Most of us have heard the common fact that 1/3 of our lives are spent in bed. From a health perspective, sleep is a fundamental restorative practice that enables growth, repair and formation of new cells and matter within the body, and thus compromising on this area of our lives tends to place pressure on our bodies and minds. It’s estimated that most people throughout their lifetime will experience a degree of insomnia at some point, which is the inability to sleep or a poor quality of sleep arising from several issues such as location, temperature, outside factors and emotional stresses. The concept of sleep ‘hygiene’ may seem ludicrous to some, but it is imperative to consider all of the factors you experience on a daily basis and the summative effect this may have on your time in bed. Below, we’ve got some great tips to improve your sleep hygiene and get towards your optimal amount of sleep
1) Keep a diary
If you find you’re having trouble with your sleep, it can be important to note the time, quality and restfulness qualities of your sleep on waking to establish links and enhance your self-monitoring of your time in bed. Through a couple of weeks of noting, one can establish quite accurately a set of behaviours or link together outside influences which affect your sleep quality, and allow emphasis on breeding environments conducive to your best nights sleep.
2) Limit mobile phone/device use
Although not widely taught in schools, specialised cells in the eye called photopigments are highly sensitive to light stimuli from the outside world. The detection of light as a chemical stimulus induces changes in hormonal control and may even influence sleep/wake cycles. It is well known that light induces wakefulness in humans through instinctual hormonal mechanisms, and therefore the light from mobile phone screens may be influencing your bodies ability to go to sleep. One can experience this effect when sleeping in a room with poor blinds or curtains, as historically humans ordered their day and living around cycles of the sun and moon. To enhance your sleep, try to limit mobile phone/bright light exposure to around an hour before your bedtime.
Physical activity and exercise during the day has a great effect in regulating hormone levels and inducing changes in the amount of hormones such as serotonin, melatonin and leptin, all of which have roles in inducing sleep/wake cycles. The NHS recommends individuals perform at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week, but benefits for sleep control and improvement can be seen with even modest amounts of exercise.
4) Optimise your environment
Consider changing your bedroom environment – getting more ambient lighting of natural colour, painting the walls to more soothing colours and even finding your optimal pillow can all help your sleep quality. A crucial factor is ensuring the correct temperature of your bedroom, as this can drastically affect your comfort and subjective experience which is conducive to your best sleep. Where possible, limiting television and media use to only daytime rooms can be a great change to improve the association between your bedroom and the desire to sleep. Take note of your average evening routine and try to determine if you can establish a regular, relaxing routine to enhance the quality of your sleep.