Tips for Good Sleep Hygiene

Sleep hygiene is different practices and habits that are necessary to have good night-time sleep quality and full daytime alertness.  Healthy sleep is important for both physical and mental health, improving quality of life and productivity.

 

  • Establish a routine. Get up and go to bed around the same time every day.
  • Try to only sleep when you are tired, rather than spending too much time awake in bed. If you haven’t managed to fall asleep in twenty minutes, get up and go do something relaxing or boring.  Sit quietly on the couch with the lights off or read something dull.
  • Ensure adequate exposure to natural light during the day to maintain a good circadian rhythm. Sunlight hitting the retina elevates serotonin during the day and melatonin during the night, as it should be.  If there is not enough natural light exposure melatonin rises during the day and serotonin rises during the night.
  • Exercise regularly to promote good quality sleep. As little as 10 minutes of aerobic exercise can improve sleep quality.  Avoid strenuous work outs before bedtime.
  • Make sure the sleep environment is pleasant. The bed should be comfortable, the room should be cool.  Bright light from overhead lights, lamps, tv screens and mobile phones will make it difficult to sleep so limit exposure to these before sleep where possible.  Consider blackout curtains if necessary.  White noise machines, ear plugs, eye shades, humidifiers or fans may also help improve your quality of sleep.
  • If you must take a nap, make it before 3pm and for less than an hour. Set an alarm if you need to.  Short naps of 20-30 minutes can be great or increasing mental alertness and reducing stress.
  • Develop sleep rituals, things that remind your body that it is time to sleep. It can be gentle stretches, meditation or breathing exercises for fifteen minutes, or having a cup of caffeine-free tea.  It could even be getting things ready for the next day so you can go to bed knowing that you are organised and do not have to rush as much in the morning.  This is also useful to help you not look at screens if this is a problem for you.
  • Having a hot bath or shower before trying to sleep as it raises your body temperature, causing you to feel sleepy as your body temperature drops again afterwards.
  • Don’t watch the clock. Many people who struggle to sleep keep checking the time, re-enforcing negative thinking and causing stress.
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet will help you sleep well, but timing is important. A heavy meal shortly before bed can cause sleep disturbance due to digestion, but some find a completely empty stomach also disturbs sleep.  If this is you, plan a light snack, such as some fruit or a warm glass of milk.
  • Avoiding stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine close to bedtime and if you drink, only consume a moderate amount of alcohol 4-6 hours before trying to go to sleep. Alcohol can make you drowsy but too much will cause a disturbed sleep in the second half of the night as the body processes it.
  • Avoid foods that can cause heart burn right before sleep. These include heavy or rich foods, fatty or fried foods, spicy foods, carbonated drinks and citrus fruits.
  • And lastly, keep to your normal daytime routine even if you did have a bad night’s sleep. Don’t avoid activities because you are tired as this can re-enforce insomnia.

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