Sleep hygiene: Five simple steps for a better night’s rest

We all know how frustrating it is when you struggle to fall asleep at night because you’re still thinking about work, or when you wake up during the night and can’t fall back asleep because your bed partner is snoring loudly. Distractions, whether it be in the bedroom environment or in our own brains, can make it very difficult to get a good night’s sleep. Having good sleep hygiene can help minimise these distractions.

Sleep hygiene is a variety of habits that promote sleep. Establishing and maintaining these healthy habits can make a real difference to your sleep. Here are five simple sleep hygiene tips that will help you get a better night’s rest:

1. Spend an appropriate amount of time in bed

We all have different sleep needs, largely dependent on our age. Ensure that you go to bed at the same time each night and spend enough time in bed to meet your sleep needs, without spending an excessive amount of time in bed. For example, if you need to sleep 8 hours per night, spending up to 8.5 hours in bed each night will ensure that you meet your sleep need and avoid excessive sleepiness during the day. If you spend too much time awake in bed, our bodies start to learn to associate the bedroom with wakefulness making it difficult to sleep when we want to. If you find that you’re struggling to get enough sleep at night but you’re allowing yourself enough time in bed to meet your needs, consult your healthcare professional.

 

2. Avoid stimulants before bed

Consuming stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine before bed can make it difficult for our bodies to unwind. Caffeine keeps us alert by blocking a substance called adenosine, a sleep-inducing chemical, from attaching to receptors in our brain. This means that caffeine stops us from getting increasingly sleepy, making it much more difficult to fall asleep at night. Similarly, consuming alcohol before bed might help you fall asleep quickly, but it can disrupt sleep later in the night, particularly REM sleep. A disrupted sleep means that you wake up feeling groggy and unrested.

 

3. Controlling light exposure

Bright light tells our body that we should be awake, and darkness tells our body that it is time for sleep. Too much exposure to bright light at night-time can have an alerting effect, preventing us from falling asleep. Exposure to light in the morning and limiting exposure at night can keep our internal body clocks in check, helping us fall asleep at night and wake up in the morning at the same times each day.

 

4. Establish a bedtime routine

These days, it can be difficult to find the time to relax before bed but doing so will help you fall asleep faster. Undergoing the same activities each night before bed can help your body and your brain recognise that it is time to go to sleep. Your routine could include activities like reading a book, having a shower or watching television. Taking the time to relax before bed will make it much more likely that you will fall asleep quickly when it’s time for bed.

 

5. Optimise your bedroom environment for sleep

Ensure your bedroom is relaxing and comfortable with minimal distractions. Sleeping on a supportive, comfortable bed can make a big difference. Keep the bedroom cool for optimal sleep. Minimise any bright lights or sounds, such as from your phone or other electronic devices. Use ear plugs to minimise disturbance from your snoring bed partner. If your environment is relaxing, you will find it easier to relax which will help you sleep.

 

Try implementing as many of these healthy habits as you can and feel the difference in your sleep quality. If you are concerned about your sleep, consult your healthcare professional.

 

By Hannah Scott

Hannah is a PhD (Research) Candidate from Flinders University

Visit the Flinders website here

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