Sleep hygiene describes the different habits and routines that are required to get a good night’s sleep and improved daytime alertness as a consequence.
A healthy sleep pattern is essential in mental and physical health. All age groups can benefit from good sleep as it improves overall quality of life. So here a few key points to consider:
- If you have naps during the day, limit them to 30 minutes. Although a daytime nap can improve alertness, mood and performance, it does not make up for a lack of night-time rest.
- Spend an appropriate amount of time in bed. Depending on age and activity levels, the length of time asleep required can vary, but it should not be too little nor too excessive.
- Keep a consistent sleep schedule. Go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time every morning, including at weekends. Set a bed time that is early enough for you to get about 7 hours‘ sleep.
- Exercise can promote improved sleep quality. As little as 10 minutes of aerobic exercise daily like walking or cycling can improve night-time sleep quality. However, for most people strenuous workouts close to bedtime are generally not suitable. It is a matter of finding out what timing works best for you.
- Ensure adequate exposure to natural light. This is particularly important for individuals who may not spend much time outside. To maintain a healthy sleep-wake cycle (conditioned by the hormone melatonin and known as the circadian rhythm), exposure to sunlight during the day, as well as darkness at night are equally important.
- Establish a relaxing bedtime routine. A regular nightly routine helps the body recognize that it is time to go to sleep. This could include taking warm shower or bath, reading a book, meditation, and light stretches. When ever possible, try to avoid emotionally upsetting or stimulating conversations, thoughts and activities before attempting to sleep.
- Avoid consuming stimulants such as nicotine and caffeine in the late afternoon, evening or close to bedtime. Alcohol should be consumed in moderation too. Although it can make one feel sleepy, it can disrupt the second half of the night when the alcohol gets processed in the body.
- Don’t eat a large meal before bedtime. Avoid heavy or rich foods, fried or fatty meals, spicy dishes, citrus fruits, and carbonated drinks. All these can trigger indigestion, lead to painful heartburn and consequently disturb the sleep. If you are hungry later in the evening, eat a light, healthy snack.
- Make sure that the bedroom is pleasant, quiet, dark, ventilated and at a comfortably cool temperature. Mattress and pillows should be comfortable – although beds are highly personal, a good quality pocket-sprung mattress and a frame with slats is usually a good compromise. Consider using blackout curtains, eye shades, ear plugs, humidifiers or other devices that can make the bedroom more relaxing.
- Limit exposure to bright light in the evenings. If possible, remove electronic devices, such as TVs, computers and smart phones from the bedroom. Lights from cell phone, TV screens and lamps, can make it difficult to fall asleep, so dim lights where feasible and avoid contact with any screen for at least 30 minutes.
- Completing a two-week sleep diary can help you understand how your routines affect your sleep