What Is Sleep Hygiene?
Sleep hygiene is a term used to describe habits and the environment you create that will allow you to fall asleep, stay asleep and have a better quality of sleep.. Good sleep hygiene works with the bodies internal ‘clock’, known as our circadian rhythm, and removes variables which may disturb this cycle. Sleep hygiene is an important first step toward better sleep and can often make other sleep aids, such as specific natural nutrients or herbs, to work more effectively. Good sleep hygiene lays the foundation for a great night’s sleep!
5 Tips To Improve Your Sleep
1. Avoid Blue-light Exposure
Blue light exposure supresses our brains melatonin (sleep hormone) release at night as it causes the brain to think it’s still daytime. Blue light exposure at night is not only detrimental to our sleep but has also been linked to some types of cancer, diabetes, heart disease and obesity. One Harvard study linked blue light exposure to diabetes and obesity due to its influence on blood sugar and leptin levels, a hormone which leaves us feeling full after a meal.
Tips to avoid blue light exposure:
- Avoid using mobile phones, TV’s, laptop/ computers and energy efficient lighting at night or at least 2-hours before bed time.
- If you use your mobile phone or computer, using the ‘night shift’ setting (Macs and iPhones) or the F.lux app (Windows and Samsung) and turning the screen brightness down low is a good way of minimising the blue light.
- Blue light blocking glasses can be used to stop blue light waves from entering your eyes. These are more effective then device apps as they effectively block blue light from all sources… Plus they look pretty stylish too! These can be purchased from places like here
2. Sunshine & Exercise During the Day
Our circadian rhythm can also anchored at the beginning of the day by being exposured to bright light, especially sunlight in the morning or early afternoon. Sunlight is magnitudes brighter than internal artificial light and gives the brain important queues that it is daytime. The brightness of sunlight contrasts significantly with nighttime lighting giving the brain a better opportunity to distinguish day from night. So having exposure to sunlight which includes blue light during the day helps to regulate our sleep cycle, our circadian circle, and prepare our body and brain for sleep at night. Many research studies have also shown that exercise supports our circadian rhythm and sleep cycles.
Tips for Sunlight exposure and exercise during the day:
- Try to spend some time outside during the day exposed to natural light (be mindful of UV exposure in our Australian summers).
- Waking up to natural sun light in the morning can also help to re-set our circadian rhythm.
- Exercise for 20-30 minutes a day – a walk outside is perfect!
3. Manage your Stress Levels
When we’re stressed all day long, our body goes into a ‘fight or flight’ response activated by our sympathetic nervous system. When this is activated, our bodies find it difficult to switch into a ‘rest and digest’ state – effecting our ability to fall asleep.
Tips for dealing with stress:
- Meditation or mindfulness can be done at anytime of the day but may be useful at the end of the day to help ‘switch off’. These tools can also be used at the start of the day to switch our mind frame to one more focused and resilient to stress.
- Yoga can be a great tool for dealing with stress, especially when paired with deep breathing exercises.
- Our Mind Power Course which can be completed online or one-on-one in clinic with Maria Harpas.
4. Consume some Carbohydrates at Night
Melatonin is produced in our brain, along with serotonin, which both help to regulate our sleep onset. A co-factor, or building block, for these hormones is an amino acid called tryptophan found in carbohydrate-rich sources. Eating a meal with higher carbs in the evening has been found to reduce sleep onset when eaten a few hours before bed. If you’re eating a relatively low-carb diet, or avoid carbs at night, try eating some carbohydrates before bed. It’s best to avoid eating this meal with protein as the extra amino acids can decrease tryptophan uptake.
5. General Suggestions
- Try to wake up and go to bed at the same time each morning/ night to set a strong sleep/wake cycle.
- Try to not engage in mentally stimulating activities close to bed time. Instead, use the last hour or two before bed for ‘me-time’, allowing yourself to rest and unwind.
- Avoid caffeinated drinks and food close to bed time. This includes coffee, tea, cola or chocolate. Caffeine is linked to heightened stress/ anxiety and should not be consumed after 12-2pm in those with sleep issues. Slow metabolisers of caffeine should consider switching to decaf or kicking coffee all together!
- Take a warm bath before bed as the ‘cool-down’ effect after a bath can help us fall asleep.
- Make sure your sleeping environment is quiet and cool in temperature.
- Avoid alcohol for a least 4-6 hours before bed. Many people believe alcohol is relaxing but it interrupts the quality of our sleep.
- Avoid clock-watching and negative thoughts about falling asleep. Meditation and mindfulness can help with this.
- Eat a healthy and balanced diet.
- Avoid any light sources in the bedroom – our sleeping space should be 100% dark.
- Avoid afternoon naps