Having a great night’s sleep feels amazing right? You wake up that much better prepared to take on the day. The brain fog that no amount of coffee can help is lifted and you are able to think clearly and get stuck into those tasks that previously seemed really hard. For many of us, these days seem few and far between. People don’t sleep well for a myriad of reasons and each of us will have a different cocktail of circumstances that lead to poor sleep. What if there were some simple things you could do to increase your chances of some really good shuteye? Well below we’ve detailed some small things you might like to try to improve your ‘sleep hygiene’ to give yourself a fighting chance.
Sleep hygiene is the behaviours that someone makes around their sleep. Practicing good sleep hygiene improves the odds of falling asleep and having a restful sleep. These things may not be a cure for your sleep disorder or a screaming baby but they are tangible things within your power to implement to at least try and help:
- Set a routine for your bed and waking times with regular routines around these times to help prepare your body for sleep.
- Try to avoid using screens in the time leading up to going to sleep, try avoiding them at least 30 minutes before you go to sleep. This includes using your phone or tablet, watching TV, using your laptop, etc. This is because the light from the screen will reduce the amount of melatonin your body produces which is the chemical in our body that helps us go to sleep.
- Keep your bedroom a quiet, dark and cool space when going to sleep, as other factors may cause distractions and ‘break up’ your sleep throughout the night.
- Keep clear of stimulants such as alcohol, caffeine and nicotine in the afternoon and evening as they may keep you awake longer and affect the quality of your sleep.
- Avoid other activities in your bed other than sleep and sex. For example, watching tv or working in bed can create an association with these activities that may reduce your ability to go to sleep.
- Try not to nap throughout the day, if a nap is needed, they should be kept between 20-25 minutes otherwise it may impact your sleep in the evening.
- Avoid staying awake in bed for too long. If you are awake and can’t fall asleep. Do something to reset your mind and body to return to sleep, such as getting up for a glass of water or some quiet reading.
- Try a warm bath or shower an hour or two before bed time. The rise and subsequent fall of your body temperature is a trigger for secretion of those nice sleep inducing chemicals.
- Exercise will have a similar effect to a warm bath by raising your body temperature. It also has the additional benefit of burning off energy or providing opportunities for emotional regulation which may help you ‘switch off’ when it comes to bed time. We recommend approximately 30mins of moderate intensity exercise a day but not within an hour of bedtime!
Many of these tips are well known and seem like common sense. But how many are you actually doing? As mentioned above these tips alone may not always be a cure but many of them are within our power to implement so give them a try and see how you go!
If you continue to struggle with your sleep or just feel tired all the time, perhaps a visit to your GP could help you with that next step to feeling better rested.