Updated: Nov 19, 2021
Do you struggle to fall asleep at night? Do you wake up feeling tired and unrefreshed in the morning? This may be due to your sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene is your actions and habits that help you prepare for sleep and determine your sleep quality. Some people may have bad habits around sleep preparation, or a poor sleep hygiene, which can lead to them having a low-quality night's sleep. In the blog I wrote last week, I spoke about the importance of sleep on our health, physically, mentally, and emotionally. This means it is vital that we get the proper amount of sleep we need and have good sleep hygiene. Here are 5 strategies to improve your sleep hygiene and have a better night's rest.
1. Set a Sleep Schedule
Set rough times to go to sleep and wake up every day. Try and make it as consistent as you can in order to establish a good pattern for our sleep-wake cycle. Even if you want to sleep in late on the weekends, try not to stay in for more than a couple of hours. This will help 'entrain' the body for sleeping and waking up every day. Just make sure you are reaching the optimum 7-8 hours, and even longer for children.
2. Sort out your Sleep Environment
Make sure that your bedroom is for sleeping only and not for working. Your brain will learn to associate the environment with sleep and make it easier for you to rest without cueing/signalling other thoughts, such as those associated with work. Low noise, dim lighting, nice smells, cool temperature and clean bedding all helps to create a relaxing, peaceful environment to fall asleep. If you struggle to wake up in the morning, immediately turn on a light or open your curtains to allow natural sunlight in. This can help initiate the hormonal process that stimulates wakefulness and help you feel ready for the day.
3. Have a Bedtime Routine
Set certain activities to help you prepare yourself for sleep. This can begin an hour or so before you aim to get into bed. For example, doing light exercise such as yoga, then having a shower, then reading a few pages of a book before going to sleep. When you start your routine, it will help the mind and body prepare themselves for the intended sleep. Make sure the routine is applied regularly though, and that the activities you are doing are all helping you to unwind and relax.
4. Diet and Exercise
Avoid sugary foods, caffeine, tobacco and alcohol late at night, as these substances can all create a 'rush' that will make it harder to fall and stay asleep. Try to eat dinner at least 3 hours before you get into bed as well, as this will allow your stomach enough time to digest it without feeling too full or uncomfortable.
Exercising during the day, even if it's just for a little while, will help you get tired and increase the 'sleep debt', or the need for sleep in the evening. Just make sure you don't exercise too late, as this can actually wake you up instead of help you get to sleep due to the endorphin rush.
5. Avoid going on your Phone or any other Electronic Device
Everyone has a mobile, and a lot of people have a laptop or gaming console in their bedroom as well. However, the light from these screens will trick the brain into thinking it is daytime and so it will make it harder to fall asleep. Going on your phone can also make you feel more alert and it can interrupt your sleep if it goes off during the night. If you want to go on your phone for longer than a few minutes or play on your PlayStation, get out of your bed and sit in a separate chair, or even better, a different room. This will help keep your bedroom a sleep-only environment and reduce the number of distractions you have in your room.
Adding these simple strategies to your bedtime routine can assist you in falling asleep, staying asleep, and feeling refreshed when you wake up. However, if poor or low-quality sleep persists and you feel like it's starting to affect you on a daily basis, seek help. Additionally, if you suffer from mental health problems that affect your sleep, or you suffer from insomnia, you must speak to a psychologist to help address any underlying issues that may be keeping you up. Get in contact with Dr Liliya Korallo at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her website via https://www.citypsychologicalservices.com/.
Dr Korallo is a psychologist in central London who has been working with clients throughout the pandemic, helping them to manage whatever mental health difficulty or disorder they may present with. She can work in person in her office by Liverpool Street, London, or online if preferable.
By Andrew Theophani