Sleep Hygiene: What It Is and Why It’s Important

Sleep Hygiene: What It Is and Why It’s Important

We’ve all been there: whether it be studying for an exam, a night out with friends or bingeing a whole series on Netflix, staying up all night can be fun, maybe even necessary, but not getting enough sleep regularly can have larger repercussions than just feeling tired the next day - especially if you make it a habit. 

What is sleep hygiene?

Sleep hygiene is a term used for good sleep habits. On average, adults should be getting between seven and nine hours of sleep a night consistently. If you are struggling to get the recommended amount of sleep, stay asleep throughout the night, or often feel sleepy in the day, you may have poor sleep hygiene. Don’t panic though, there are plenty of ways to improve your sleep habits with simple alterations to your routine.  

Why is sleep important?

Sleep is an essential function of the body, allowing your body and mind to recharge after being awake and active all day. Getting a sufficient amount of sleep on a regular basis is key to boosting physical and mental health as well as overall quality of life. 

Sleep affects almost every facet of the body: the brain, heart, and immune system. Essential for the brain to function, not getting enough sleep can hinder the ability to concentrate, think clearly, and process memories, leaving you feeling foggy and fatigued. 

A boosted immune system is another benefit of ample sleep which means a lowered likelihood of falling ill.  Ensuring you get the right amount of sleep also contributes to a lower risk of heart disease, reduced stress, the ability to maintain a healthy weight, and improved mood and mental health. So much depends on getting enough sleep - it is crucial for a healthy lifestyle.

How can I improve my sleep habits?  

1. Keep a Consistent Schedule 

Keeping a regular bedtime and wake up time every day (even on the weekends) can improve your sleep as fluctuating times can impede the ability to get into a rhythm of regular sleep cycles.    

2. Set a Comfortable Environment 

Make sure that your bedroom is the right temperature for you (not too hot, not too cold) and that there’s low light in the room as bright lights will trick your body into thinking it’s not bedtime. 

3. Get in a Bedtime Routine 

A consistent routine makes it easier to fall asleep and doing the same things before bed every night such as brushing your teeth or having a shower can reinforce in your mind that it’s time to sleep. 

4. No Electronic Devices

There’s evidence that the blue light from electronic devices interferes with the ability to fall asleep by decreasing the production of melatonin, the hormone the body produces to induce sleep. So stop the bedtime scroll!

5. Limit caffeine & alcohol 

As a stimulant, caffeine will make it harder to fall asleep, and even though alcohol may make it easier to fall asleep initially, once the effect wears off, it actually disrupts your sleep later in the night. It’s best just to cut out caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime to avoid their effects on sleep. 

6. Exercise 

Regularly exercising or being active throughout the day can help improve daytime sleepiness and make it easier to fall asleep. 

The concept of sleep hygiene, making sure your bedtime environment and habits are optimised for the best quality sleep, is not a one size fits all. Different things will work for different people, but these are some universally good habits to help you improve sleep. Taking care of your health and wellbeing means ensuring you get enough restful and rejuvenating sleep.

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