What is sleep hygiene?
Sleep hygiene is the name given to the routines and practices that encourage good sleep. It involves getting your mind and body into a favourable state for sleep, and making the bedroom the best possible environment for sleeping in. Measures can be broadly divided into three categories - Measures can be broadly divided into three categories -
The sleep-wake phases are controlled by your internal body-clock, or circadian rhythm. This is a cycle that runs for 24 hours a day (‘circa’ is Latin for round and ‘dia’ is day). Certain practices reinforce this rhythm, allowing sleep and wake to be promoted at appropriate times. Promoting the wake phase during the day encourages the sleep phase to occur more naturally at night. This can be done by:
- Keep a fixed wake up time and do not vary it by more than one hour at weekends.
- Spend the initial waking part of the day outside or in bright light
- Take regular moderate exercise during the day
This is getting your mind and body into the right state for sleep:
- Avoid stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine in the evenings
- Avoid alcohol – alcohol may sometimes reduce the time it takes to fall asleep, but it often leads to fragmented sleep. It also reduces the time spent in REM sleep which can affect emotion regulation during the day.
- Use dim lights in the evening. Warmer toned lights do not promote the wake-phase of the circadian rhythm in the same way as cooler daylight tones.
- Reduce screentime before bed for the same reason.
- It’s important to try and turn your mind off before getting into bed. Avoid stressors such as work emails, or difficult family chats. If thoughts are chasing themselves around inside your head it can be helpful to write them down in a list as a way of acknowledging that they are important things, that need thinking about, but not at this time.
- Mindfulness techniques can assist with relaxation and can be delivered by apps such as Headspace or Calm
- If sleep onset is delayed, then avoid ‘trying’ to sleep. A more productive course of action is to find a relaxing and distracting activity, such as reading, and wait for the urge to sleep to naturally return.
The sleeping environment
How to make your bedroom the best environment to sleep in:
- Keep your bedroom cool. The transition from the wake-phase of your circadian cycle to the sleep-phase, is marked by a drop in your core body temperature, so keeping your bedroom cool can help with this.
- Pets should be discouraged from sleeping on beds.
- The association of the bed meaning sleep should be strengthened by only using the bed for this purpose. Try to avoid spending time reading, relaxing, or watching films on the bed during the day
Information provided by The Better Sleep Clinic
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