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Oct 13, 2021

The phrase ‘sleep hygiene’ is a hot topic lately. But what is sleep hygiene and how could you benefit from it?

Sleep hygiene refers to a wide variety of good habits or behaviours that could significantly improve your quality of sleep. A few minor lifestyle adjustments could help you break the bad habits which cause common sleeping problems and, therefore, positively affect your overall health and wellbeing.

Symptoms of poor sleep hygiene

If you do not get quality sleep regularly, you may experience the following poor sleep hygiene symptoms:

  • struggling to wake up and/or get out of bed
  • drowsiness
  • forgetfulness
  • lack of focus
  • making simple mistakes
  • reliance on caffeine
  • depression, anxiety and/or irritability
  • weakened immune system

How to get quality sleep

Here are a few great sleep hygiene tips, which should help you to improve and maintain quality sleep.

1. Avoid naps

Everyone – from babies to adults – needs a certain number of hours of sleep. When you take a nap during the day, you decrease the amount of sleep you need that night. This may cause you to struggle to fall asleep, or may cause you to wake up continuously during the night. If this becomes a habit, it may lead to insomnia and/or sleep deprivation. Especially avoid naps after 14:00 and don’t nap for more than 20 to 30 minutes.

2. Avoid certain food and drinks

Though it’s important to stay hydrated, avoid drinking too much before bed to avoid having bathroom trips when you should be sleeping. Also avoid eating at least two to three hours before bed.

Avoid caffeine at least four to six hours before bedtime. It’s actually best to stop consuming caffeine by midday at least. Caffeine’s effects can last several hours, causing difficulty falling asleep and/or broken sleep.

Besides tea and coffee, you may not have known that you should also avoid fizzy drinks and chocolate. Certain medicines may also contain caffeine, such as those for colds, flu and migraines. Check the ingredients on consumable items to make sure they don’t contain caffeine.

It’s also best to avoid alcohol and nicotine products four to six hours before bed. Alcohol may negatively affect your sleep. Nicotine, like caffeine, acts as a stimulant.

3. Exercise regularly

Regular exercise promotes unbroken sleep, but it also helps to produce endorphins, which may lead to difficulty falling asleep. It’s, therefore, best to exercise before 14:00 every day, or at the very least avoid vigorous exercise four hours before bed.

4. Maintain a bedtime routine

Follow the same routine at the same time each evening before bed. A few relaxing activities could include:

  • avoiding screens at least one to two hours before bedtime. Devices without a blue light filter should especially be avoided as blue light may disrupt melatonin production. Melatonin is a hormone that helps you to sleep.
  • having a warm shower or bath one to two hours before bedtime. This will not only help you to relax, but will also help to keep your pyjamas and bedding clean. A clean environment is essential for a good night’s rest.
  • having quiet time or meditating.
  • listening to relaxing music.
  • enjoying some light reading.
  • going to bed at the same time each evening and waking at the same time each morning. A consistent sleep-wake cycle helps to regulate your how your body functions.

5. Create an environment that supports sleep

A clean, cool, quiet and comfortable bedroom should help to support quality sleep. Try the following to create an environment in which you should be able to sleep soundly:

  • Make sure that your room, including your bedding, is cleaned regularly to prevent allergies which could keep you awake.
  • Open a window for fresh air, or use an air purifier that removes bacteria from the air.
  • Make sure that your bedroom is cool. A temperature between 15 and 19ºC is ideal to support sleep.
  • Wear earplugs if your room is not quiet enough.
  • Wear an eye mask or try block out curtains if your room is not dark enough.
  • Invest in a comfortable mattress.
  • Put  your clock out of sight if you tend to watch it.

6. Consult your Family Practitioner

If you still struggle to sleep even after you’ve tried to implement the above strategies, keep a record of your sleeping habits and symptoms for a week or two, and consult your Family Practitioner.

References

American Sleep Association®. 2021. Sleep Hygiene Tips. Available [Online]: https://www.sleepassociation.org/about-sleep/sleep-hygiene-tips/. [Accessed: 11 October 2021].

Better Health Channel. 2020. Sleep Hygiene. Available [Online]: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/sleep-hygiene. [Accessed: 11 October 2021].

National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Division of Population Health. 2016. Sleep and sleep disorders: Tips for better sleep. Available [Online]: https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/sleep_hygiene.html. [Accessed: 12 October 2021].

National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health PromotionDivision of Population Health

Sissons, B. 2020. What is good sleep hygiene? Definition and checklist. In: Medical News Today. R. Dasgupta, M.D. (Ed.). Available [Online]: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/sleep-hygiene. [Accessed: 11 October 2021]

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