By Ellie Guinness
Firstly, what is sleep hygiene?
Sleep hygiene is a variety of different practices and habits that are necessary to have good nighttime sleep quality and full daytime alertness, according to The National Sleep Foundation. There are many medications which are used to treat insomnia, but these tend to be only effective in the short-term and unsustainable in the the long-term. For long-term solutions to sleep difficulties, building good sleep hygiene through lifestyle changes can be greatly beneficial.
Sleep Hygiene Tips:
1. Caffeine & Food
Avoid caffeine after midday. Caffeine enters the bloodstream through the stomach and small intestine and has a stimulating effect for up to several hours, the actual length of time will depend on your unique metabolism, tolerance and other factors. This is a very long time and even though you may not notice its effects, it will significantly decrease the quality of your sleep and prevent you from entering into deep or REM sleep.
Have an early dinner and avoid foods that can be disruptive to sleep near bed time such as fatty, rich meals, fried and spicy food and high sugar foods. These foods can cause heartburn while you are lying down, and a new study published last week in the Journal of the American Heart Association reveals a link between sleep deprivation and high-calorie food cravings, particularly in women. Blame your late night sugar cravings on lack of sleep, which in-turn produces more poor sleep!
Exercise during day is a great way to promote good quality sleep. Create a habit to do at least 10 minutes of aerobic exercise every day, such as walking or cycling, which is proven to improve sleep.
3. Set a bedtime and create a relaxing bedtime routine
One of the best ways to train your body to sleep well is to create a regular bedtime and waking time, even on weekends! Your body will have something to work from and get into a rhythm of producing melatonin at your bedtime allowing you to fall asleep quickly. Also, a regular bedtime routine can relax your body and signal to your brain that you are getting ready for bed. This may include taking a bath, reading, listening to music, or journalling. Avoid your electronic devises, including televison as well as emotionally charged conversations close to bedtime. Stimulating and/or upsetting conversations are best had during the day or in the morning. Write down what you need to discuss or who you need to call on a notepad and leave it until the morning.
When it comes to alcohol, moderation is key. Although small amount of alcohol may help you fall asleep, numerous studies have established that alcohol is not an effective sleep aid and actually disrupts your sleep later in the night. If you find yourself suddenly waking up during the night and you tend to have a drink shortly before going to bed, the two are most likely related. Try restricting your intake to half a glass of wine or beer, no later than 3 hours before bed.