The term ‘sleep hygiene’ has been in vogue of late – and for good reason. Simply put, sleep hygiene refers to the collective habits and practices which are necessary to support good night time sleep quality and as such, optimal daytime alertness.
Healthy sleep is vital for both physical and mental well-being and longevity. Good sleep practice improves productivity, mindset and overall quality of life; as well as reducing your risk of developing a plethora of conditions and diseases. While sleep has traditionally been somewhat of a background activity, loss of good sleep practices and skyrocketing reports of insomnia in the modern world has forced researchers to take a deeper look into what is required to obtain healthful, restorative sleep.
Want to know what they found? Read on for 5 ways to better Zz’s:
One of the single most important factors of sleep hygiene is actually just getting an appropriate amount of sleep. Both too little and too much sleep can negatively affect your health, so try to shoot for 7-9 hours, which researchers agree is the optimal length of shuteye required. Other good sleep hygiene practices include:
1. Turn off your devices
You probably knew this was coming, but did you know why? Yes, we all know that checking emails, scrolling through social media or watching a tense film before bed isn’t the best idea if we’re hoping to get a good night of sleep. Not only can this stimulate the nervous system - promoting stress and anxiety in some - but more importantly, the blue light being emitted from your device’s screen actually impairs your ability to create melatonin – the body’s sleep hormone! The best thing you can do is to steer clear of electronics for at least an hour before bedtime, however at the very least, consider downloading a circadian light app onto all of your devices. This will warm up your screen light to more of a red tone which has less of a disruptive effect on your melatonin production.
2. Avoid stimulants close to bedtime
Items such as caffeine, nicotine and sugar have the complete opposite effect on the body to sleep so try to stay away from these items at least 4-6 hours before bedtime (especially if you are already a poor sleeper). When it comes to alcohol, moderation is key; however, this can vary between individuals. For some people, alcohol will put them to sleep, for others it can disrupt the second half of their sleep, often waking up as the body begins to process the alcohol. So, know yourself, if it’s a problem, avoid it. If not, then moderation is the most healthful approach.
3. Try not to eat or drink too much before bed
A ‘bedtime snack’ maybe a tradition for some, however if you’re struggling to sleep, then food is not your friend. Think about it like this, the primary function of food is to create energy so if you’re eating large meals before bed, chances are your sleep may be disrupted. As well as this, sleep is a time when your digestive system should be getting a break from all its hard work during the day. If you’re stimulating it with food right before bed, then you’re taking the focus away from important restorative tasks while you rest.
4. Establish a routine
Your body loves a routine. By adopting a regular nightly routine, your body knows what’s about to come and so can prepare for a restful sleep. Practices such as taking a bath, light stretching or reading a book are wonderful ways to prime the body for a great snooze fest.
5. Make your sleep environment pleasant
While we may not think to give a thought to our bedroom, a comfortable environment is an important consideration for healthy sleep. Your bedroom should be calming and comfortable. Choose a supportive mattress, comfy pillows and breathable sheets to support your body during slumber. Consider using blackout curtains, eye shades, noise machines, fans or humidifiers to support a pleasant environment. Furthermore, consider making the bedroom a device-free zone so that you’re not tempted to check emails or fall asleep to a movie.
As you can see, just a few simple changes can make the difference between a good night’s sleep and a night spent tossing and turning. If you’re experiencing sleep disturbances or regular daytime sleepiness, try some of the tips above for a few days and see how you feel.