Sleep is sometimes the favourite part of my day. Winding down, relaxing under the doona, and getting ready for a new day. We all know how important sleep is to obtaining optimal health. Numerous studies have shown that those who don’t get enough sleep hang on to excess weight, are more stressed, and do not function to an optimal level – Yikes!!!! No one likes being grumpy because they had a bad night’s sleep, let alone the repercussions if this is an ongoing thing. So how do you get more sleep? Sometimes for me I struggle with shutting my brain off and getting a good nights rest. Does this resonate with many of you?
Below are some handy sleep hygiene hints that will help you get some routines in place. I’ve also added a sleep diary (check the bottom of the post) for you to print off and fill out. It will help for you to notice any recurring habits that affect your sleep so you can get them under controlling and get your body well rested day after day!
- Toileting in the night: Do you find you’re regularly waking up needing to pee and having your sleep ruined by this? Have a look at how much liquid you are drinking in the late afternoon and evenings. Get most of your water consumption early in the morning and early afternoon so as to avoid having a full bladder before bedtime.
- Be Regular: Going to bed and waking up at the same time (even on weekends, days off, and regardless of what time you fell asleep) is one of the best ways to train your body to sleep well, and having a regular rhythm will make you feel better.
- Avoid bright lights & technology: Avoid anything that is going to interrupt your thinking such as watching tv or playing on your phone in the hour leading up to bed time. This is the time where you want to let your body wind down from the day. Further avoid bright lighting before bed time as this signals daytime to your brain.
- Caffeine, Alcohol, and Nicotine: Avoid caffeine within 6 hours, and alcohol & smoking within 2 hours of bedtime.
- Bed is for Sleeping: Use your bedroom ONLY for sleep. Have work materials, computers, and TVs in another room as this will help your body to associate bed with sleep.
- Minimize Naps: Avoid naps during day time as they can disturb your sleep clock. If you can’t make it through the day without a nap, make sure it is for less than an hour and before 3pm.
- Create a Bedtime Ritual: You can develop rituals to trigger your body into realising it’s time to sleep. For example, relaxing stretches or breathing exercises, warm baths/showers, aroma therapy, light reading, or listening to soothing music.
- No Clock-Watching: Frequently checking the clock during the night can wake you up (especially if you turn on the light to read the time) and reinforces negative thoughts such as “Oh no, look how late it is, I’ll never get to sleep” or “it’s so early, I have only slept for 5 hours, this is terrible.”
- Have a Good Environment: Your bedroom should be dark, quiet, comfortable, and cool (preferably with some fresh air).
- Use a Sleep Diary: This can help make sure you have the right facts about your sleep. Because a diary involves watching the clock (see point 8) it is a good idea to only use it for two weeks to get an idea of what is going on and then perhaps two months down the track to see how you are progressing.
- Exercise: Exercise regularly and finish your exercise a few hours before bedtime so that your body won’t be energetic come sleepy time.
- Eat Right: A healthy, balanced diet will help regulate your hormones and help you gain optimal sleep. Also, finish eating at least 2-3 hours prior to bedtime. If you feel hungry come bedtime, have a light snack such as some nuts or nut butters, as the fat helps with keeping you full and aiding sleep.
- Keep your Routine: Even if you have a bad night sleep and wake up tired, keep your daytime activities the same as you had planned – if you give in to your fatigue it can reinforce the insomnia.
- Problem Solving: Designate a time to write down problems and possible solutions in the late afternoon or early evening, not too close to bedtime as bedtime is NOT a time to deal with your problems, so that you go to bed with a clear and refreshed mind.
- Breathe: Practice deep breathing exercises to calm you and help lull you off into getting a good nights rest.
YOUR SLEEP DIARY
What do you find helps you drift out and stay asleep?