About 4 in 10 Australians don’t get the recommended 8 hours of sleep per night. If you aren’t getting enough sleep, don’t worry, there are many ways to improve your sleep hygiene. The term sleep hygiene incorporates a variety of different habits that are necessary to secure a good night’s sleep and full daytime alertness.
The home doctor experts at House Call Doctor say sleep hygiene is important for both your mental and physical health.
Getting a good quality night’s sleep will increase your focus and productivity throughout the day. When you sleep, your body heals and restores itself so the quality of your sleep matters. It can strengthen your immune system, help you maintain a healthy weight, and lower your risk of serious health conditions like heart disease and diabetes. Your mood and memory can improve from a good night’s sleep and you’ll also feel less anxious and stressed.
What are the signs of poor sleep hygiene?
The most obvious signs are:
- Trouble falling asleep
- Disrupted sleep
- Feeling fatigued throughout the day
- Less productive
- Less creative
- Making more mistakes
- Napping more during the day.
Doctors and after-hours GPs share their top tips for getting the best night-time sleep quality.
Limit daytime naps to 30 minutes
Napping should not substitute night-time sleep; however, it can help to improve mood, alertness and performance during the day. Try to limit your nap time to no longer than 30 minutes, to ensure your night-time sleep is not compromised.
Stimulants such as caffeine, alcohol and nicotine close to bedtime can decrease the quality of your sleep or prevent you from going to sleep at all. Heavy meals that are tough on the digestive system or cause heartburn can also disrupt your sleep.
As little as 10 minutes of exercise can increase your quality of sleep however, strenuous workouts close to bedtime can have the opposite effect. The effect of exercise on sleep quality is different for everyone, so find out what works best for you.
Improve your sleeping environment
Make sure your bedroom encourages a good night’s sleep. Things like a comfortable pillow and mattress, dim lighting and a comfortable temperature all contribute to the quality of your sleep.
Create a routine
Try to keep a regular sleep schedule by waking up and going to bed at the same time every day so your body clock has a routine. It is also important to create a relaxing bedtime/pre-bedtime routine. You can try taking a warm bath, reading a book, listening to music and switching off technology prior to getting into bed.
Obey your body clock
Don’t ignore tiredness – if you feel tired, go to bed. When you go to bed at the same time every day, your body will naturally feel sleepy around that time. If you aren’t tired, don’t force yourself to go to bed as that can lead to bad habits like lying awake.
Be mindful of what you do in your bedroom
Try to only use your bedroom for sleeping and intimacy. If you use your bed to watch television for example, your mind will associate your bedroom with that particular activity.
An occasional sleepless night is normal but if it becomes a regular struggle, you should contact your local GP or healthcare professional. They can refer you to a sleep specialist who can help identify and treat any underlying causes of your sleep deprivation.