Sleep is fundamental for our health and wellbeing yet many Canadian adults are not getting enough of it. The recommended amount of sleep for adults is around eight hours per night. When we do not get enough sleep, it can affect our health, both physically and mentally.
Having good sleep hygiene is important for better sleep and in this article, we share with you exactly how to improve your sleep hygiene. So continue reading to discover how you can improve your sleep hygiene and sleep better.
What is Sleep Hygiene?
Despite common associations with the word hygiene, sleep hygiene does not refer to having a clean bed and sleeping environment. The term refers to good sleeping habits that improve the quality and quantity of our sleep.
When you have good sleep hygiene, you are more likely to fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly. While sleeping difficulties can be treated with sleeping pills, they can interfere with developing healthy sleeping habits and may lead to dependence on them. Therefore, it is better to try to address sleeping issues by adjusting your sleep habits. However, if your sleeping difficulties continue, speak to your doctor.
How Lack of Sleep Can Affect Your Health
Sleep deficiency can affect your mental and physical well-being. It can interfere with activities such as work or school, social functioning, and driving. It can make judging other people’s reactions and emotions more challenging and leave you feeling cranky and frustrated.
Long-term lack of sleep has been linked to several chronic health problems. These include heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, kidney disease, diabetes, depression, and obesity. It has also been linked to a higher risk of accidents and injuries.
How to Develop Good Sleep Hygiene
Regular Bed Time
One of the best ways to create good sleep hygiene is to go to bed and wake up at about the same time each day. And yes, this includes days off and weekends. Having a regular rhythm will help you feel sleepy when it is bedtime and fresher in the mornings.
Do Not Force Sleep
Trying to force sleep can make it even harder to fall asleep. If you are lying in bed thinking about how you should be asleep but are not, sleep is unlikely to come. Instead, do something relaxing such as listening to calming music, reading a book, or listening to a podcast. Once you start feeling sleepy, go to bed. Avoid activities that are too stimulating when you cannot sleep.
No Caffeine or Nicotine Before Bed
Caffeinated drinks and foods should be avoided before bedtime. This includes tea, coffee, cola drinks, and chocolate. You should also avoid any products that contain nicotine such as cigarettes or vapes.
Both caffeine and nicotine are stimulants and can interfere with your ability to fall asleep. For best results avoid caffeine and nicotine products for at least four hours before going to bed.
Avoid Drinking Alcohol
While some people believe that alcohol helps them to relax and sleep better, the opposite is actually true. While alcohol may help some people fall asleep faster, just one glass of wine or a bottle of beer can negatively impact the quality of your sleep.
No Eating, Sleeping, or Working in Bed
You need to teach your brain to associate your bed with rest and sleep. If you eat, drink, or work in your bed, you are blurring the connection between bed and rest. If possible, you should also avoid working in your bedroom and dedicate the space purely for resting.
Avoid Long Naps
When you have not slept well, it can be extremely tempting to have a nap. While it is generally better to avoid napping, sometimes a power nap may be necessary to help us get through the day. If you are taking a nap, make sure you do it before 3 p.m and keep it short. A good power nap is between 20 and 30 minutes long.
Develop Sleep Rituals
One of the best ways to switch into sleeping mode is to perform the same rituals every night. These rituals will remind your body and mind that it is time to go to sleep. Sleep rituals may include switching off the TV and reading for a while.
Some people might like to have a cup of non-caffeinated tea, such as chamomile which may aid sleep, while others find that breathing exercises and stretching relaxes them and gets them ready for bedtime.
You might also like to include a hot bath in your routine about an hour or two before your bedtime. Studies have shown that a drop in body temperature is linked with feeling sleepy. A hot bath will temporarily raise your body temperature and when it begins to drop again, you will start feeling tired.
Avoid Watching the Clock
Checking how long you have been waiting to fall asleep is a big no-no when trying to sleep. It will only make you feel negative and get you thinking about how tired you are likely to feel if you do not fall asleep soon.
Similarly, avoid checking the time if you wake up during the night. This will stop you from counting the hours you have slept or how much you could still sleep if you fell straight back to sleep.
Diet and Exercise
A balanced, healthy diet will have a positive effect on your overall health and it can also help you sleep better. Try not to eat anything too heavy too close to bedtime as this can make falling asleep hard and interrupt your sleep. Have your evening meal as early in the evening as possible. If you feel hungry before bed, have a light snack.
Lack of regular exercise can make sleeping more challenging. Exercising can help you feel tired but avoid strenuous exercising before bedtime as this may have the opposite effect. While any exercise is beneficial, doing it outdoors will increase the benefit.
