The Do’s and Don’ts of getting a good night’s rest

Sleep hygiene has nothing to do with being clean. It is a term used to describe how habits, lifestyle and environmental factors can affect our sleep.1 2 Good sleep hygiene may help improve sleep quality, and there is much evidence to suggest that good sleep hygiene can provide long-term solutions to sleep difficulties.1 2

If you suffer from sleep difficulties, sleep hygiene may help improve your sleep quantity and quality.3 For most people, correcting poor sleep hygiene is the simplest way to improve sleep.4 This is because sleep hygiene principles are generally low-risk and inexpensive, making them easy to adopt without consulting a doctor.4

Sleep hygiene do’s:

  • Set a regular sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at roughly the same time each day.3 Keeping a regular sleep schedule helps your body maintain a normal 24-hour sleep/wake cycle, which will help you get longer, better quality sleep3
  • Get some natural light during the day.5 Light, especially sunlight, is one of the key drivers of circadian rhythms that encourage quality sleep.5 Conversely, try and keep away from bright lights at night, as these can hinder melatonin production, a hormone that helps facilitate sleep.5
  • Make sure you have a good sleep environment.5 Though people’s preferences differ, it is generally a good idea to have a comfortable mattress, pillow, and bedding.5 You should also set a cool yet comfortable temperature and ensure that your curtains block out light.5 Drowning out noise as far as possible can also be beneficial.5
  • Make sure that your bedroom is used for only two things – sleeping and sex.4 Teaching your brain to associate the bedroom with sleep can improve your overall sleep.4
  • Remove TVs, computers, and other electronic gadgets from your bedroom – the screens of these devices emit “blue light,” which imitates sunlight and can trick your brain into thinking it’s daytime.3
  • Check the labels on your medication to ensure you won’t be taking anything that can interfere with your sleep.6 Many prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications, such as cold or allergy medications, pain medications, and weight-loss products, contain caffeine and other stimulants that can keep you awake.6
  • During the day, be physically active.5 Regular exercise can make it easier to sleep at night.5 You don’t have to avoid exercise later in the day, as recent research has shown that it does not impact your ability to fall asleep or your sleep quality.3
  • Do something relaxing at least 30 minutes before bed, like reading a book or listening to soft music.5 Having a warm bath 1-2 hours before bedtime raises your body’s temperature, causing you to feel sleepy when it drops again.2
  • Keep a sleep diary.1 Keeping a sleep diary can help you keep track of when you slept well or poorly, and the possible reasons why that happened.1

Sleep hygiene don’ts:

  • Don’t stay in bed if you are still awake after 20 minutes.2 Get up and go do something else – preferably something calming or boring – until you feel sleepy, then return to your bedroom to try again.2
  • Don’t eat large meals before bedtime, as large meals before bed can cause restless sleep.4 If you get hungry at night, opt for a healthy bedtime snack that’s easy to digest.4
  • Don’t work, discuss or analyse problems in bed.4 These may leave you over-stimulated and unable to fall asleep.4
  • Don’t consume caffeine (coffee, tea, certain soft drinks, chocolate), tobacco, and alcohol too close to bedtime, as these can make it difficult to fall asleep.4
  • Don’t stare at the clock.4 In addition to causing disruptions to sleep hormones, fretting about the time is likely to make you anxious as well.4
  • Don’t nap too much.4 Limit your naps to 30 minutes and take them earlier in the day. If you find that napping itself interferes with your nighttime sleep, you should eliminate them altogether.4

Copyright © 2023 Acino Healthcare Group. All Rights Reserved. This information is intended only for residents of South Africa.

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