We all love a good, deep, uninterrupted sleep, but for a surprising chunk of Australians, they can’t seem to find it. Between 33-45% of adult Australians are getting inadequate sleep, either in length or in quality, and it’s occurring for a wide variety of reasons; weight issues, heartburn, bladder weakness, stimulant consumption and insomnia can all rob us of the zzz’s we need to function during the day.
But there’s hope – getting to destination dreamland could be easier with better sleep hygiene.
What is sleep hygiene?
Sleep hygiene might sound like making sure your mattress is free of bugs or your sheets are washed (please do this anyway), but it has nothing to do with cleanliness – it’s about you approach to sleep.
Sleep hygiene is the practice of habits that enable a good night’s sleep
Emphasize on the ‘practice’ - unless you’re aware of how recent changes have affected your ability to nod off, chances are you’ve been trying to sleep in the same way for years on end. The secret to success if being mindful and consistent when trying to change your behaviour.
How can I improve my sleep hygiene?
There are three areas we want to work on to get better sleep hygiene; your environment, your body, and your mind.
This is where you sleep – here’s how you can improve it:
- The darker the better – if there’s a lot of light where you sleep, you can try getting black-out curtains or sleeping masks to block out the light.
- Try to get cool – the optimal temperatures for sleeping are between 15 to 19C. This might mean getting air conditioning, a fan, or dehumidifier.
- Invest in a good mattress – a comfortable mattress can do wonders for sleep, and realistically pays for itself. A bad nights’ sleep can cause work performance issues, industrial accidents, sports injuries, or vehicular accidents.
This is the physical side of going to sleep – here’s how you can improve it:
- Eat sooner, sleep later – try to eat several hours before you go to bed. Heavy or spicy foods can keep you up by increasing your body temperature, making your stomach feel uncomfortable, or cause a late-night bathroom trip.
- Avoid stimulants – coffee, tea, and sugary foods or drinks should be avoided before bed.
- Get daily exercise – a tired body needs to sleep, and a great way to tire out your body is to break a sweat. However, you want to avoid exercising shortly before trying to sleep, as your body takes time to cool down from being primed for activity.
- Smart naps – don’t take naps that are longer than 30 minutes! Power naps can provide a quick reset, but longer rests can affect how tired you feel when you need to go to bed.
- Sleep when you feel the need to – when you feel tired at night, obey your body, and go to bed.
This is the mental side of sleep – here’s how you can improve it:
- Put away the devices – no more ‘just one more episode’. Like your body, your mind gets primed when it’s taking in information or entertainment. Make sure you can’t reach your devices when you go to bed, so you’re not tempted to take them up again.
- Write before bed – pen and paper writing can provide stress relief, especially for those who tend to ruminate when the lights go out. Try making this a regular exercise you do about an hour before going to bed.
- Don’t look at the time – looking at the clock can stress you out, especially if you start counting all the minutes you’re spending lying awake. Make sure you can’t see the time or access it easily.
Keep a track of your successes
It’s wise to keep a track of how your sleep hygiene is improving. Not only will this give you a reference point for practices that are working, you’ll have a better understanding of why you do the things you do, and how you can change them.
Better Health Vic – Sleep hygiene
Sleep Foundation – Sleep hygiene
All information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only. The information provided should not be relied upon as medical advice and does not supersede or replace a consultation with a suitably qualified medical practitioner. CBHS Corporate Health endeavours to provide independent and complete information, and content may include information regarding services, products and procedures not covered by CBHS Corporate Health Cover policies.