What is good sleep hygiene?

What is sleep hygiene? I Intus Healthcare

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Last updated on August 1st, 2023 at 11:32 am

Healthy sleeping habits and behaviours are collectively known as sleep hygiene. Quality sleep helps your mind and body function at its best throughout the day, improving your overall physical and mental health.

Having good sleep hygiene benefits everyone, including those with sleep disorders such as Insomnia, Hypersomnia and Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA).

Why is sleep hygiene important, and what are the benefits?

Sleep hygiene is beneficial for every aspect of your physical and mental well-being and good practises can improve your productivity and day-to-day functioning.

Let’s explore some benefits of maintaining good sleep hygiene:

  • Increased brain function: Sleep helps to enhance cognitive function, including memory, concentration, attention and problem-solving skills. It promotes better decision-making abilities and clearer thinking. When you are well-rested, you are more focused, alert, and efficient.
  • Restorative sleep: Practicing good sleep hygiene helps you get the restorative sleep your body needs. During sleep, your body repairs and rejuvenates itself, which is crucial for physical and mental health.
  • Reduced stress: Sleep is important for stress management. Getting sufficient sleep helps regulate stress hormones, reduces the negative impact of stress on the body, and promotes relaxation.
  • Lower risk of chronic diseases: By consistently practising good sleep hygiene, there is a lower risk of chronic conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity.
  • Improved immune system: To support a healthy immune system, sleep is crucial. Maintaining adequate sleep helps your body’s immune response to function at its best, reducing the risk of illnesses and infections.
  • Overall better mood and emotional well-being: Sufficient sleep is linked with improved mood and emotional well-being. Poor sleep, however, can lead to irritability, mood swings, and an increased risk of developing mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.
  • Maintaining weight: Sleep deprivation affects hormones that regulate appetite, leading to increased cravings and reducing your ability to control portion sizes. Poor sleep has been linked to weight gain and obesity.
  • Improved heart health: Sleep is when the body restores; as the body goes through the sleep cycle, stress on the heart is reduced. Sleep deprivation is linked to numerous heart complications, such as high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation and stroke.

What are the signs of poor sleep hygiene?

Awareness of what poor sleep hygiene looks like is just as helpful as knowing what good sleep hygiene is. By learning the differences, you can make the changes you recognise in yourself to improve your sleep. Poor sleep hygiene is becoming more common with the demands of day-to-day life and the increase in using blue light technology and eating the wrong foods. Some signs of poor sleep hygiene include:

  • Waking up tired: Feeling groggy or unrefreshed, despite having had a good amount of sleep can indicate poor sleep quality. It may be a result of sleep disturbances or an irregular sleep routine.
  • Daytime fatigue: Excessive daytime sleepiness, tiredness, or struggling to stay awake during the day can be signs of poor sleep hygiene. This affects your ability to concentrate and focus, which could impact your work and home life.
  • Struggling to stay asleep: If you wake up frequently during the night and struggle to fall back asleep, it could be a sign of poor sleep hygiene. Factors like stress, anxiety, or an uncomfortable sleep environment can have an impact.
  • Struggling to fall asleep: If you consistently find it difficult to fall asleep after getting into bed, it may be a sign of poor sleep hygiene. This could be due to factors like an irregular sleep schedule, excessive caffeine consumption, or engaging in stimulating activities close to bedtime.
  • Poor bedtime routine: Taking part in stimulating activities, such as using smart devices, working, or taking part in intense physical exercise, close to bedtime can disrupt your ability to wind down and prepare for sleep. A lack of a relaxing bedtime routine can result in poor sleep quality.
  • Acne breakouts and puffy eyes: Inflammation can increase if you have a poor sleep routine, and as a result, your hormone levels can also become irregulated. This can lead to increased sebum production and clogged pores, which can contribute to acne breakouts.
  • Difficulty losing weight: Poor sleep hygiene can impact your appetite. It can disrupt the balance of hormones that regulate appetite, such as leptin and ghrelin, resulting in difficulties losing weight. Cravings resulting from poor sleep quality can make it difficult to stick to a healthy eating plan, potentially leading to overeating and weight gain. To support weight loss goals, it’s crucial to prioritise good sleep hygiene and ensure an adequate amount of quality sleep.
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How to improve your sleep hygiene

Here are a few suggestions you can try to promote better sleep.

