides medical problems including obstructive sleep apnea and insomnia, factors associated mostly with the modern 24/7 society, such as work and social demands, smartphone addiction, and poor diet, contribute to cause the current phenomenon of chronic sleep deprivation, i.e., sleeping less than the recommended amount or, better to say, the intrinsic sleep need.”
Sleep is a biological need, a requirement to sustain life. The belief that deprivation of sleep equates to success in the workplace is absurd, troubling, and hazardous. Garbarino et al further state that sleep deprivation has clinical implications in infections, cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, autoimmune diseases as well as metabolic and vascular diseases. The T-cell, also known as the “killer cell”, a fundamental and crucial part of the immune system, invades cells contaminated with viruses or other pathogens and supports B-cells in their manufacturing of antibodies. However, sleep deprivation was indicated in impaired immune responses. Answering a question about the bedtime dosing of Low Dose Naltrexone (LDN), a medication treating autoimmune diseases, Dr. Lauren Mathewson of the LDN Research Trust states that our natural endorphin production occurs overnight while we sleep. Dr. Mathewson points out that endorphins modulate the dysregulated immune system. In other words, while we can certainly elevate our endorphins during the day with activities like exercise, we need sleep to maximize our endorphin production overall.
Here are a few recommendations you can use to improve your sleep hygiene. I like to refer to these as your designer sleep model.
Design your routines for sleep
Establish your wake and sleep windows and stick to it every day. In doing so, you are making sleep a priority in your life. Try to avoid the myth that achieving healthy amounts of sleep makes you lazy and shiftless. Rather, it is just the opposite. You are making your needs a priority so you can attain a healthy level of functioning.
Design your evening routine
Have you ever been in a restaurant where the ambiance is changing from day to night? You might notice that the daytime ambiance has all the lights on high. When shifting to the nighttime look, the overhead lighting may be turned off, the sconces on the walls are now dimly lit and faux candles on your table give off a warm glow. We must do the same with our home. At a certain time, perhaps dusk, adjust the lights and activities in your environment to your evening routine. This may mean turning off the television, backing away from the computer, and signing off from your other devices. Further, alerting people that you are preparing for bed and then putting your phone on do not disturb is good practice.
Design your bedroom
Regardless of the type of space you live in, i.e., studio apartment or five-bedroom house, your sleeping area should be deliberately designed for just that- sleep. It should be cozy and inviting. The primary function of your bed should be for sleep. When you see your bed, sleeping should come to mind. Okay, so maybe we need to pause to get the sillies out. But seriously, if you work in bed, eat in bed, or take phone calls on your bed, your bed will subconsciously have a multipurpose function. If it will encourage sleep, consider a sound machine. Many on the market give off white noise, environmental sounds, and chimes.
Alcohol and caffeine consumption
Beware of the dangerous combination of either, or utilizing both, caffeine and alcohol, to keep you alert and then to settle down for sleep. These are things your body should be doing for you. If you have a concern about your daily intake of caffeine, alcohol, or any substance, or should be, please contact Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) for help. My patients who have improved sleep hygiene have found the acronym R.E.S.T. helpful.
Revise your daily routines, making sleep a priority. Exercise and move your body to encourage the need to sleep. Slow down or Stop the use of substances
T-cells are a major part of your immune system and helps fight disease.
In closing, understand that your sleeping windows are just as important as your wake windows. Taking in and practicing the items mentioned in this article will help you. As you practice healthy sleep habits, you will be physically and mentally healthier which provides for an overall greater sense of well-being.
Do you have goals but need some support? If you reside outside of New York State, click here to schedule your free health and well-being coaching call. For all New York State residents click here. You can visit my website to learn more.
Phoenix A. Muhammad, LMFT, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, Phoenix A. Muhammad is a psychotherapist, writer, and founder of Phoenix Marriage & Family Therapy, PLLC. With Muhammad’s two-decade tenure in entertainment, she is also a script consultant for films involving complex social and psychological storylines and characters. The base of her clinical work is providing therapy for individuals, couples, and families in high-need populations. With Summa Cum Laude completion of her Master of Science from Mercy College, Ms. Muhammad was invited to become a member of the Mercy adjunct faculty. Professor Muhammad’s mission is to strengthen under-served communities, one family at a time.