Are You Practicing Sleep Hygiene?
“Poor sleep patterns impact motivation, concentration, focus, mood and overall cognitive performance.”
Sleep is important (tell me something I didn’t know). Poor sleep patterns impact motivation, concentration, focus, mood and overall cognitive performance. It leaves you clutching the duvet come morning time and hanging all day. Slow to react, reaching for the caffeine, disorganized, disordered and at risk of more health issues than our rested friends. It also puts you at a higher risk of developing mental health issues such as depression and bipolar disorder.
Sleep specialists the world over have been banging on about ‘circadian rhythm’ for years now but what is it really? It’s basically your 24-hour internal clock that runs in the background of your brain and cycles between sleepiness and alertness at regular intervals throughout the day. It’s also known as your sleep / wake cycle.
A recent study in the UK tracked the circadian rhythm of over 90,000 adults to see the impact their daily rhythms had on their mental health. They found that participants with more disrupted sleep-wake cycles (i.e. they were less active during the day and more active at night) were at greater risk for developing mental health issues than those who were active during the day and slept soundly through the night. In short not only is a good night’s sleep important, but having a regular rhythm of being active in daylight and inactive in darkness over time is important for mental well-being too.
One great place to start is to unleash your inner hygienist and practice good hygiene. Sleep hygiene that is. And here are our 5 top tips for the cleanest sleep you’ll ever have:
Avoid Stimulants that Interfere with Sleep
As any coffee lover knows, caffeine is a stimulant that can keep you awake. So avoid caffeine (found in coffee, tea, chocolate, cola, and some pain relievers - all the fun stuff) for four to six hours before bedtime. Similarly, smokers should ditch the fags too close to bedtime. Although booze may help bring on sleep, after a few hours it acts as a stimulant, increasing the number of awakenings and generally decreasing the quality of sleep later in the night. It is therefore best to limit alcohol consumption to one to two drinks per day, or less, and to avoid drinking within three hours of bedtime.
Turn Your Bedroom into a Sleep-Inducing Slumber Pad
A quiet, dark, and cool environment promotes a sound slumber. Why do you think bats congregate in caves for their daytime sleep? To get this lower the volume of outside noise with earplugs or a "white noise" appliance. Use heavy curtains, blackout shades, or an eye mask to block light, a powerful cue that tells the brain that it's time to wake up. Keep the temperature comfortably cool—between 60 and 75°F—and the room well ventilated. And make sure your bedroom is equipped with a comfortable mattress and pillows. (Remember that most mattresses wear out after ten years.)
Also, if a pet regularly wakes you during the night, you may want to consider keeping it out of your bedroom. It may help to limit your bedroom activities to sleep and sex only. Keeping computers, TVs, and work materials out of the room will strengthen the mental association between your bedroom and sleep.
Establish a Soothing Pre-Sleep Routine
Ease the transition from wake time to sleep time with a period of relaxing activities an hour or so before bed. Take a bath (the rise, then fall in body temperature promotes drowsiness), read a book, watch television, or practice relaxation exercises. Avoid stressful, stimulating activities—doing work, discussing emotional issues. Physically and psychologically stressful activities can cause the body to secrete the stress hormone cortisol, which is associated with increasing alertness. If you tend to take your problems to bed, try writing them down—and then putting them aside.
Go to Sleep Only When You’re Truly Tired
Struggling to fall asleep just leads to frustration. If you’re not asleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed, go to another room, and do something relaxing, like reading or listening to music until you are tired enough to sleep.
Use Light to Your Advantage
Natural light keeps your internal clock on a healthy sleep-wake cycle. So let in the light first thing in the morning and get out of the office for a sun break during the day.
About The Author
Siobhan is a Trainee Psychotherapist, Mental Health Advocate and Editor of crakd. She’s also embroiled in an intense love affair with eclectic interiors and colourful food.
Follow Siobhan on Instagram @siobhan_scan