What is sleep hygiene and why do I need it?

15 Apr 2016

Sleep hygiene is a term used to describe the habits and practices that are conducive to sleeping well on a regular basis. We all know that getting good sleep is beneficial for overall health and wellbeing. Here’s what you should do nightly to ensure you get optimal health benefits from your sleep.

Follow your body’s natural rhythms. Get up at the same time every day and soon your body will adjust to feeling tired at the same time every night. Try to avoid lie-ins on the weekend, as tempting as they might be! This will only harm the sleep routine that you’ve created on weekdays.

Turn off screens an hour before bedtime. Increased stimulation will keep your brain active, rather than giving it a chance to unwind. Unplug and help your brain get ready for bed.

Consider a nightly bed-time ritual. Why do bedtime routines stop after childhood? A typical bedtime routine of brushing teeth, having a warm bath and drinking a glass or water or milk can be helpful for adults too.

Make sure your room is dark and cool. A well-lit warm room will interfere with your body’s circadian rhythms. A dark, cool room will tell your brain that it’s time for sleep. This is particularly important for shift workers who sleep during the day – ensure you’ve got heavy block-out blinds.

Avoid drugs – cigarettes, alcohol and sleeping pills can affect a good sleep routine, interrupting sleep patterns even though you may be able to fall asleep.

Avoid caffeinated drinks (like tea, coffee, cola or chocolate) close to bedtime. Instead, have a warm, milky drink, since milk contains a sleep-enhancing amino acid.

If you have tried and failed to improve your sleep, you may like to consider professional help. See your doctor for information and referral.