You might be a little confused if you’re thinking of hygiene in the typical sense. But when we talk about sleep hygiene, we aren’t referring to brushing your teeth, or washing your face, although those things are pretty necessary too! Sleep hygiene are in fact tried and tested practices that you can do before bedtime to help create the ideal sleeping conditions to get the perfect night’s sleep.
If you find yourself tossing and turning struggling to fall asleep, or waking up repeatedly in the middle of the night, then you should probably consider developing a good sleep hygiene routine. These practices are small lifestyle tweaks you can easily make in your day-to-day life that help to set you up to go to sleep.
What actually is sleep hygiene?
Sleep hygiene, in short, means establishing a daily routine and bedroom environment that promotes consistent, uninterrupted, restful sleep. Effectively, they’re healthy sleep habits!
This can be anything from developing a sleep schedule, keeping your bedroom comfortable, and setting up a pre-bed ritual that helps you to unwind and relax.
Your activities and behaviour throughout the day, not just in the hour or so before bed, can have a huge impact on how well you sleep. Managing your lifestyle choices, even down to what food and drink you consume and when, and how active you are, is the healthiest and easiest way to turn your sleep cycle around and start getting the sleep you deserve. Each person will have slightly different techniques to get themselves ready for a great night’s sleep, so play around with different tactics and see which ones work best for you.
Developing healthy and sustainable habits makes behaviours feel automatic, and will eventually establish a cycle of positive reinforcement. For example, if you switch off the electronics an hour before you go to bed every night, you will wake up feeling refreshed and energised, which in turn creates positive reinforcement to keep turning off the electronics an hour before bed… see where we’re going with this?
Why is sleep hygiene important
Not sleeping well has the potential to impact your physical and mental health, as well as your productivity, motivation, and overall quality of life. If just one restless night of poor-quality sleep can leave you feeling drained, grouchy, and unmotivated the next day, imagine what night after night of poor-quality sleep can do to your overall health! Everyone from young children to the elderly can benefit from an improved sleep cycle, and sleep hygiene is the secret weapon.
By prioritising good sleep hygiene, you’ll also be prioritising your mental health too. Mental wellbeing and a consistent sleep schedule goes hand in hand, if one falters the other will feel the impact. Sleep has an important restorative function of recharging the brain at the end of the day, think of it like plugging your phone in to recharge! Maintaining a consistent sleep cycle allows the body to get into a natural rhythm of resetting and recharging, supporting your brain to work at its optimal capacity.
When your body doesn’t get enough sleep, it can culminate in a number of mental and physical health conditions like depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, and a weakened immune system.
Benefits of practicing sleep hygiene
Imagine how it would feel to wake up alert and energised from the moment the alarm goes off and stay that way until your head hits the pillow that night. You’ll feel more focused, more productive, happier, and lighter on your feet… we aren’t just selling you the dream here, these are all effects of a healthy sleep schedule! A sleep hygiene routine is the key to feeling a million dollars every day, no sketchy supplements or witchcraft necessary.
Getting a good night’s sleep will also strengthen your immune system, aid your body’s functions, reduce the risk of developing conditions like heart disease and diabetes, boost your mental health and make you more resilient when dealing with setbacks. It can even help improve your memory! Even as it recharges, your brain is still hard at work forming new pathways to help your store more information, so a restful sleep each night will help to improve comprehension, cognition, and problem-solving skills.
Sleep hygiene tips
There are tonnes, literally hundreds, of tips and tricks you can try to promote a better sleep cycle. We’d be here for hours if we told you every single one, so we’re giving you our top 10 sleep hygiene tips to get the best night’s sleep!
- Create a relaxing bedtime routine
Picture candle-lit bubble baths, meditating with a face mask on, listening to your favourite audiobook or podcast… that’s the energy we’re channelling here. If you’re more of a shower person then don’t worry, just establishing a simple and relaxing night-time routine will help your brain and body unwind and prepare to go to sleep. Meditating, reading, or listening to soothing music are all little tactics to help transition your body from day to night.
