Sleep hygiene is an accumulative variation of different techniques and practices which all aid towards having necessary night-time sleep quality and full daytime alertness. Practicing good sleep hygiene is extremely beneficial for our bodies, both mentally and physically. In fact, good sleep hygiene can improve our overall quality of life. It is often that life gets in the way of having a good sleep routine, that may be due to nights out, shift work, busy schedules, and even binging those all-important TV shows! However, to fully function, enjoy, and benefit from our life events we need to be appropriately rested.
1. Do not have too much or too little sleep! The Sleep Foundation suggest that a teenager (14-17 years) should have on average 8-10 hours per night, whereas a young adult (18-25 years) and adult (26-52 years) should have on average 7-9 hours per night. Getting these sleep hours allow our body to be truly rested, but when we don’t achieve these hours we fall into ‘sleep debt’.
Sleep debt is often where we go wrong when trying to achieve good sleep hygiene.
2. Napping does not make up for inadequate night-time sleep. Some of us may have shorter sleep hours during the week to accommodate our busy schedules and therefore sleep in on the weekends to pay off our sleep debt balance. However, our accumulative balance by the weekend is often 5+ hours, catching up on these hours whilst achieving our daily recommended hours will have a domino effect on our Sunday night’s sleep. Which therefore puts us back into a poor sleep hygiene routine of trying to repay our sleep debts. A way to combat this is to repay our debt slowly. Going to bed even just 15 minutes earlier can benefit us and adds up eventually, plus it doesn’t impact on the next night’s sleep.
3. When we are awake a chemical called adenosine builds up in our blood. When we sleep, our body breaks it down. When we don’t get enough sleep our adenosine levels build up in our bloodstream which causes us to feel more desperate for sleep. This influences our reaction times, our concentration levels, and our mood!
So, how can we maximise our chances of achieving the all-important recommended hours of sleep a day?
Kate Blackford has a PhD in Quality of Working Life and is part of the Compliance team at ABP. Kate has experience of working long hours, unsociable shifts, and shift-work and therefore has written down her thoughts and advice on sleep-hygiene alongside working life.
Why getting good sleep is important
Getting good quality sleep is vital to our health and wellbeing. Sleep allows the body to repair and replenish itself and has a number of other benefits including:
Improved memory; Reduced inflammation; Sharpened attention; Helps maintain healthy weight; Lowers stress; Reduces symptoms of depression; Helps to keep you safe and alert.
So here are a few simple tips to help you get better sleep:
• Avoid stimulants for 3-6 hours before you go to bed – caffeine, alcohol and nicotine all help to keep the body awake, so cutting them out before bed helps your body relax and wind down
• Develop a bedtime routine – start an hour before bed doing something relaxing to switch off. Whatever you do to relax, make it a pre-sleep ritual so your body learns when it is time to switch off. This can help when we work shifts and are unable to have a set bedtime
• Take a warm bath before bed – the warm water lowers your body temperature which helps to trigger sleep
• Avoid looking at your mobile phone or computer for at least an hour before bed – the blue light they emit stimulates your brain and can keep you awake. It is also helpful to switch off from social media for one day a week as this has been shown to improve mood
• If you wake up in the night - have a note book and pen by the bed to jot down your thoughts as this helps you let them go and allows you to get back to sleep