Create a Comfortable Sleeping Environment
Make your bedroom your sanctuary. It should be as quiet and comfortable as possible. Keep the room temperature cooler for better sleep. During the summer, use an eye mask or have blackout curtains to block out excess light that could send your brain a signal that it is time to get up.
Avoid Electronic Devices Before Bed
We have become used to carrying our mobile phones or tablets with us wherever we go, including the bedroom. While you may use your phone as your alarm, avoid using it as well as tablets and computers, for at least an hour before going to sleep.
This is because the blue light from these devices stops sleep. If you like reading before bed, it is better to read a book than use your tablet for this reason.
Try Sleep Meditations or Mindfulness
If you are staying awake because you have worries, stress, or anxiety, sleep meditation or mindfulness practices can help. They can help you switch off from your daily tasks and whatever is playing on your mind.
Write a To-Do List
You can also try writing a to-do list for the next day before going to bed. This is helpful if you often find yourself unable to sleep because you are listing all the things you have to do tomorrow or this week. Writing them down before you go to bed can help you feel more organised and prepared for the next day and sleep better.
Our lives are often so busy that we end up skipping sleep to squeeze in everything we need to and want to do. While it may be OK once in a while, it should not become a regular habit. Consider what other activities you can skip or leave until the next day instead.
Spend Time in Daylight
Our circadian rhythm is linked to light, and especially sunlight. Therefore, getting enough light during the day can help you sleep better at night. Of course, this can be challenging in Canada during the winter months when days are short.
Some people find that using a lamp that imitates sunlight keeps their circadian rhythm more regular during winters. It can also help you to stay more alert during the day and boost your happiness levels.
The Right Mattress and Bedding Can Help You Sleep Better
When you have a mattress that supports you properly and bedding that makes you feel comfortable, it can really improve the quality of your sleep.
Choose a mattress based on your preferred sleeping position and your body weight. Based on body weight, most Canadians need a medium or medium firm mattress. Petite sleepers can choose a softer mattress, while heavier sleepers need a firmer mattress for added support.
If you like to sleep on your side, you will need a softer mattress than people who prefer to sleep on their back or stomach most often. A softer mattress allows the hips and shoulders to sink in to keep the spine in the right alignment for side sleepers, while a firm mattress prevents the mid-section from sinking in too much for back and stomach sleepers.
The material of the mattress can also make a big difference. If you often sleep hot, choose an innerspring mattress for better airflow or an organic mattress, such as natural latex, which is a naturally cooler material. If you prefer a foam mattress, choose one that has cooling elements, such as gel to help regulate your body temperature.
Pillows and Duvets
Choosing the right bedding will help you feel pampered and comfortable while you sleep. Start by choosing the best pillow for you by considering which position you sleep the most. Stomach and back sleepers need different support from those who prefer to sleep on their side. Pick a pillow that keeps them in alignment with your spine. If you sleep hot, you can get a cooling pillow to prevent overheating.
Since many parts of Canada have very different summer and winter temperatures, you might need two sets of duvets or blankets to keep your body temperature at a comfortable level. People who have anxiety or stress or conditions such as ADHD can benefit from sleeping with a weighted blanket.
Finally, choosing the right sheets can add to a feeling of luxury and comfort when you are in bed. Egyptian cotton sheets are considered the most luxurious sheets, while bamboo sheets are naturally cool and flannel sheets will keep you warmer. Silk pillowcases and sheets are cooler and hypoallergenic while feeling soft and luxurious.
Ensure you pick the right size sheets for your bed to prevent them from coming loose and wrinkling during the night. When measuring the depth, include any mattress toppers you use on your bed to get the best fit.
All Canadians should try to establish good sleep hygiene to improve the quality and quantity of their sleep. If you have trouble sleeping, good sleep hygiene can help you get to sleep faster and sleep more soundly.
Having a regular sleep routine is key to good sleep hygiene. An inviting sleeping environment can also improve the quality of your sleep, so ensure your bed and bedding are comfortable, the temperature is cool, and the room is dark enough.
Frequently Asked Questions
While people will have slightly different sleeping needs, everyone should establish good sleep hygiene, including going to bed and waking up at the same time every day and creating a comfortable sleeping environment.
If you work shifts, try to establish a routine that signals to your body and mind that it is time to go to sleep. Do relaxing activities before you go to sleep and make your bedroom darker using blackout curtains.
If you have good sleep hygiene and still find yourself unable to get to sleep or wake up often during the night, speak to your doctor or contact a sleep disorder clinic for advice.