Along with ‘wellness’, ‘clean living’ and ‘peganism’, another wellbeing buzzword has emerged in the last couple of years: ‘sleep hygiene’. However, unlike the more Goop-y practices out there, practising good sleep hygiene really is vital for your physical and mental health.
Practising ‘good sleep hygiene’ means developing habits or a routine that causes you to sleep better and more regularly. A good night’s sleep is the basis of all good health, as it allows your cells to regenerate, aids your physical fitness and restores your mental faculties to leave you more sharp, productive and emotionally balanced for the coming day. Insufficient sleep is linked to all kinds of health problems, including depression and even a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.
If you struggle to find the time to get enough sleep or you are well accustomed to watching the hours tick away night after night, this might all sound easier said than done. Our straight-forward guide breaks it down to just 5 steps:
- Create a consistent sleep schedule that lets you get all the rest you need, usually between 7-9 hours. Rather than the standard 8 hours, some people benefit more from sleeping in 1 ½ increments - i.e. the length of a full REM (rapid eye movement) sleep cycle – such as sleeping for a 7 ½ hour period (5 cycles) or 9 hour period (6 cycles). Be strict over your bedtime and wake-up time for a few days until it becomes second nature and find what works best to be the most invigorated you.
- Reduce ‘blue light’ - light from screens or LED lights - an hour or two before bed. Blue light delays the release of melatonin to induce sleep, thus raising alertness and resetting your body’s internal clock, or ‘circadian rhythm’. This keeps your body and mind from winding down and getting sufficient REM sleep. Try going ‘offline’ entirely or by switching devices to Night Mode/Shift.
- Skip the tipple - it’s easy to assume that alcohol sends you off into a deep sleep, but in fact just one glass of wine keeps you from spending enough time in restorative REM sleep. This makes your sleep lighter and shorter, leaving you even sleepier in the morning.
- Try something simple and relaxing as part of your wind-down ritual. Perhaps a skin-care routine, a quick meditation or just a few pages of a good book! This is especially important if you are currently spending a lot of time at home or in isolation, as it gives your mind a clear habitual cue to settle down for sleep when your usual relaxation/busy boundaries are blurred.
- Make exercise part of your daily routine. Exercise helps regulate your body’s circadian rhythm and lowers stress hormones, decreasing alertness to allow the body to unwind to fall asleep easily. You don’t need to pump iron from dawn to dusk - just a morning walk or a game of football in the garden will help to set you up for a restorative night’s rest.