‘Sleep Hygiene’ isn’t an overly common term, so if you’re not familiar with it, don’t worry. And, before your mind starts racing about the possibilities of what sleep hygiene could mean, it’s actually very simple: the term is used to describe our sleep habits.
There have been mounds of research over time into what consists of good guidelines and tips to enhance a person’s sleep. For those suffering from sleep difficulties such as insomnia, the first thought is often to reach for sleep medication. However, although sleeping pills can be very effective in the short term, the long term isn’t so great. For success in the long-term with sleep difficulties, evaluating your sleep hygiene may be the answer.
So, why is good sleep hygiene important? Firstly, no matter your age, your sleep hygiene has an important role to play in both promoting physical health and maintaining daytime alertness. Plus, consistent sleep hygiene can prevent the development of sleep disorders, such as insomnia.
There are a few warning signs of poor quality rest to be aware of. If you have frequent sleep disturbances during the night, or if you find yourself fatigued throughout the entire day, then you are likely not getting good sleep. Struggling to fall asleep, even when feeling tired, is another symptom. Consider evaluating your entire routine, from your daily sleep patterns to your eating habits, and adjusting each factor. You’ll be surprised at how much of a difference a few small changes can make.
To help you on your way to a new and improved level of sleep hygiene, here are some solid tips on how to move forward.
Regulate Your Pattern
It sounds simple, but one of the most effective ways of training your body to sleep is to go to bed and also get up at the same time—this does, however, include weekends, which is why many are reluctant to maintain this in favor of their weekend lie-ins. Your body will thank you in the long run if you do make this commitment.
Don’t Just Lie There
If you’re struggling to get to sleep after 20 minutes of trying, don’t just lie in bed. Get back up and do something that you find to be relaxing (or even boring) until you feel sleepy enough to return to bed and try again. Don’t do anything involving light—light tells our brains to wake up so this won’t help you in your plight to get to sleep.
Restrict Activities in Bed
Your bed should be just for sleep—try not to let your body associate it with other activities such as watching TV or doing work as this can become confusing and your body will find it difficult to naturally make the connection between your bed and sleep.
Say “No” to Napping
It’s advisable to avoid taking naps during the day as this can prevent you from feeling sleepy when bedtime comes around. That being said, if you really feel the need to nap, ensure that it doesn’t last more than an hour and is before 3 pm.
Evaluate Your Bedroom
There are many factors that can affect the quality of your sleep and a lot of them are to do with your sleeping environment. Ensure that there are no distracting noises, the temperature is cool, and there is little to no light in the bedroom. If you have unwanted light coming into your bedroom, make use of curtains or an eye mask.
Finally, take a good look at your bed; is your mattress giving you enough support? Are you in need of an upgrade? Due to the length of time a mattress lasts, few people are aware of the technological advances. According to Savvy Sleeper, there are a wide variety of modern mattresses that cater to various sleeping positions and bodies. Some models are even more appropriate for warmer environments as they improve air circulation.
Taking a warm bath before bed can cause your body to experience a drop in temperature. This process is associated with sleepiness as your body temperature naturally drops when you’re sleepy.
Exercise is not only a great way to stay healthy, but it’s also great for your sleep! By burning off any excess energy during the day, you’re setting yourself up for better sleep. That being said, try not to exercise four hours before you plan to head to bed, as this can be counter-productive in your ability to wind down correctly.
Avoid Eating Close to Bedtime
Not only is it important to eat a healthy, balanced diet, but when you eat it is also important. If you eat too close to bedtime, then this can make digestion difficult and your body will not be looking to naturally sleep at this time. That being said, it can be very distracting going to bed on an empty stomach, so if that’s the case, be sure to opt for a light snack. A warm glass of milk is often advised as it contains tryptophan, which can act as a natural sleep inducer.