Sleep. Most adults can’t get enough of it. We know how important sleep is, and we might track the quantity of our sleep, but most of us wouldn’t know what the quality of our sleep is?
The good news is by improving your sleep hygiene you can ensure you’re getting enough restful-sleep to tackle the next day.
What is Sleep Hygiene?
Sleep hygiene is used to describe good sleep habits. These habits help people fall asleep quickly and stay asleep for a full night’s sleep.
Tips for Good Sleep Hygiene
Try these six tips for a more restful night’s sleep.
#1 Stick to a Routine
Our bodies like routine, knowing when you will go to bed and when you will wake up. Try to choose a set bedtime and wake up time that suits your lifestyle and stick with it. It’s best to keep it the same weekdays and weekends. Late nights and sleep-ins can cause havoc with your internal body clock.
#2 Get Up if You Still Can’t Sleep.
Lying in bed watching the clock can make it more difficult to fall asleep. Sometimes it helps to get up for a while and try again later. Just don’t be tempted to turn on the TV or open the laptop. Instead, do some reading, sit quietly, or meditate until you feel tired enough to go to bed again. Even better, do something boring and monotonous, like ironing; the brain hates boredom and will try to switch off into sleep.
#3 Food and Drinks to Avoid
Sleep can be impacted by the foods and drinks we consume throughout the day and evening. Food and drink consumption is different for everyone but here are some of the most common foods to play havoc with our sleep.
High-Glycemic, High Fat and Carbohydrate Meals
Eating foods with a high GI rating may seem like sleep-inducing comfort foods but they cause sugar levels to spike and crash which can keep you up at night. High fat meals activate digestion which can make it difficult to achieve good quality sleep. Try to eat white bread, pasta or high fat meals earlier in the day rather than at dinner. Eating a big meal too close to going to bed can also make sleeping difficult. Try to have at least a one hour break before hitting the pillow.
Some people know they can’t fall asleep as quickly as they’d like if they consume caffeinated drinks during the afternoon or evening. Caffeine isn’t just in coffee, it’s also in green tea, energy drinks and some cool drinks. One study found that caffeine should be avoided for as long as six hours before bed to stop its disruptive effect on sleep.
Some people will tell you alcohol helps them fall asleep and studies reveal up to 2 to 3 standard drinks before bedtime initially promotes sleep. But these effects disappear in as little as 3 days of continued use. We often say that alcohol has a ‘half life’ meaning you wake halfway through the night as alcohol agitates the brain, leading to wakeful sleep that interferes with Rapid Eye Movement (REM). Alcohol is also a diuretic and can cause you to wake and urinate throughout the night and can cause dehydration, which either wakes you, or causes you to feel groggy the next morning.
Acidic & Spicy Foods
Acidic and spicy foods can irritate the stomach lining which can cause heartburn, indigestion and acid reflux which can interrupt your sleep. These foods can also raise your core body temperature making it more difficult to fall asleep.
#4 Practise Mindful Exercises
Being unable to slow the brain and putting aside your worries are some of the main reasons stopping people from falling asleep. It’s made worse when you start to worry that you can’t sleep! Managing your worries is a key feature of good sleep hygiene.
Mindful exercises can help you calm down and relax so that sleep comes more easily. Be aware of your breathing including the rise and fall of your chest, the air coming in and out of your body. Continue breathing and feel your body sink into the mattress slightly.
Try another exercise. Notice where your body feels heavy and where it feels light and imagine each body part going to sleep. Start with each toe of your right foot then move to the foot, heel, ankle, calf and thigh then notice how relaxed and heavy your entire leg is. Repeat with the left leg and continue up your body. until you have covered every part, or have fallen asleep.
#5 Cut out the Screens
We all know that looking at your laptop or the TV right before bed isn’t ideal, but so many of us continue to do it. Screens suppress the release of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin making it more difficult to fall asleep. Sleep experts are concerned that light emitted from screens disastrously impacts our natural sleep-wake cycle (circadian rhythm) and recommend turning off all screens at least 30 minutes before bed - preferably two hours before bed. Even a quick look at your phone before bed, can stop you from falling asleep quickly. It’s best to keep all screens out of the bedroom to stop the temptation and any light they may emit.
#6 Check Your Environment Encourages Sleep
Many people don’t know why they aren’t getting a good night’s sleep but the answer might be closer than they think. Your bedroom might be making it harder than you think to fall asleep. If it’s too hot or too cold, or too light, it’s not conducive to sleep. The majority of people like to sleep in a room that has a temperature of between 16-24 degrees, but adjust the temperature so it suits you.
Sleep in bed linen and pyjamas made from comfortable natural fibres. Cotton breathes while you sleep so you’re less likely to get overheated in bed causing you to toss and turn.
If there is an annoying light coming through the window, you may need to invest in a new blind, block out curtains or eye sleep masks.
Seek Professional Advice & Help
Unfortunately, there’s no sleep solution that works for everyone. You might need to try several strategies over time to find one that works for you. Sleep is so important for our mental and physical health in the short and long term so if you’re struggling with sleep, see your GP or call us on 1300 307 912 or (08) 9388 9000, or contact us online.