What is sleep hygiene I hear you ask? Put in it’s simplest terms, sleep hygiene is the behaviors and our bedtime routines that we put in place. These are the habits we have developed when getting ready for and going to bed.
The thing about sleep hygiene is that you can develop really good sleep hygiene or unfortunately poor sleep hygiene. But the one thing I would say is that you can improve your sleep hygiene to get a better night’s sleep. Below I go in to more detail on sleep hygiene and how you can improve yours.
What is sleep hygiene?
Sleep hygiene is the rituals we do before bed, our behaviors and the things we do and follow around sleep. These are referred to as sleep hygiene. So what does poor sleep hygiene look like? Well if you stay up all hours of the night, you keep your phone by your pillow and keep checking it every half hour, you don’ have a regular routine, these can all be signs of poor sleep hygiene. Conversely, if you go to bed at the same time, you have a set routine for things you do each night and you leave your phone outside your bedroom, these are all good sleep hygiene practices.
If you want a better night’s sleep, then improving your sleep hygiene is certainly the best place to start. Or if you start to have sleep problems, sleep hygiene is something to consider as it is this that can help you cope with any sleep issues. I want to share with you my sleep hygiene practices as I believe sleep hygiene education is a must and not just for us adults but also for children and young people to ensure they get the best night’s sleep possible.
Why is sleep hygiene important?
We all need sleep but we also all need quality sleep. We could not function without it and if you have had sleep problems you know how you feel when you don’t get a good night’s sleep. Good sleep hygiene on a consistent basis will help you achieve a good quality sleep. Sleep that means you waken up ready to take on the day. Alas, bad sleep habits mean you have a restless night, wake up groggy and this can also impact on your mood and how you function.
Talking of mood and functioning, sleep is so important as it’s a crucial part of helping our body heal and recover from disease, it helps our mental health by maintaining a balance but also it helps with our emotional and physical health too. I’m sure you have had those days when you didn’t sleep well and you can hardly focus on a thing at work, you stare, your mood is low and you are ready to bite the face of anyone who comes near you! That is all because you haven’t had a good night’s sleep. Put simply sleep allows us to function.
What’s bad sleep hygiene?
Well if I said good sleep hygiene is all the things that help you have a good quality sleep, then bad sleep hygiene is doing the opposite to those things I’ve mentioned!
So if you waken up each morning and you feel you haven’t had a good rest, if you waken up several times during the night, if you feel just as tired in the morning as when you when to bed, if you have trouble switching off and getting to sleep, then there is a very good chance that you may have developed poor sleep hygiene. Poor sleep hygiene can mess up your sleep and the quality of sleep too.
What’s good sleep hygiene?
I love good sleep hygiene. I started good sleep hygiene with my two sons when they were young and I have followed it ever since to the point where they now have good sleep hygiene practices built up. To give you an idea of the most important elements of good sleep hygiene I have noted them below:
- Temperature – your bedroom is at the right temperature for you which is neither too hot nor too cold
- Darkness – you use black out blinds or curtains to make your room dark to allow sleep
- Quiet – your bedroom is free from distractions and noise
- Your bedroom is a sanctuary where you can block out the world and a comfortable place where you can relax, switch off, lie down and sleep
If you put these good sleep hygiene practices in place, the great news is that you will be helping yourself have a good night’s sleep.
Good sleep hygienetips
When I start having a poor night sleep, I always go back to basics, the basics of good sleep hygiene. So in the spirit of me wanting to help you achieve good sleep hygiene I have noted below some of my top sleep hygiene tips to get a good night’s sleep.
How much sleep do you need?
This was something I have been conscious of as I when my two boys were younger I didn’t get enough sleep. Knowing how much is enough is normally a guide and will differ from each person. For example I know that now I’m in my early 40s I need around 8 hours a night to feel well rested. I
Our sleep needs really do change but to give you a rough guide, adults normally need about 7.5 hours of sleep a night. For babies, children and teenagers they need a lot more. I know on weekends my teenagers sleep for about 9 hours because it’s what their body needs.
As I said though it really does depend on the individual and the amount of sleep your body needs. Having said that I would highly recommend you start setting aside at least 7 hours so you can get a good basic amount of sleep and see how you go. If you do this for at least a week, make a note of how you feel when you get up. So if you feel rested when you get up, then 7 hours is enough. However, if you waken up feeling you need more sleep then gradually increase that 7 hours by 30 minutes each night to see how you get on. Of course the opposite also applies. If you waken up after 7 hours and feel you feel you have had too much sleep, then try reducing it by 30 minutes each night. You can do this until you feel you have worked out the correct amount of sleep for you.
Go to bed the same time every night
When you have worked out what amount of sleep you need, the next step to good sleep hygiene practice is to go to bed at the same time each night. This will get you in to a regular routine or I should say it will get your body in to a routine to get ready for rest.
If you procrastinate when it is bedtime then start doing things that will add to your sleep schedule. Try your best to keep your going to bed time and waking time the same for the full week. We can’t catch up with sleep so if you have a lie in at the weekend you really will feel like you have jetlag when you get up on Monday morning!
I would highly recommend using a sleep diary to log your times and how you feel, this will help you first of all find out what amount of sleep you need but also help you establish a sleep routine.
Make your bedroom a sanctuary
If you don’t like your bedroom the chances are you will find it hard to relax and get some sleep. There are a few things you should consider to make it more peaceful and relaxing. The first is quietness. Your room should be quiet to give you a chance to get a good night’s sleep. If you hate the dead quiet you could opt for a white noise machine. They can help you relax. Some machines offer you to chance to listen to nature sounds, meditation or white noise itself!
