Sleep plays a vital role in general good health and well-being throughout your life. Regularly getting enough quality sleep can have a huge positive impact on your physical and mental health as well as your overall quality of life. Good sleep promotes higher energy levels, improved mood and memory, increased awareness and ability to focus as well as the obvious physical effects like clear skin and minimal under eye circles.
Failing to get adequate sleep can have a detrimental effect on the body and mind. Not only does it dull your senses and ability to think and act quickly, lack of sleep can lead to health woes such as heart problems, diabetes and high blood pressure. Studies show that after several nights of losing sleep, as little as 1–2 hours per night, your ability to function suffers as if you haven’t slept at all for a day or two.
So what exactly is Sleep Hygiene? It refers to a variety of habits and practices that are conductive to sleeping well on a regular basis. A checklist of sorts that prepares you for a good night sleep. Below are some simple practices that promote quality sleep so that you’ll be reaping the benefits in no time.
- Shut down all screens at least 2 hours before bed. Studies show that those who spend more than 4 hours a day looking at screens have a 49% greater risk of taking longer to fall asleep and are three times more likely to sleep for under five hours a night. Shutting down a couple of hours before sleeping calms the mind and helps you fall asleep more quickly.
- Avoid caffeine or alcohol for 4-6 hours before bedtime. All are stimulants that keep you awake and there’s nothing quite as frustrating as lying awake aimlessly in bed. At the same time it’s important to be realistic and strike a balance. Be mindful, consume earlier in the day and have decaf where possible.
- Turn your bedroom into a sleep inducing nest. A cold, quiet, dark room promotes a sound slumber. Invest in a black out blinder or heavy duty curtains and ear plugs for an uninterrupted sleep.
- Create a pre sleep routine for about 40 minutes before bedtime. Get ready for bed, prep your lunch, pick your clothes or read a book. Whatever floats your boat, helps you unwind or makes tomorrow morning that little bit easier.
- Sleep, but only when you are truly tired. We’ve all been there, lying awake, trying to sleep, stressing about how tired you’re going to be the next day which only serves to impact your sleep further. Go to sleep when you’re truly tired. If you can’t sleep for 20 minutes, get up, go to a different room, grab a glass of water, read a book. Hopelessly lying in bed willing sleep is a sure set way to repel it.
- Exercise! Exercise! Exercise! But do so at least 3 hours before bedtime. Exercise induces the secretion of the stress hormone cortisol, which promotes alertness in the brain. Great for boosting your day time performance but not so great when trying to sleep.
- Where possible eat your lightest meal of the day in the evening time. Limit eating to no less than 2 hours before you go to sleep. Sleeping on a full stomach isn’t advisable by any standards but if you must snack on protein, wholegrain or cherries (they’re full of melatonin, a hormone that aids sleep). Avoid high fat foods at all costs and limit alcohol intake.
- Balance your fluid intake throughout the take and take enough before bed so you aren’t thirsty but not so much that will have you hoping to the loo in the dark of night!
These simple habits go a long way towards establishing a healthy sleep pattern.
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