Getting good quality of sleep is essential for our physical health, keeping our energy levels up, helping us fight illness and our body repair any physical injuries, psychological well-being, mood stability, concentration processes, appropriate appetite modulation, memory, work productivity and interpersonal functioning. Additionally, consistent sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke. Sleeping for under 7 hours is also associated with impaired immune system, and decrease in cognitive performance. Use the tips below to help improve your overall quality of sleep. Remember to adopt one or two strategies at a time and to give each strategy at least a week before deciding if it helps improve your sleep!
Sleep Hygiene Tips
1) Get regular: One of the best ways to train your body to sleep well is to go to bed and get up at more or less the same time every day, even on weekends.
2) Avoid caffeine & nicotine: It is best to avoid consuming any caffeine (in coffee, tea, cola drinks, chocolate, and some medications) or nicotine (cigarettes) for at least 4-6 hours before going to bed. These substances act as stimulants and interfere with the ability to fall asleep.
3) Avoid alcohol: Contrary to common believe drinking alcoholic beverages will have a negative impact on your overall quality of sleep. It is also best to avoid alcohol for at least 4-6 hours before going to bed.
4) Bed is for sleeping: Try not to use your bed for anything other than sleeping so that your body comes to associate bed with sleep. If you use bed as a place to watch TV, read, work on your laptop your body will not learn this connection.
5) The right space: Your bed and bedroom should be a quiet and comfortable space for sleeping. A slightly cooler room with enough blankets to stay warm is best.
6) Avoid naps: It is best to avoid taking naps during the day, to make sure that you are tired at bedtime. If you can’t make it through the day without a nap, make sure it is for less than an hour and before 3pm.
7) Sleep rituals: You can develop your own rituals of things to remind your body that it is time to sleep. You may do some relaxing stretches, breathing exercises, meditation activities, or listening to music before bed each night.
8) No screen time in the evening: It may be common practice for you to go to bed with your phone or a tablet, but these gadgets have been found to have a negative impact on quality of sleep.
9) Use a sleep diary: This worksheet can be a useful way of making sure you have the right facts about your sleep, rather than making assumptions. Because a diary involves watching the clock (see point 10) it is a good idea to only use it for two weeks to get an idea of what is going and then perhaps two months down the track to see how you are progressing.
10) Exercise: Regular exercise is a good idea to help with good sleep, but it is not recommended to do strenuous exercise in the 4 hours before bedtime.
11) Eat right: A healthy, balanced diet will help you to sleep well, but timing is important. A very empty stomach at bedtime could be distracting, so it can be useful to have a light snack, but a heavy meal soon before bed can interrupt sleep.
12) Get up & try again: If you are unable to get to sleep after about 20 minutes or more, get up and do something calming (check recourses below), return to bed to try again. Avoid doing anything that is too stimulating, as this will wake you up even more.