“Sleep is an investment in the energy you need to be effective tomorrow.” –Tom Roth
As someone living with a chronic sleep condition, I thought that I would share how I achieve good sleep hygiene. You might find you have already incorporated basic sleep hygiene into your everyday life. But I have learned you can always do more to improve your quality of sleep. Here are a few ways I have found to achieve good sleep hygiene.
1. Set a consistent sleep schedule.
It’s very easy, especially in lockdown and while being furloughed to treat every day like it is the weekend and throw out all structure and routine. However, this is not good for our bodies! Having roughly the same bedtime and wake up time helps set your circadian rhythm — your body clock. After a few weeks of sticking to a routine, your body will recognize when to wake up and when to sleep, improving your sleep efficiency and quality of sleep.
Life does get in the way sometimes, but I try my best to stick to a routine of an 11:00 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. bedtime, and a wake-up time of 7:30 a.m. – 8:00 a.m. My advice: Even after a late night, do not sleep in for longer in the morning. Stick to your wake up time, and your nighttime sleep that follows will be much more restorative.
2. Establish a relaxing bedtime routine.
Sticking to a regular calming nightly routine helps your body recognize that it is time for bed. Spend roughly 15 to 30 minutes before bed focusing on yourself, or even longer if you’ve had a particularly stressful day. I have found that simple tasks such as reading a chapter of my book, spraying my pillow with essential oils or even just putting my favorite body lotion on is enough to relax my mind and body. On weekends I treat myself to a face-mask, because who doesn’t love one of those?
At the start of 2020, I realized I hated certain aspects of my room and my bed, so much that it was affecting how well I slept and had a direct impact on my mood when I woke up. Please ask yourself, do you take issue with your bed? Does your bedroom make you moody? Is your bed uncomfortable?
If you are answering yes to these questions, you need to make some changes and treat yourself. I removed all the items in my room that created a negative vibe. I ordered myself a new bed and a new mattress, plus all the bedding that goes with it.
This is not something you should rush. I must have gone to nearly every homeware shop in my area, not to mention the hours/days spent researching online. I wanted to get it right. I have multiple allergies, so all my bedding needs to be hypoallergenic; this is something you should also consider if you have allergies, or feel your sleep is disturbed because of said allergies.
4. Your room needs to promote sleepiness.
I have read that your bedroom needs to be cool and dark. I often sleep with a fan on, essentially killing two birds with one stone — I am creating a cool room to sleep in and I am able to drift off to the soft white noise the fan creates. Lighting also impacts your sleep, so when it gets dark I try to avoid overexposing myself to bright light. I will either dim the main lights or switch my lamp on that sits in the corner of my room. These are both on timers so they switch off automatically at my usual bedtime.
NB: Getting enough natural light in the day helps keep your circadian rhythm on a good sleep-wake cycle.
5. Take a nap.
I can’t avoid taking naps, they are another form of medication for me. I used to take 2 to 3-hour long naps that were often unrefreshing and made me feel worse upon waking. Recently I have found that limiting my nap to 30 minutes not only boosts my mood but does not interfere with my nighttime sleep. This might not work for you, but it significantly improves my afternoons and evenings.
6. Exercise regularly.
This does not have to be anything extreme, something as simple as a 20-minute dog walk is perfect, or a 30-minute workout video. Exercise helps promote deep sleep. It is also the perfect opportunity to expose yourself to more natural light.
Be kind to yourself, and treat yourself to better sleep!