Keep your bedroom dark and cool
Did you know that our bodies start to cool down at night as we get ready for rest? So if you have your bedroom too hot it can impact upon your sleep. The best temperature for falling asleep is around 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit but test this out for yourself to find the temperature that is just right for you!
Another good sleep hygiene tip is to keep your bedroom dark as possible. Your body requires the darkness to get it ready for sleep so blocking out any kind of light is a good idea. You could opt for black out curtains.
I have a small illuminated clock and I turn this away from me at night so it doesn’t interfere with my sleep. If you get up in the middle of the night don’t turn the bathroom light on, as exposure to light during the night will have your body thinking it is time to get up.
Use your bedroom for what it is designed to do.
Use your bedroom for what it is designed to be. It’s not a TV room, it’s not a place to catch up on your social media. It is important that your mind links your bedroom as a place to rest and sleep. Making that connection is very important.
Keep your screens for other rooms in your home. Also remove clutter from your room especially piles of clothes that need ironing. Otherwise you will be thinking about the ironing all night and not be able to sleep! Treat your bedroom as the haven you need, a place to rest, relax and sleep.
Keep screens out of the bedroom
I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news but using your phone, tablet, laptop or watching TV in your bedroom is a recipe for disaster. The problem is that all these devices have blue light and your brain thinks it is sunlight meaning it won’t be ready for rest even if you body needs it.
As well as that, having your notifications switched on can me the noise will waken you constantly during the night. Surely what is happening on social media can wait until the next morning?
My advice is to stop using your phone, tablet etc in bed. In our house we have the wi-fi set to switch off at 10pm for my teenagers and 11pm for us adults so we aren’t tempted to be using our devices to all hours! It does get easier to more you do it. Your sleep is very important so prioritising that should be something you consider doing.
Establish a bedtime routine
Above I mentioned that my sons are in a great bedtime routine. From bath, to hot milk to reading to sleep. I also follow a bedtime routine. I do the same activities each night in the hour before bed. This helps my brain remember oh it’s getting ready for sleep time!
I love my bedtime routine and hopefully the tips below will help you with your own relaxing bedtime routine. Remember the idea is to start to unwind and ready for going to sleep:
- Take a hot bath with lavender oil
- Use lavender body cream
- Turn off all electronics
- When in bed I think of all the things I am grateful for, this is a type of meditation but you can do your own meditation
- The odd time I would read a book using a lamp with a soft bulb – although I more than often only get a couple of pages before I start to nod off!
Limit daytime sleeping
It can be very tempting to take a nap during the day or when we get home if we haven’t had a good night’s sleep. While some napping can help you, frequent napping can impact negatively upon your night sleeping.
If you feel the need to nap then set an alarm for 30 minutes. If you don’t then you may enter deep sleep and feel really groggy when you do eventually waken not to mention you won’t get any sleep later on!
Food and drink
There are a few things to be aware of. First, going to bed after a heavy meal will have you tossing and turning. I know as I used to do that often enough! When we eat a heavy meal our body needs to digest it and it produces energy from that – this means we are super hot when we go to bed as our body struggles to use up the energy. On the other hand if you go to bed hungry you won’t be able to sleep with a tummy that is rumbling! A light snack before bed may help as would a glass of hot milk.
Consideration should be given to your overall diet as a healthy balanced meal will help you sleep better. There are also foods that promote good sleep from oats, rice, bananas, milk, yogurt to name but a few. So try to include these in your diet.
Keep hydrated is important but drinking too close to bed can impact upon your bathroom habits and have you wakening up at all hours to empty your bladder. Try to refrain from drinking anything at least an hour or maybe two before bedtime.
Limit caffeine and alcohol
Both caffeine and alcohol have an impact upon quality of sleep. While alcohol may help you get to sleep in the first place, the quality of sleep is extremely poor and will have you wakening during the night and make you feel drowsy the next morning. Conversely, caffeine is a stimulant so will keep you awake most of the night and will stop you from relaxing and getting to sleep.
Exercise during the day is good for your sleep
Several months ago I decided to take up walking as I was starting to feel tired during the day. Walking has really helped improve my sleep. Not only has it done that but it has improved my overall health. Now my body is physically tired from walking when I’m ready for bed.
A word of caution though, don’t exercise strenuously before bed otherwise you will be awake most of the night!
Get some Vitamin D
Getting out in the sunshine – or overcast – improves your mood and also helps you sleep better. That is because our sleep cycles are connected to circadian rhythms. If you want to read up on how sleep cycles work head over to this blog post. Our brain loves sunshine during the day and it knows instinctively that it should be awake. Same thing at night time when it’s dark, our body knows it should be asleep.
No wonder some of us find it so hard getting up in the winter time when outside it is still dark!
Even with all the sleep hygiene processes I use, there are times when sleep just doesn’t come. If this happens to you remain calm and don’t panic. If you find after 20 minutes you are still wide awake, there are few things you can do. The first option is to get up and do something relaxing like read a book. Alternatively you could stay in bed and try meditation. This also applies if you waken up during the night.
Try not to focus on the fact you can’t sleep or you are awake. Focusing on it can make it worse.
Change it up.
Finding what works for you is very important. Some things work for me, some not. It’s important that you experiment and see what works for you and your needs. Same goes for if something that used to work for you isn’t any longer. Change it up and opt for something different. Your sleep hygiene practices may need to vary each week and depending on what is going on in your life can also impact upon your bedtime routine.
The important thing is to have an arsenal of best approaches to sleep hygiene that you can call upon depending on your circumstances and how things are going but remember the importance of them is to get a good night’s sleep.
I hope the above tips will help you establish your own good sleep hygiene habits. After all it’s about you getting the best night’s sleep you possibly can.