A poor night’s sleep can impact our emotional wellbeing as well as leave us feeling physically tired. Sleep Hygiene is a collection of helpful behaviours that can help us achieve a better quality of sleep. Most adults need approx. 7 hours of sleep per night, young babies and elderly people often need less sleep.
Below are some helpful dos and don’ts:
- Don’t nap during the day – this confuses our body clock.
- Cut down on the caffeine – we all have different tolerance levels of caffeine so it’s important to listen to your body and ensure you stop drinking caffeinated drinks well before bedtime.
- Alcohol is often used to promote sleep, however, our bodies have to work harder to process the alcohol in our system meaning that we don’t get the same quality of sleep, and will often wake up tired.
- Vigorous exercise in the morning or afternoon promotes better sleep at night, alternatively more gentle exercise such as yoga can be helpful in the evenings before bedtime
- Try to avoid eating a heavy meal before bedtime – similar to alcohol, our bodies have to work hard to digest and process the food which leads to a more disturbed sleep
- Get outside! Natural light helps our bodies know when to sleep and when to wake up.
- Have a bedtime routine – routines help our mind prepare, and by having a regular routine we are training ourselves to wind down before bed.
- Don’t watch TV in bed – try and keep your bedroom for sleeping in. If you want to watch TV do so in another room.
Waking during the night is a normal part of sleep – some people can become anxious when they wake during the night which in turn makes it more difficult to drift back off to sleep. If you notice yourself waking during the night and struggling to get back to sleep, try keeping a notepad and pen beside your bed, and note down any thoughts that are worrying you. In doing so, we are acknowledging that this matter is important to us, but that now isn’t an appropriate time to address it and we can look at it in the morning.
If you are still awake after 30 minutes, get up and move to another room – lying in bed will only build anxiety. Try reading a book, or listening to some relaxing music – but make sure it’s nothing too stimulating. Stay warm and when you feel yourself getting tired again, go back to bed.
It’s important that our bedrooms are a relaxing space that we can switch off in. Think of your bedroom at the moment – what things are in there (such as ironing, children’s toys) that could be moved to make it a more welcoming space?
Action Point: Bedroom Inventory
- Using the inventory below, check out what improvements you could make to your bedroom to help promote better sleep:
- Make sure the room is at a comfortable temperature – it shouldn’t be too warm, or too cold
- Are there any noises that regularly disturb you in the room (i.e. ticking clock, road-noise, neighbours moving about) if so, consider using earplugs
- Make sure you have suitable curtains that keep streetlights and the early morning sunlight out
- Keep your alarm clock out of view (possibly under the bed). All too often people wake during the night and end up clock watching
- Is the bedding comfortable, do you need to think about buying a new mattress and/ or pillows?
Mindfulness and Sleep
Many find practising mindfulness can help them relax and get a more restful sleep. There are lots of apps, and books that explain mindfulness in more detail but below are some exercises that can help when it comes to sleep.
Make sure you have privacy and are sitting somewhere comfortable. It can be helpful to wear loose-fitting clothes.
- Place your hands gently on your belly button, breath in slowly through your nose counting to 5– notice your stomach and lungs
becoming filled with air
- Hold for 2 seconds
- Breath out through your mouth counting to 4 – notice the air being pushed out of your body
- Repeat 5 times
Muscle Relaxation Exercise
You can do this exercise either sitting or lying down – whichever feels more comfortable for you. Some people like to play relaxing music in the background. Start from the bottom of your body and work up to the top of your head, repeating each area three or four times before moving on to the next step.
- Clench your toes, and relax
- Point your toes towards the ceiling, and relax
- Clench your calves by pushing your feet into the floor, and relax
- Tense your thighs, and relax
- Clench your fists, and relax them
- Pull your tummy muscles in towards your back, and relax
- Push your shoulders back, and relax them back to their natural resting place
- Squeeze your eyes closed tight, and relax
Repeat exercise 2-3 times.
- The Sleep Council
- Sleep Scotland
- MIND Guide to relaxation