Good sleep hygiene – How to achieve better sleep
Good sleep hygiene, like most positive habits, takes time and effort. Everyone has had a bad nights sleep at some point; however, millions of people struggle with their sleep every night. Taking time to understand the principles of good sleep hygiene, identifying the areas that may affect your sleep, and then taking practical steps for change will make a difference if you find balanced rest an issue.
When we talk about good sleep hygiene, it would be easy to think that all sleep issues revolve around not sleeping (insomnia). Unfortunately, insomnia is a widespread problem, with many studies reflecting 30% of the UK population having difficulty sleeping. That equates to over 16,000,000 people. However, insomnia is only part of the picture. Oversleeping (hypersomnia) and interrupted sleep bumps up those figures even more.
With so many people suffering from the effects of poor sleep, it is no wonder good sleep hygiene is on so many peoples minds. So, what is good sleep hygiene, and how do we achieve it? We can break sleep hygiene down into three areas.
- A better sleeping environment
- Being physically prepared for sleep
- Being mentally prepared for sleep
Good sleep hygiene – Creating a better sleep environment
Light-Getting the balance right to aid sleep
The human body is a complex biological machine that thrives on balanced chemistry. Part of that chemistry is cortisol, a hormone that keeps us awake and alert throughout the day. A healthy human produces cortisol in balance with another hormone, melatonin, which promotes relaxation and induces sleep.
These two hormones work together in harmony, rather like a high and low tide, to create the appropriate physical state for day and night. We call this process the circadian rhythm. Problems start when the production of cortisol, or melatonin, get out of synch. One of the principal reasons for this happening is light pollution.
When we sleep, we need darkness. When we awaken, our bodies prefer a natural increase in light like the rising sun. If your room is too light, or you are spending too much time looking at the screen of your favourite device after nightfall, you can easily disrupt your circadian rhythm. Equally, failing to get enough light in the morning can have a negative effect too. Experts recommend getting at least twenty minutes of natural daylight and sunshine every morning, and this is only possible by getting outside in the fresh air.
Comfort in the bedroom
Making your bedroom as comfortable as you can, seems like an obvious thing to say. Having a comfortable place to sleep is a little more complex than you might think, though. Studies show that you should spend as much as you can on the right mattress for you. Depending on your physical condition, pre-existing medical issues and body type, different grades of mattresses will have varying effects. Always seek professional advice when choosing the right mattress for you.
There are additional practical steps you can take to help attain better sleep. Regularly washing your bed linen is proven to improve sleep, as is the use of hypoallergenic pillows and sheets. Reduced dust mites and bed mites are one thing; however, fresh linen also evokes calm feelings. Many say that the smell of fresh bed linen is a significant factor in feeling comfortable in bed. Rosewater is one popular product that you can sprinkle on pillows and linen to give a fresh bed smell every night.
The right temperature for great sleep.
Naturally, most of us will equate warmth with comfort. It might surprise you to know that a healthy human will experience a drop in core temperature as a natural part of the sleep process. Being too warm can be a problem, causing interrupted or delayed sleep patterns as well as nighttime dehydration. Too cold, and similar issues can occur with your sleep patterns.
The ideal temperature for healthy sleep is 65 degrees Fahrenheit, or 18.3 degrees Celsius. Given that we are all individuals, this may be too cold for some and too hot for others. The range of temperature that we should be aiming at is 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit (15.6 to 19.4 degrees Celsius). This is a surprisingly narrow range and way cooler than some of us are used to at Luna & Leaf. Setting the thermostat a bit cooler in the winter and using a fan or air conditioning unit in the summer could help balance things out. In an ideal world, room temperature will remain at your optimum level all year round.
You have the right mattress, and your room temperature is perfect. You have blackout blinds and have even invested in a circadian alarm clock that wakes you up with the natural light pattern of a sunrise. So what could possibly go wrong now?
Noise pollution is a growing problem all over the world. Modern cities are full of noise: industrial areas, noisy mopeds, traffic, and other humans can seem hell-bent on keeping us awake at times. Making sure your bedroom is free from noise pollution can be tricky, especially in shared living spaces. The answer may lay in earplugs, or white noise tracks played in your headphones, even expensive soundproofing. In extreme cases, you may even have to consider relocation. Whatever the solution, you must aim to ensure your bedroom is as quiet as you can make it.
Good sleep hygiene – mentally preparing for sleep
Once we have our environment right, we may need to consider how our mental state affects our sleep. For example, you may have experienced the effects of an overactive mind at night. Perhaps you have had a stressful day, or you are excited about an upcoming event. As kids, many of us will have had trouble sleeping on Christmas eve. Any emotion that causes adrenaline production will prevent us from sleeping.
Having a calm mind is another essential part of good sleep hygiene. Given the demanding pace of modern living and the increased stress levels it produces, it is no wonder many of us cannot get to sleep quickly. As we cannot always avoid situations that cause overthinking, adrenaline production and anxiety, we should look for antidotes to these problems.
Creating a personal firewall for healthy sleep.
One way to avoid the pressures of the day spilling over into your sleep time is to have a robust sleep schedule. If you set a realistic bedtime, it naturally follows that work hours will fall in line. However, it is not easy to leave work at work, especially with lines blurring for those who now work from home. We must stop work with enough time to relax and switch off from secular thinking. By protecting our personal time, we make space for our hobbies and creative endeavours, which are often the things that relax us most.
Reducing anxiety and stress – Meditation and intention.
One way to maximise our time is to practice meditation and relaxation techniques once we have stopped our daily work. Meditation is a great way to switch our minds from highly stressed and commercial thinking and on to self-care. This clear distinction between states of mind is highly effective. Check out our latest meditation tracks on our YouTube channel or subscribe to Spotify here.
Good sleep hygiene – Preparing for sleep physically.
What were you doing the last time you said, “I went out like a light” or “I dropped off as soon as my head hit the pillow”? The chances are you had been exerting yourself physically during the day. Sedentary living is a growing problem. As a society, we are simply not getting enough exercise. Great sleep is so much easier to achieve when you partake in a healthy level of physical activity. Cycling, swimming, jogging, and team sports, in fact, anything that burns calories and increases your heart rate, will have a positive effect on your sleeping habits.
A healthy diet goes hand in hand with physical activity. Indigestion and heartburn keep millions awake every night. Balancing your acidity levels through healthy eating will help. Higher body fat content can also lead to sleep apnea and excessive snoring, which are two other significant contributors to poor sleep. Many people use healthy non-processed foods and natural food supplements such as camomile, melatonin, valerian root and CBD to promote better sleep hygiene.
Two of the most troublesome enemies of great sleep are caffeine and alcohol. Although it is a difficult pill to swallow, the reduction of both of these substances is known to improve sleep. On the other hand, late night and excessive alcohol consumption will ruin your sleep patterns. Consumption of caffeine after midday will also have a profound effect on the quality of your sleep.
Good sleep habits – Top seven tips
- Make sure your bed is right for you.
- Reduce light and sound pollution.
- Maintain a consistent room temperature of between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Protect your personal time and meditate before sleep
- Exercise regularly and eat healthily
- Research natural sleep products
- Cut down on caffeine and alcohol
Keeping a sleep diary:
If you are struggling to identify the issues causing you problems and love a good spreadsheet, you might consider a sleep diary. Those lovely people at sleep foundation have written a superb article on the subject. You can download a comprehensive sleep diary here.
Read our article on Sleep procrastination.
You can read a medically reviewed article on oversleeping here.
Great days follow goodnights. Sleep well!
Luna & Leaf