Sleep hygiene refers to behaviours that improve how we sleep. Here are 11 evidence-backed ways to optimise your sleep.
1. Maintain a regular sleep schedule
Consistency is key!
Going to sleep and waking up at the same time each day (yes, even on weekends!) is important. We all have an internal biological clock, known as our circadian rhythm, which regulates our sleep-wake cycle. Even having a lie in on the weekend can impact when we feel sleepy the next day, also known as social jet lag.
If you can’t go to bed at the same time each night due to the nature of your work, see some tips here for shift workers.
2. Morning light exposure
Being exposed to light in the morning helps regulate our internal sleep-wake cycle. Aim for 5-15 minutes of sunlight within the first two hours of waking, even when it's overcast!
P.S Always remember to be sun safe and wear SPF (even on cloudy days).
3. Associate your bed with sleep
Use your bedroom for sleeping and intimacy. You want to associate your bed with being relaxed and sleepy, so as soon as you hit the pillow you’re ready for bed. This means avoiding activities that keep you alert such as doing work, chatting on the phone, watching television or playing video games. If you’re not feeling sleepy, then get out of bed and do something calming such as reading, writing, gentle stretching - and return when you’re feeling tired again.
4. Create sleep rituals
Creating a wind down routine before bedtime prepares your mind and body for sleep. This could include taking a shower, journaling or gentle yoga and stretching. What does your bedtime routine look like?
5. Avoid napping
Naps can make it difficult to fall asleep at your usual bedtime. It’s best to nap between 5 and 20 minutes. This will ensure you wake up feeling refreshed!
Avoid napping less than 8 hours before your bedtime, as it may impact your sleep. So, if you sleep at 10pm, avoid napping after 2pm.
6. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, nicotine
Avoid caffeine, alcohol and nicotine close to bedtime.
Caffeine is a stimulant which can keep you awake for longer. It also disrupts the production of melatonin - a hormone responsible for feeling sleepy. We recommend avoiding caffeine for at least 4-6 hours before bedtime. Some people are more sensitive to the impacts of caffeine and may even find that a coffee at lunch disrupts their sleep.
Although consuming alcohol might make you fall asleep quicker, the quantity and quality of sleep can be significantly impacted.
Nicotine which is in cigarettes and e-ciggarettes has a stimulating effect on our nervous system. This means that you feel more awake, masking your feelings of sleepiness.
7. Take a hot shower
Did you know that a hot shower can help you feel sleepy?
We feel more sleepy as our core body temperature cools down after a hot shower. It’s best to take a hot shower (between 40 and 42.5 degrees Celsius) 1 to 2 hours before bedtime.
Moving more helps us sleep better. The night after exercise we show greater levels of deep sleep.
9. Dim lights close to bed
Light can make us feel more alert and awake, and therefore it is recommended to dim lights and avoid screens an hour before bedtime.
10. Practicing stress management
Often we experience trouble sleeping because we feel stressed or anxious. Therefore, it is often helpful to practice stress management strategies in combination with good sleep hygiene. This may include building a routine of healthy habits such as:
11. Journal or write a to-do list before bed
Do you feel better when you write down a to-do list for the day ahead? Writing a to-do list before bedtime has been shown to help people fall asleep about 7 minutes faster. This was compared to a group of people who were asked to write a list of what they achieved that day. Those who wrote more specific to-do lists seemed to fall asleep even faster!
Is stress impacting your sleep? Try activities to support stress management.