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How to Master Your Sleep Hygiene for Better Rest
Sleep is a necessary restorative state that we cannot survive without, yet so many of us struggle with it. The amount of sleep required varies from person to person, but most of us will need around 8 hours to perform at our best. An often-overlooked element of sleep however, is quality. Good sleep, in terms of quantity and quality, can lead to us feeling more energised, emotionally stable, productive. It is also better for our brain health and immune system. Poor sleep on the other hand, can lead to us recovering slower, being more irritable and likely to make poor decisions.
So, we know we need both the right quantity and quality of sleep, but how do we accomplish just that? Welcome to the world of sleep hygiene.
Why does my sleep environment matter?
In order to get quality sleep, you need a quality sleeping environment. Your sleeping space should ideally be dedicated for exclusively sleeping. Avoiding recreation, using technology and working in the same room if at all possible. This helps to create the distinction between certain environments and their associated behaviours. Thus allowing your brain to be cued into falling asleep much more easily. If this is not possible for you, try using one end of your bed for ‘awake time’, and the other for actually sleeping.
How do I create the ideal sleep environment?
Another thing to consider is the air quality in your sleeping space. You should be spending at least 6 to 8 hours in this space. So, making sure the air quality is good will not only make being in this environment more pleasant, but also be beneficial for your health. You can do this by opening a window overnight, or by keeping plants in your sleeping space. Keeping the temperature slightly cooler is also beneficial, as this helps with the quality of our sleep too.
Ensuring the sleeping space is as distraction free as possible is also important. Avoid clutter and things that would encourage non-sleeping activities, such as a TV. If there is ever a place to practise minimalism, it is in the place where you sleep. Your bed shouldn’t be its own distraction either. An uncomfortable, old or worn-out mattress will not encourage quality rest, so investing in whatever bed set up that suits you best is worthwhile.
The lighting in your sleeping space is also something worth looking into. Wearing an eye mask, or having black out curtains is important as our body absorbs light not only through the eyes, but the skin too. By creating a pitch-black environment, it helps our bodies more clearly recognise that it is time to fall asleep and stay asleep.
How do I set a pre-sleep routine?
Having a pre-sleep routine is something we should be aiming to complete as often as possible. Having a consistent ritual and set of behaviours before sleeping helps to make you fall asleep faster and have a deeper sleep. There are several things you can do to create your ideal pre-sleep routine. So, try a few of these together and see how your sleep is affected.
An hour or so before you plan to sleep, dim the lights, switching from harsh, cool, overhead lighting, to warm, low lighting such as that from a bedside lamp. Avoid screens and technology for the same reason. As the blue light encourages our brains to stay active. This is something to consider if you wake up in the night too. Avoid turning on harsh lights, or picking up your phone – no matter how tempting it is!
Light from technology is very stimulating and not conducive to a good night’s sleep. So is the information it floods our brains with, especially that from social media. It is particularly disruptive right before trying to calm the mind for rest. There are lots of settings on your phones to help remind you to sleep. Such as sleep timers, greyscale screen adjusters, do not disturb modes etc, but simply not using technology at all before bed is the most effective method. If there is ever a time to be digitally minimal, it is before you sleep.
If you are being brave and avoiding the screens before bed, you may be wondering what to do instead. Lots of research supports doing relaxing and grounding activities before bed such as light stretching, yoga, meditation and reading. Other options are to switch to showering at night, as the sensorial experience and warm water can have a calming and relaxing effect on the body. Try what works for you, and when you’ve found it, stick to it.
How do I create a good sleep lifestyle?
Sleep is a big part of our lives and has the capability to be a huge source of trouble if unmanaged. But, it can also be a reliable and regenerative experience if we make it so. Reframing sleep as a meaningful and important element to our self-development journey is crucial. It is recommended that you see and treat your sleep in a way, so it is as important as all the other elements of your life.
It should have equal importance to things like your relationships, physical movement, diet etc. By creating a ‘good sleep lifestyle’, you can make changes to your daily life that will encourage better sleep, with the rewards being vast. Some more sleep hygiene tips are below:
Having a cut off point for caffeine is essential to prevent your body from being unnaturally awake during the time period when you should be falling asleep. Caffeine’s effects will be different depending on your individual tolerance. But, as a general rule of thumb, avoid anything with caffeine in after 4pm. Switching to decaffeinated drinks in general if you don’t need the caffeine is a safe option too.
Drinking alcohol may help you fall asleep quicker, but it prevents your body from reaching the deeper, more restorative levels of sleep. This is why you are more likely to wake up feeling tired, regardless of how long you have slept for. Avoiding drinking where possible and drinking adequate levels of water when you do consume alcohol will help reduce the negative impacts.
Get your exercise
Getting regular physical movement is great for your body overall. It can also help you sleep much better. Exercise improves your sleep by encouraging the body to enter into a more restorative level of sleep.And being tired from your workout is also likely to help you feel calmer and fall asleep faster.
Look after your mental health
One of the common issues people report when struggling with their sleep is racing thoughts. You might struggle with feeling mentally overstimulated before trying to sleep. The ability to quiet the mind before sleep is essential. Any unwelcome or uncomfortable thoughts such as anxiety or worry will prevent you from getting the best sleep you possibly could. In order to sleep better, you need to take care of your mental health, and in order to take care of your mental health, you need to sleep well. It’s quite the paradox.
Some ways to help deal with this tightly bound relationship is to work on your ability to calm your thoughts. There are plenty of things you can do to help better your mental health. Things like journaling, meditation, exercise, socialising with those you care about, etc. See what works well for you, what brings you joy and peace and follow that path.
Maximising your light exposure in the daytime, especially first thing in the morning helps to regulate your hormones that are associated with feeling awake, and feeling tired. Opening the blinds or even getting outside for a walk first thing will not only help wake you up in the moment, but also help make you more tired when it is time to rest.
By practising good sleep hygiene, you are able to improve your quality and quantity of sleep. You can fall asleep faster, and having a deeper, more restful sleep when you do. Viewing sleep as something worth creating a good lifestyle for, rather than a chore to be resented, is key to maximising its regenerative potential and for helping you on your self-development journey. Having good sleep habits and good sleep hygiene is one of the many effective ways to ensure your happiness, health and chances of reaching your self-development goals.