What is Sleep Hygiene?
The average person will spend around 25 years of their life asleep. If it’s something you’re going to be spending a third of your life doing, you might as well get good at it!
Unfortunately, sleep is something many people do out of necessity, and put little thought into the quality of sleep they are actually getting.
If you are used to waking up feeling just as tired as you did when you went to bed, it could be you’ve adopted some bad sleep habits that result in you not getting the quality of sleep that you deserve!
Today we’ll be giving you some top tips on how you can get the best night’s sleep possible, so grab your dressing gown, a hot cup of cocoa and read on…
Is Sleep Really That Important?
When you realise that we spend around 1/3 of the day (and our lives!) asleep, you might begin to question if all that sleep is a waste of time.
But the truth is that sleep and rest are as essential to our health as regular exercise and eating a healthy diet.
If you miss out on a few hours of sleep this week, you’re unlikely to notice any negative effects, other than feeling a little tired. But if you start doing it on a regular basis, you may start to see the negative effects catching up to you.
Here’s what happens if you regularly miss out on quality sleep:
Starting at the top, we’ll look at the place where you’ll first start feeling the effects of sleep deprivation. Your brain!
Most noticeably you will experience changes in your mood. If you are particularly grumpy in the mornings, it’s easy to think that you are just not a morning person, but this is more likely a sign that you didn’t get enough quality sleep last night.
Signs to look out for are:
- Feeling cranky or short-tempered during the day
- Having difficulty remembering things
- Being prone to mood swings or exaggerated emotions
- Making more silly mistakes through lapses of concentration
Moving down, we get to your heart.
When you sleep, it’s not just your brain that gets a rest, but all your muscles too and that includes your heart. It’s during the first three stages of sleep that your heart rate slows, and blood pressure drops, which gives your heart time to recuperate and recover.
Studies have shown that without this period of recovery there is an increased chance of suffering from a stroke, heart attack, heart disease and high blood pressure.
The same effects have been noted in those who suffer from fragmented or disturbed sleep.
Your Energy Levels
Next to take a hit are your energy levels. This is different from just feeling tired and presents itself as a deep sense of fatigue. You may notice you have less willpower, are more prone to eating junk foods and you have less sex drive.
This is down to a decrease in your glycogen levels, which are involved in storing energy in your brain. Glycogen levels gradually decrease during the day and are restored at night during sleep. Without enough sleep your glycogen levels won’t have a chance to fully recover, causing feelings of drowsiness and low energy throughout your day.
Your immune system
Lack of sleep will also mean your immune system takes a hit, and you are more likely to get sick from viruses like cold and flu.
This is due to T-Cells, which are an important part of your immune system, becoming inhibited by stress hormones that would normally decrease through sleep.
This one might sound strange. How can less time in bed cause you to gain weight?
One way is that lack of sleep affects the neurotransmitters in your brain that are responsible for appetite control. This means your brain can trick you into feeling hungry despite the fact you might not be.
Add to this the simple fact that the more time you are awake means you have more to eat. When this is coupled with the decreased willpower we spoke about earlier, you can see lack of sleep can contribute to some extra weight gain!
What’s the perfect evening routine?
Sorry to break it to you, but there isn’t one!
While there are elements every evening routine should contain, you should adapt yours to your own personal needs, so don’t be afraid to experiment and find out what works for you.
That being said, here are some of our recommendations to get you started:
Most people need on average between 7 and 9 hours of sleep a night, depending on genetics. You might be one of the few who can get by on just 5 hours, or maybe you need a full 10 to function.
Our age also plays a role in this, as the amount of sleep we need generally decreases as we age.
Decide what time you need to wake up and work back from there, so you know you are getting the full amount of sleep that your body needs.
Ditch the Screens
Try to make the last hour before bed a screen-free time. This will prevent you from becoming too stimulated as you wind down for the night. More importantly, it will stop the blue light from affecting the release of melatonin in your brain, a chemical that prepares your body for sleep.
Limit your caffeine intake
We all know that coffee is a great way to beat that afternoon slump, but the caffeine remains in your system for up to 10 hours after consumption, so try to keep your coffee intake limited to before lunch.
Do something that relaxes and unwinds you before you turn in for the night. This might be a warm bath, some breathing exercises or meditation. If you regularly do this before you go to bed, it can act as a trigger for your brain, letting it know that it is nearly time for sleep.
While some people need dead silence to fall asleep, many others find it helpful to listen to white noise as they drift off. This can be especially helpful if there are other noises or distractions around you while you sleep.
Try listening to a sleep playlist, an oscillating fan, ocean waves or my personal favourite a distant thunderstorm!
Preparation is Everything
There is one last thing to do before you slip into bed and catch some Z’s, and that is to prepare your bedroom!
Ideally, your bedroom should be around 18 degrees and as dark as possible. If there are streetlamps outside filling your bedroom with a warm orange glow, it’s worth investing in some blackout blinds to signal to your brain that this really is sleep time now.
Make sure all technology is off so there will be no distractions, and no sleeping with the TV on!
Finally, you’ll want to try and keep your bedroom as clutter free as possible. It’s a small thing, but the added stress of knowing dirty clothes are strewn about can still make an impact on your ability to drift off, even if it’s an unconscious one.
Hopefully, these tips will help you drift off a little easier at night and leave you waking up with more energy to tackle your day.
Remember that sleep is not a luxury, it’s a necessity!