- Switch off the electronics
At least an hour before bed, switch off the electronics like your phone, laptop, iPad, or television. Electronics emit blue light which can mess with the melatonin levels in your body. Melatonin is the body’s natural sleep hormone, so when this is tampered with it can make falling asleep a near enough impossible task.
- Maintain a consistent schedule
Going to sleep and waking up at a similar time every day will continually reinforce your internal body clock. After a while, your body will start to anticipate it, which will make falling asleep and waking up a whole lot easier. Just make sure you’re picking a reasonable time to fall asleep and wake up so that you’re getting enough sleep each night!
- Keep your room comfortable
The ideal conditions for sleeping are cool, quiet, and dark. Research shows that a room temperature of approximately 18 degrees Celsius is the optimal temperature for a good night’s sleep. A room that’s too bright or too warm will make you uncomfortable and restless and disrupt your body’s efforts to try and switch off. A comfy mattress, pillows, and duvet are also key ingredients for a restful sleep and waking up energised, as well as a pair of earplugs if you’re a light sleeper.
- Avoid foods that disrupt sleep
Heavy meals or certain foods like spicy food or fried food can really get in the way of falling asleep easily and staying asleep all night. They’re hard work for the digestive system, so whilst your body is trying to digest your dinner it can prevent you from being able to wind down effectively to fall asleep. It also takes approximately 3 to 4 hours for your stomach to empty, so when you lie down with a full tummy, the stomach acids are still doing their thing. This can cause indigestion and heartburn, which if you haven’t experienced it before, is very uncomfortable!
- Limit your caffeine intake
Did you know that caffeine can stay in your system for 3 to 7 hours after consumption? This means that any cup of coffee drank in the afternoon is going to keep you awake for a lot longer than you’d probably like. As part of your sleep hygiene routine, limit yourself to coffee only in the mornings.
- Exercise regularly
The benefits of regular exercise on your sleep schedule are endless. As little as 30 minutes of exercise aerobic activity each day can do wonders for your sleep cycle. Even better, if you can get outdoors for your daily dose of exercise, the sunlight can help to regulate your body’s natural sleep cycle. Avoid intense exercise in the evenings but yoga or a light walk, for example, are fine to do closer to your bedtime.
- Manage stress before you hit the sack
Feeling stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed, are some of the main reasons why people spend hours tossing and turning in bed struggling to fall asleep. Before you go to bed, write down your worries or anxieties, so you have something tangible to look at. If you’re worried about how much you’ve got to get done the next day, quickly jot down your to-do list and prioritise from most important to least important. Try practicing meditation or journaling to help ease your mind and relax.
- Go to bed when you’re tired
If you’re really not feeling tired, don’t force it! Instead, do something to wind down and get your body in the mood to sleep. Try to avoid lying in bed and making yourself go to sleep. After about 20 minutes if you’re still unsuccessful, get up and go and do something else like reading a book on the sofa. Not being able to fall asleep can cause frustration and make falling asleep feel like an even more insurmountable task.
- Keep your bed just for sleep and sex
Try to avoid using your bed for anything other than sleep and bedroom activities, no matter how comfy your bed is! Try not to watch tv, read, answer the phone, work, or any non-sleep or sex-related activities. This helps to strengthen your brains association with bed and sleep, making it easier to fall asleep.
So, there you have it, 10 things you can easily add to your sleep hygiene routine to make falling asleep and getting a full night’s sleep a sure thing. It’s all about building healthy habits during the day and before bed to get your brain and body as prepared to sleep as possible. Once you’ve mastered these you should find sleep comes naturally and easily every night, and you’ll wake up refreshed and energised every morning. Everyone will have a slightly different approach to their sleep hygiene routine, so play around with some techniques and find the ones that work best for you.
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