7 ways to practice good sleep hygiene

By Jessah Robinson Adv Dip (Nutritional Medicine)

Sleep hygiene refers to a number of practises or habits that enhance sleep quality and daytime alertness. When it comes to overall health, a good night’s sleep is just as essential as following a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Unsatisfactory sleep is linked to decreased immunity, weight gain, low energy, poor memory, trouble concentrating and low mood. On the other hand, quality sleep regulates appetite and increases energy for workouts to ensure a healthier you.

1. Get some sunlight during the day

While sunlight is essential for getting enough vitamin D, it also helps to keep a healthy circadian rhythm. Our circadian rhythm acts as an internal time-keeping clock which essentially tells your body when to wake up and when to fall asleep. A research study done on people with insomnia, showed that bright light exposure improved sleep quality and quantity. It also reduced the time it took to fall asleep by 83%. If you work inside, go eat your lunch in the park during your break, or establish a walking routine during the day.

2. Set consistent sleep patterns

Try to get into the habit of falling asleep and waking up at consistent times. It is recommended to get a minimum of 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night, so ideally you should look at going to bed between 10 and 11pm each night. Being consistent with your sleep and waking times helps to aid long-term sleep quality. Establishing a regular sleep/wake cycle will enforce good habits, and after several weeks you may not even need an alarm. With time, you should be able to go to bed with ease and wake up feeling refreshed.

3. Avoid alcohol

While you may initially think that a night cap before bed can aid sleep, this is actually not the case. Drinking alcohol at night can negatively impact your sleep and hormones. Alcohol is known to cause or increase the symptoms of sleep apnoea, snoring and disrupted sleep patterns. So rather than going for that glass of wine before bed, you’d be better off opting for a chamomile tea to induce sleep. Tyrosine is an amino acid that stimulates the reward system of the brain and can reduce cravings for alcohol and addictive foods.

4. Fengshui your bedroom

A good fengshui bedroom is one that exudes positive energy. Good lighting, adequate air flow, soothing colour ranges, happy art, and no electronics help create positive energy. Electronic devices such as TVs or computers can bring work stress into the bedroom and also can get in the way of your relationship with your significant other. Invest in a salt lamp or some positive art, and instead of retreating to bed with your phone read a book or listen to some relaxing music.

5. Eat dinner at a reasonable hour

Late-night eating can negatively impact both sleep quality and the natural release of melatonin. Researchers discovered that compared to eating earlier in the day, eating later can increase weight, insulin and cholesterol levels, and negatively affect fat metabolism. The types of food consumed at night also make a big difference. If you are eating later at night, it’s best to eat foods high in tryptophan such as nuts, seeds, chicken, turkey, lentils and eggs. Tryptophan is the precursor to the hormones serotonin and melatonin, which aid sleep. Whereas, foods and beverages high in sugar and caffeine are detrimental to sleep quality.

6. Have a relaxing bath or shower

Studies have shown that having a relaxing bath or shower can improve overall sleep quality and help people, particularly older adults fall asleep faster. One study indicated that having a hot bath 90 minutes before bed improved sleep quality and helped people get more deep sleep. Try adding some magnesium salts while running your bath and play some relaxing music to maximise relaxation.

7. Avoid exercise at night

As previously stated, regular exercise is one of the three essential components needed for good health. It can improve all aspects of sleep and has been used to reduce symptoms of insomnia. Although daily exercise is needed for a good night’s sleep, exercising too late in the day can potentially cause sleep problems. This is because exercise stimulates the release of adrenaline which boosts energy and can make it difficult to wind down of an evening. You may benefit from taking magnesium, a powerful mineral that relieves sleeplessness and reduces restless sleep.