Sleep hygiene: A set of practices and habits to help optimise sleep.
Nearing the end of a hot summer, we can find tiredness creeping in. How has it been for you? Too hot? Too many mozzies? Too many late nights socialising with a few drinks, sleeps biggest disturber? When looking holistically at the causes of poor sleep, there are many aspects to look into, so it can take a few tries to get the right solution. Incorporating a set of sleep hygiene practices into your routine however, can make a big difference.
1. Black out your room and keep lights low
One of the contributors to disrupted sleep rhythms comes from the blue light exposure from our smart phones, tv’s and tablets. This
blue light interferes with the production of melatonin, our resting hormone. Try reducing ‘screen-time’ at least an hour before bed and make sure your room is as dark as possible.
2. Reduce caffeine and alcohol
Caffeine and alcohol can cause you to wake through the night, and can inhibit the deep and restful REM phase of sleep. Limit these to a minimum and avoid stimulating caffeinated beverages before bed. A glass of wine with dinner is unlikely to cause a problem, however if alcohol consumption is higher in frequency and amount, then try swapping alcoholic beverages for tasty and satisfying ‘mocktails’, or try gradually reducing your intake of alcohol.
3. Address digestion
When digestion is impaired, sleep can become a problem too. Those who experience heartburn and reflux can have symptoms worsen at night. More chronic digestive problems can result in imbalanced production of key hormones involved in mood and sleep, like serotonin, much of which is produced in the gut. If digestive issues are something you experience, it may be that a longer-term solution to sleep issues is tied up with supportive digestive behaviours. To start, aim to avoid heavy meals within 3 hours of sleep.
4. Keep bed for sleeping
Keep the TV, laptops and other screens out of the bedroom, and keep the bed for sleep and intimacy. If you’re struggling to sleep at night, hop out of bed and read a book in a chair instead until you feel sleepy again.
Diaphragmatic breathing can help soothe the mind after a stressful day. Focus on the breath and breathe slowly and deeply into your belly. Breathe in to a count of 7, hold for 2, release the breath to a count of 7, hold for 2, and repeat.