Sleep is a fundamental part of our lives. While the exact amount of sleep each person needs can vary, adults should ideally get at least seven hours of sleep per night.
We all know how it feels if we fail to get enough sleep, especially if it’s over the course of multiple nights. Tiredness can slowly but surely begin impacting everything we do, affecting our mood, concentration, and ability to function in day-to-day life. Despite this, the topic of sleep hygiene is still unfamiliar to many.
In this straightforward guide, we look at what sleep hygiene is, why it’s so important, and give sleep hygiene tips to help you integrate good sleep hygiene into your life quickly and easily.
What is sleep hygiene?
“Sleep hygiene” describes a set of good practices when preparing for and going to sleep. In theory, having good sleep hygiene should help you get to sleep more easily, get more sleep, and have a higher quality of sleep. The term has become increasingly common in the last few years, reflecting research and public discourse on the importance of improving sleep and getting enough sleep.
Why should you practice good sleep hygiene?
Without good sleep hygiene, it’s more likely that you’ll suffer from poor-quality sleep more often. Poor sleep can affect your mood, concentration, and even your physical and mental health, as it can result in:
- Lack of concentration
- Difficulty waking up
- Needing to nap
- Low mood and irritability
- Symptoms of anxiety and depression
- Reduced endurance and physical performance
- Greater risk of hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and other health issues
These things can all have a negative impact on your work, your relationships, and your overall quality of life.
What are three key steps to good sleep hygiene?
There’s no exact formula for good sleep hygiene. Everyone is different, with different life schedules, preferences, and natural tendencies. For example, the release of melatonin – a hormone that promotes sleep – varies from person to person, and this can affect how tired you feel at different times of the day.
However, if you have poor sleep hygiene, there are a few best practices that are universally applicable. Following this simple sleep hygiene checklist is a great way to improve your sleep hygiene:
Avoid caffeine and sugar
It may seem obvious, but it’s surprisingly easy to disrupt your sleep and your ability to fall asleep by consuming caffeine or sugar too late in the day. Caffeine can be particularly problematic as it has a half-life of around five hours in the average person. So if you drink a coffee at 5 pm, you’ll still have around half the caffeine in your body by 10 pm.
To avoid or reduce the negative impacts of sugar and caffeine on sleep, try to limit intake to the mornings and early afternoons.
Follow a sleep routine
Having a regular routine each night is an excellent way to mentally prime yourself for sleep. After a few days or weeks, you should begin to associate this routine with sleep, helping you naturally wind down and get to sleep more easily.
For example, it may be a good idea to start reading a book at a certain time each night shortly before you want to get to sleep. Other common bedtime routines include meditation, breathing exercises, and listening to relaxing music or podcasts.
Modern life involves a lot of stimulation from various sources, from artificial light to loud noises, TVs, mobile phones, and more. Unfortunately, these things can all make it more difficult to get to and stay asleep, so it’s best to avoid them in the time leading up to bedtime. Nowadays, it’s tempting to scroll through social media or watch a TV show in bed, but if you try avoiding these things for a few days, you’ll probably notice an improvement in your sleep.
Some things are a little harder to avoid. For example, you may live in a shared home or a loud neighborhood, in which light and noise can be an issue. If this is the case, using a simple sleep mask can cut out light, and specialized earplugs for sleeping can eliminate or reduce disruptive sounds, helping you sleep more easily.
What are the signs of poor sleep hygiene?
Even if you’ve never given much thought to the concept of sleep hygiene, you can probably identify some signs of poor sleep hygiene habits. Common signs include:
- Difficulty getting to sleep
- Frequently waking up in the night
- Lack of concentration during the day
- Ongoing tiredness
- Being forgetful
- Low mood
- An inconsistent sleeping pattern
How do you get a good night's sleep and wake up refreshed?
There’s no substitute for a great night’s sleep. But poor sleep is a part of life for many, particularly those of us who have young children, travel regularly, or have other disruptions. If you struggle with bad or inconsistent sleep, getting your sleep hygiene in check could have a huge impact on your overall quality of life. Try following the simple tips above for a week or two and see if you notice a difference. There’s an excellent chance that they’ll help you get better sleep and wake up feeling refreshed.