improve your sleep hygiene

10 ways to improve your sleep hygiene

If you’re part of the 40% of Aussies not getting enough sleep, then these 10 easy ways to improve  your sleep hygiene may help nudge you towards the 7-9 hours your body and brain need to be well. Don’t forget, adequate sleep is AS IMPORTANT AS EXERCISE AND HEALTHY DIET!

The 10 tips below can improve your sleep hygiene but do know that these are just foundations to get you started.  Dr. W. Chris Winter, neurobiologist and internationally recognised sleep medicine specialist, who wrote the book The Sleep Solution: Why Your Sleep is Broken and How to Fix It, tells us that whilst sleep hygiene “is the foundation needed to fix all sleep problems…it’s not uncommon that on its own it doesn’t completely solve the problem.”

In fact, if I remember correctly, in his podcast interview on Ologies with Alie Ward (a highly recommended podcast- I love it!), Dr. Winter said improving sleep hygiene fixes the problem only about 15% of the time (I must relisten and double-check that stat!). He actually indicated that dealing with stress and anxiety was one of the KEY tools for improving sleep.

10 simple lifestyle changes to improve your sleep hygiene for a better night’s sleep

So to get started, check out the 10 tips below to understand how to have strong sleep foundations to optimise sleep.

1. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day

As creatures of habit, people have difficulty adjusting to sleep pattern changes. Sleeping later on weekends won’t entirely make up for lack of sleep during the week and will make it harder to wake up early on Monday morning.

2. Avoid or reduce stimulants and alcohol

Caffeine – Caffeine has a half-life of 5- 7 hours (which means the length of time it takes for the body to remove 50% of a drug’s concentration). This means if you have a coffee at 4pm, at 10pm 50% of the caffeine may still be active and circulating in your brain tissue. So avoid caffeine 4-6 hours before bed.

Nicotine – Nicotine is also a stimulant, often causing smokers to sleep only very lightly and wake up too early in the morning because of nicotine withdrawal.

Alcohol – Having a “nightcap” or alcoholic beverage before sleep may help you relax. But, heavy use robs you of deep sleep and REM sleep, keeping you in the lighter, less refreshing stages of sleep. You also tend to wake up in the middle of the night when the alcohol effects have worn off.

3. Exercise early

Exercise can help you fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly, in fact, it’s a powerful way to improve your sleep.

Numerous studies show that in people with severe insomnia, exercise offered more benefits than most drugs. Exercise reduced time to fall asleep by 55%, total night wakefulness by 30%, and anxiety by 15% while increasing total sleep time by 18%.

But as long as it’s done at the right time…

Exercise stimulates the body to secrete the stress hormone cortisol, which helps activate the brain’s alerting mechanism. Try to finish exercising at least three hours before bed.

4. Avoid large meals and beverages late at night

Finish dinner several hours before bedtime and avoid foods that cause indigestion as these may negatively affect both sleep quality and the natural release of HGH and melatonin.

5. Don’t take a nap after 3pm

Late afternoon naps may eat into your sleep appetite and keep you awake at night. (Keep your naps or non-sleep deep rest for before 3pm.)

6. Relax before bed

Take a bath, read, listen to relaxing music or practise yoga, deep relaxation or meditation.

7. Keep the temperature in your bedroom cool

Sleep neuroscientist Matthew Walker says having the room at 18 degrees is the ideal temperature for sleeping. It can be very hard to get a good night’s sleep when it’s too warm and one study found that bedroom temperature affected sleep quality more than external noise.

8.Clear the bedroom of distractions

Clear distractions such as noises, bright lights, TV’s, computer’s If you read on your phone or tablet before bed, dim the phone’s brightness and choose your reading content wisely.

9. Screen off at least 30 mins prior to bed

Blue light suppresses the body’s release of melatonin, a hormone that makes us feel drowsy. While this may be helpful during the day, it becomes unhelpful at night when we’re trying to sleep.

10. Get enough sunlight exposure during the day

Natural light keeps your internal clock on a healthy sleep-wake cycle. Let in the light first thing in the morning and get some sunshine during the day.

So, tick off this list if you’re wanting to improve your sleep but remember one of the most effective things you can do is to address stress in your life. If you’d like some personalised help with this, why not book a 1-to-1 session with me:

1-to-1 Meditation & Stress Reduction

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