What is Sleep Hygiene?
The term sleep hygiene refers to the behaviours, rituals, and norms that we do to prepare for bed. Improving your sleep hygiene can lead to improvements for both your physical and mental health. It also improves productivity and overall quality of life. A good sleep hygiene routine will involve what works for you, the most important thing is finding out what habits work for you and sticking to it.
To improve the quality of your sleep and to get ready for the working week ahead, try following these healthy sleep hygiene tips.
Know how much sleep you need
On average, we spend around a third of our lives sleeping. In this time, our bodies are able to replenish energy stores and make repairs, while our minds organise and store the memories of the day before. The amount of sleep you need depends on a variety of things such as your age, sex, health etc.
There is a big difference between the amount of sleep you can get by on and the amount you need to function optimally. According to the National Institutes of Health, the average adult sleeps less than 7 hours per night. In today’s fast-paced society, 6 hours of sleep may sound pretty good. In reality, though, it’s a recipe for chronic sleep deprivation.
While sleep requirements vary slightly from person to person, most healthy adults need between 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night to function at their best. Children and teens need even more. And despite the notion that our sleep needs decrease with age, most older people still need at least 7 hours of sleep. Since older adults often have trouble sleeping this long at night, daytime naps can help fill in the gap.
Go to bed at the same time every night
It is also important to stick to a regular sleep schedule once you know how much sleep you need. Avoid sleep procrastination before bed and try to keep your sleep and wake times consistent during the week. When you have a consistent sleep schedule, your body naturally adjusts and begins to feel tired at just the right time each day. This cuts down the amount of time you’ll spend waiting to fall asleep and almost completely eliminates late-night insomnia.
Be persistent and stick with it. After two days, your body should have adjusted to your new sleep schedule, and after a week you’ll find yourself feeling tired at the exact same moment each night. You might also begin to naturally wake up a few minutes before your alarm sounds – a sign that your routine is becoming natural.
Avoid stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine
Caffeine and alcohol both disrupt sleep. While alcohol may make you drowsy and induce sleep initially, it disrupts your sleep in the latter part of the night – preventing you from getting essential amounts of REM and deep sleep. On the flip side, caffeine is a stimulant. It amps up your nervous system, so your brain thinks it’s time to wake up instead of wind down.
Other substances, like marijuana and nicotine, can also interfere with sleep. If you’re a fan of any of these substances, limit your intake to avoid them interfering with your sleep. Try to stop using them 4 to 6 hours before you plan on falling asleep.
Limit daytime naps to 30 minutes
Many people make naps a regular part of their day. Your body clock is set to help you feel alert in the morning and sleepy in the evening, it’s also programmed to make you feel naturally tired mid-afternoon, and a nap has been shown as the best way to cope with this fatigue. However, for those who find falling asleep or staying asleep through the night problematic, afternoon napping may be one of the culprits. This is because late-day naps decrease sleep drive. If you must nap, it’s better to keep it short and before 5 pm.
Keep your bedroom dark and clean
Your sleeping environment will have a huge effect on the way you sleep. There are certain things that can weaken a healthy sleeping pattern such as TVs, light, noise and a bad mattress. To promote a good nights sleep you can also go the extra mile by investing in heavy curtains, blackout shades, or an eye mask to block light, a powerful cue that tells the brain that it’s time to wake up. Your bedroom needs to be ideally dark, quiet and tidy, keep the temperature comfortably cool also. A temperature between 18C-24C is adequate for a good nights sleep.
Try exercising to promote good sleep
Exercise improves your overall health and it can also help you fall asleep faster than usual. Exercise stimulates the body to secrete the stress hormone cortisol, which helps activate the alerting mechanism in the brain. This is fine unless you’re trying to fall asleep. Try to finish exercising at least three hours before bed or work out earlier in the day. As little as 10 minutes of aerobic exercises, such as walking or cycling, can drastically improve nighttime sleep quality. For the best night’s sleep, most people should avoid strenuous workouts close to bedtime.