Sleep Schedule

Establishing a consistent sleep schedule enables the body to rejuvenate and replenish during the night. Strive to maintain a regular sleep-wake routine, even on weekends, as irregular sleeping patterns can impede the ability to fall asleep and elevate stress levels. Getting a good amount of sleep will also help to wake up early so you are well rested and prepared for your day.

Room Temperature

The ambient temperature of your bedroom can influence the quality of your sleep, and it is generally beneficial to sleep in a cooler room. The ideal temperature for restful sleep is typically around eighteen degrees Celsius. While individual preferences may vary slightly, most medical professionals suggest maintaining the thermostat within the range of fifteen to twenty degrees Celsius to ensure optimal comfort during sleep.

Bedroom comfort and routine

To optimise your sleep hygiene, ensure your sleeping space is exclusively for sleep and intimacy, as engaging in other activities may create a mental association that detracts from restfulness. Additionally, eliminating distractions, ensuring comfort, and going to bed only when you feel tired are further steps that can be taken to enhance your sleep environment.

Avoiding stimulants

Stimulants can keep you awake for up to four hours before you try to sleep, so it is generally best to avoid them. Consider in the last hour before going to bed reducing any intake of stimulants. For example, caffeine is best avoided after two o’clock in the afternoon to ensure your body can fully relax and unwind before going to sleep. Nicotine and Alcohol are also stimulants and will affect the quality of your sleep.

Regular exercise

Engaging in regular exercise aids in the body’s relaxation process, reducing nighttime awakenings. However, exercising too close to bedtime can excessively stimulate the body, impacting your ability to fall asleep. It is better to avoid exercise within a range of ninety minutes to three hours before sleep. Exercising around twenty minutes a day can be a great start to help you unwind and help you fall asleep easier at night.

Exposure to daylight

Exposing yourself to natural light signals your brain to start the day. Dedicate approximately fifteen to twenty minutes to daylight exposure, as it aids in waking up your body and resetting your circadian rhythm, also known as your twenty-four-hour body clock. You could even incorporate this with your daily exercise to help you sleep better.

Switching off electronic devices

The blue light emitted by electronic screens affects the body’s production of melatonin, a crucial hormone for regulating sleep cycles. The circadian rhythm relies on light cues to establish sleep and wake patterns. Therefore it is better to abstain from using electronic devices for a minimum of ninety minutes before bedtime. Like stimulants, blue light is best avoided close to bedtime to ensure you can get to sleep more easily, and it will also help you feel more rested and help you to wake up earlier.

Avoid napping

Napping for more than twenty minutes can hinder the ability to fall asleep and disrupt the body’s internal clock. It is recommended to restrict the duration of your naps and avoid taking them too close to bedtime, as doing so can leave you feeling disorientated when waking up. Whilst in the moment, you may feel refreshed from having a nap, taking regular naps for long periods of time will actually impact your sleep hygiene and, as a result, can make it more difficult to get to sleep.

Eating a balanced diet

Maintaining a balanced diet contributes to improved quality of sleep. Foods rich in tryptophan possess natural sleep-inducing properties. Your body needs a variety of vitamins and nutrition not only for day-to-day function and long-term health but also to help keep a consistent sleep routine. By reviewing your diet and including more of these types of foods, you will find winding down easier, and the quality of your sleep will also improve. Milk, cheese and oats contain tryptophan or melatonin, which help contribute to a healthy night’s sleep.

Focus on sleep quality

Sleep duration often takes priority when we think about improving sleep. Yet, the quality of sleep holds equal importance. Our sleep journey encompasses five stages, repeated approximately five times at night. As the cycle progresses, our memories from the day are stored, and information is processed, among other essential functions. Consequently, disturbances such as waking up at night to use the toilet can disrupt the cycle, preventing us from reaching the later stages. Therefore, limiting the intake of liquids before bedtime and being mindful of whether they are stimulants can help avoid these sleep disturbances.

Doing a Sleep Apnoea test at home

It is clear that sleep hygiene is essential for performing and feeling like your best self.

However, you could already be doing all these things and still struggle to get to sleep or stay asleep. Symptoms of poor sleep hygiene are also similar to symptoms of Sleep Apnoea. Those who suffer from the sleep disorder Obstructive Sleep Apnoea benefit greatly from establishing healthy habits and maintaining good sleep hygiene. Taking these first steps will help manage the sleep disorder as well.

If you think you have symptoms of Sleep Apnoea, you can use our free OSA risk assessment to establish your risk of having the condition. An In-Home Sleep Test for Sleep Apnoea can further be performed at home and is a fast and effective way to either confirm or rule out the disorder.

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