By Robert Common, Managing Partner, The Beekeeper
Many aspects of our lives contribute to getting poor sleep at night, including diet, lack of exercise, work schedules, and so on. Getting poor sleep at night can have a slew of negative effects, from issues with concentration to irritable moods. However, poor sleep doesn’t just affect our behavior, it also effects our bodies. Physiologically, our bodies cannot function properly without getting adequate sleep every night1. To counteract this, it’s important to improve not only the quantity of sleep you are getting, but also the quality of that sleep.
One of the best ways to improve this is by having good sleep hygiene. To have good sleep hygiene is to have healthy sleep habits with the intention of improving your overall quality of sleep and wellbeing2. Described below are some sleep hygiene techniques that are easy to incorporate into your routine. After using some of these techniques, you should begin to experience better sleep and all of the mental and physical benefits that come with it.
One of the most important aspects of sleep hygiene is sticking to a sleep schedule and having a consistent nightly routine3. This routine can be composed of whatever makes the most sense for your lifestyle. Some ideas include:
- taking a warm shower or bath before bed every night
- going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, even on weekends
- aiming to get seven to eight hours of sleep every night
- reading or listening to calming music in dim light (dim light is important as it can encourage the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone4)
Being consistent is important because it can help reinforce your mind and body’s circadian sleep-wake cycle3.
Reserve your Bed for Sleeping
It’s tempting to do activities such as working on your laptop or watching TV in bed, but it’s important to try and resist this. By only using your bed for sleeping, you are reinforcing to your brain the message that your bed is the place where you sleep. The reinforcement of this association can help you fall asleep more quickly.
Get Some Exercise
Regularly exercising is a great way to improve your sleep. As little as 30 minutes of exercise a day can help you fall asleep more quickly, improving your overall quality of sleep as well as your overall health5. However, it’s important to not exercise too close to bedtime. Exercising within an hour or two before you plan to go to sleep risks increasing your energy, which will make it more difficult to fall asleep.
Avoid NappingNapping during the day can make it more difficult to sleep at night. It can also make you more likely to toss and turn during the night, reducing your quality of sleep2. If you do need to nap to regain energy during the day, be sure to limit it to 30 minutes, and avoid doing so too late in the afternoon.
Don’t Use Your Phone Before Bed
An important technique for improving your quality of sleep at night is to stop using any electronic devices before bed. This is because electronic devices such as your phone, laptop, or tablet emit what’s called ‘blue light’. Blue light causes mental stimulation that can both make you more alert and reduce melatonin levels, making it more difficult to sleep4,6. Turning your devices off 30 minutes before you go to sleep can greatly improve sleep quality. Although I personally recommend at least one hour.
Try Meditating Before Bed
Relaxing before bed is important because one of the major causes of poor sleep is having high stress levels when you lay down; meditating is an excellent relaxation technique that can help calm your mind before you go to bed. Meditating calms your mind by removing you from any negative thoughts or emotions, slowing racing thoughts, and easing any anxieties that have come up during your day7. Utilising techniques such as meditating, mindfulness, and breathing exercises can aid in getting you better sleep8.
Everyone struggles with getting good sleep every now and then. It’s normal when life gets busy or stressful for our quality of sleep to decrease. What’s important is that we turn that around when we notice it and get ourselves and our bodies back on track – implementing sleep hygiene techniques is an effective way to do this. Try changing up your habits by introducing some of these sleep hygiene techniques into your routine, and soon you will experience the mental and physical health benefits of regularly getting a good night’s rest.