Tips for Better Sleep Hygiene
Many of us already have poor sleep hygiene to begin with. Unfortunately, the impact of the pandemic on our mental wellbeing has meant that what may have begun as just an occasional bad night sleep is now insomnia. According to the Sleep Health Foundation, you are said to have insomnia if you are regularly unable to fall asleep or stay asleep.
The concerns that we feel around our financial security, our own health and that of our loved ones means that our stress levels are on the increase. We are lucky that there are many tools that we can look to in our everyday life to combat these stress levels. Yoga, meditation and creating boundaries by managing our time are a few of the tools that have been proven to help with this.
Another great way of trying to mitigate stress is to improve your sleep hygiene.
What is sleep hygiene?
Sleep hygiene refers to the habits you create that impact how you sleep. Poor sleep hygiene may include keeping a bedroom warm, having bright lights in the room, keeping a television where you sleep and using your mobile phone until you go to sleep and then using it as an alarm.
Sleep hygiene in the bedroom.
Fortunately there are some easy things you can do to turn your sleep hygiene around for the better. This list includes some items that I have found to be helpful;
- Clear your bedroom of any unnecessary distractions. Bye bye tv. See ya later smart phone. This is where our battery operated alarm clock can come in handy! You won’t have to worry about power outages or having to rely on your smart phone.
- Remove wifi routers and ensure that all wifi enabled devices – such as Bluetooth speakers – are turned off completely.
- Make your bedroom a place of calm. Clean it completely and if possible – I know space can be an issue – only keep sleep related items in your room.
- Ensure the bedroom is dark enough at night. If you find that you need some light to feel comfortable, make sure the source of the light is not near your head while you are sleeping.
- Maintain a cool temperature. Whilst the idea of being warm and toasty sounds great, this can be achieved with good bedding and not by turning up the heating.
- Change your pillow and check that it is the correct height for your head and neck.
- Keep some water nearby so that you can avoid getting up in the middle of the night if you feel thirsty.
- Avoid having naps in the afternoon.
- Create a regular bedtime and wake time.
Sleep hygiene during the day
Improving sleep hygiene starts even before you are thinking about going to bed. If you know you find it difficult to nod off at a reasonable hour, try:
- Having your last coffee before 2pm in the afternoon. This may not work for everyone but if you know you are sensitive to caffeine, then this is a no brainer. You may also find that you have to stay away from chocolate as some chocolate has high enough levels of caffeine to affect sleep too. Sad but true!
And for those of you who have been told to stay away from coffee, you will be happy to hear that Dr Matthew Walker says you can still have coffee. Given he is a Professor of Neuroscience and Psychology and also the Founder of the Center for Human Sleep Science at the University of California, I think we can trust his advice. Timing is key though.
- Limit how much alcohol you are having in the evening. Despite many thinking that an evening tipple can help you nod off, alcohol will disrupt your REM sleep and you will wake up in the morning after a disruptive sleep not feeling refreshed.
- At least 1-2 hours before bed, start writing! Many years ago, during a serious illness, I enrolled in a Progressive Yoga Relaxation course at Gita Yoga in Melbourne. Funnily enough, one of the greatest takeaways for me from this was a tip from our teacher which was also discussed by Dr Andrew Huberman in his podcast with Dr Matthew Walker. This will resonate with those of you who go to bed and churn through and analyse all the things that happened that day and all the things you have to do the next day.
The tip is to sit in a quiet place and go back through your day starting from the time you sat down all the way through to the time you woke. As you go back, there will be things that you remember you have to do and as you remember them, write them down. By the time you work your way through to the beginning of the day, you will have a list of things that are probably the exact things you would be thinking about when you should be sleeping. I certainly know the angst of lying in bed at 3am going over things in my head.
Even as I write this, I remember how this struck me as wonderful advice and I am going to try to incorporate this in my daily routine.
There are so many other useful tools to help in achieving a good night sleep. Some people swear by lavender – sprayed on sheets or diffused as an oil, meditation or yoga, or a lovely calming cup of tea. I believe the key is to make mindful decisions leading up to bed time that won’t have a negative impact on your sleep. Maybe that 4pm coffee is not going to be your best friend at 11:30pm!
I hope that you are able to find some useful tips that are easy to incorporate in your day.
I’d love to hear if you have different tools to help you have a good night’s rest.