Sleep disturbance affects a large proportion of the Australian population, with a study finding that 57.5% of participants reported at least 1-4 poor nights of sleep every week! Paying attention to sleep hygiene is one of the most straightforward ways that you can set yourself up for better sleep- for both getting to sleep and staying asleep. The average adult needs between 7 and 9 hours of quality sleep every night and Australian research has shown that we aren’t getting anywhere near as much as what we should be. As we all live busy lives and things can easily get in the way of getting a good night’s rest, it is important to try to stick to a routine as much as possible. This is commonly being referred to as sleep hygiene and here we are going to go through our most commonly prescribed sleep tips and tricks.
Sleep hygiene means having both a bedroom environment and daily routines that promote
consistent, uninterrupted sleep. Obtaining healthy, good quality sleep is important for both physical and mental health, improving productivity and overall quality of life. As Osteopaths we regularly ask about quality and positions of sleep as it can significantly affect postures, headaches and pain levels.
Optimizing your sleep habits and schedule, pre-bed routine, and daily routines is part of creating habits that make up your “sleep hygiene” to make quality sleep feel more natural for your body. It’s important to remember that these routines aren’t set in stone, and should be adaptable to a degree as for some people such as shift workers getting to bed at the same time every night is impossible. So it is advised to choose and create habits that fit your lifestyle to get the best sleep possible.
Sleep Hygiene Tips
Having a set schedule normalizes sleep as an essential part of your day and gets your brain and body accustomed to getting the full amount of sleep that you need.
- Have a set wake up time: Regardless of whether it’s a weekday or weekend, try to wake up at the same time (or within an hour of your usual wake time) since a fluctuating schedule keeps you from getting into a rhythm of consistent sleep.
- Make sleep a priority: It might be tempting to go to bed that bit later to finish that Netflix episode but it’s vital to treat sleep as a priority. Calculate a target bedtime based on your fixed wake-up time and do your best to be ready for bed around that time each night.
- Make changes to your sleep gradually: If you want to shift your sleep times, don’t try to do it all at once. Instead, make small changes by an hour or two at a time so that you can get adjusted and settle into a new schedule.
- Decrease your naps: Naps can be a handy way to regain energy during the day, but they can throw off sleep at night. To avoid this, try to keep naps to no more than 15-20 minutes and in the early afternoon.
How you prepare for bed can determine how easily you’ll be able to fall asleep.
- Have a consistent routine: Follow the same steps each night so that your brain understands the pattern and knows its time to wind down.
- Aim for 30 minutes for winding down: Take advantage of whatever puts you in a state of calm such as soft music, light stretching, reading, and/or relaxation exercises.
- Try a herbal tea. Stay away from caffeinated drinks from the afternoon. Opt for herbal options that can help you calm down such as Chamomile, Lavender and lemon balm. Brands such as T2 and Pukha have amazing blends of different combinations that are specifically designed to help you sleep which are a great place to start.
- Consider supplements such as Magnesium: Magnesium helps to regulate your own melatonin levels as well as over 300 processes in the body. Sleep specific magnesium supplements are amazing to help you fall and stay asleep. Our favourite is from Bioceuticals and is called “Ultra Muscle Ease Night” which also contains lactium and sour cherry and has been heavily researched in its positive effects in sleep.
- Make sure it’s the right temperature. For this one everyone’s different so it is important to test and try what works for you. Research shows that the majority of people sleep better coming from a warm environment into a cool one. This can be easily achieved from having a hot shower or bath before bed and then going into a cooler room.
- Lower your lights: Try to keep away from bright lights because they can hinder the production of melatonin, which is our hormone that the body creates to facilitate sleep.
- Reduce your electronic use: Build in a 30-60 minute pre-bed time that is device-free. Many electronics have functions that you can pre-set to have no notifications or become grayscale at a certain time to help you with this.
- Find a relaxation method that works for you. Try Meditation, mindfulness, paced breathing, reading a book and other relaxation techniques can put you in the right mindset for bed.
- Try not to toss and turn: It helps to have a healthy mental connection between being in bed and actually being asleep. For that reason, if after 20 minutes you haven’t gotten to sleep, get up and stretch, read, or do something else calming in low light before trying to fall asleep again.
Tips for during the day!
It’s not just bedtime habits that play a part in getting good sleep. Incorporating positive routines during the day can support your circadian rhythm and limit sleep disruptions.
- Get some sunshine: Light, especially sunlight, is one of the key drivers of circadian rhythms that can encourage quality sleep.
- Be physically active: Regular exercise can make it easier to sleep at night as well as many other amazing health benefits.
- Don’t smoke or reduce smoking: Nicotine stimulates the body in ways that disrupt sleep.
- Reduce alcohol consumption: Alcohol may make it easier to fall asleep, but the effect wears off, disrupting sleep later in the night. As a result, it’s best to moderate alcohol consumption and avoid it later in the evening.
- Cut down on caffeine: Caffeine works to stimulate the body and can affect you when you are trying to slow down later in the day. It is important to remember that even black tea contains caffeine so you may want to try a herbal option instead.
- Eat dinner earlier: Eating dinner late, especially if it’s a big, heavy, or spicy meal, can mean you’re still digesting when it’s time for bed. In general, any food or snacks before bed should be on the lighter side.
- Keep your bedroom your sleep space: To build a link in your mind between sleep and being in bed, it’s best not to use your bedroom for work or watching television.
Make your bedroom your tranquil space
One of the easiest ways to create a calming space is making a few changes to your bedroom. Normally this is a once off but the benefits will be ongoing.
- Making sure you have a good quality and comfortable pillow and mattress (for more information see our previous blogs on finding the perfect pillow): this makes sure you are being well supported posturally and are less likely to wake in the middle of the night with aches and pains.
- Treat yourself to some nice bedding: Your sheets are the first thing you touch when getting into bed so this is a nice way to make sure it feels luxurious.
- Find the perfect temperature: Fine-tune your bedroom temperature to suit your preferences (preferably on the cooler side).
- Decrease light: Use blockout curtains or try an eye mask to prevent light from interrupting your sleep.
- Decrease noise stimulation: Ear plugs can stop noise from keeping you awake, and if you don’t find them comfortable, you can try a white noise machine or even a fan to drown out sounds.
- Try calming scents: Scents such as lavender are well known to help relax the body. These are useful in the form of diffusers and linen sprays, such as the Lush Twilight Body and Pillow Spray.
This list can be quite overwhelming and some of you may be thinking how on earth am I going to do all that?! It is important to remember that everyone is different and some of you may be doing a lot of this already. Aim to work on 1-2 of these a week until it becomes a habit, then slowly work on adding in a few more until you feel that you are sleeping better. Remember consistency is key when trying to form a new habit!