The low down on Sleep Hygiene

What is it and how can it help me?

Sleep Hygiene is the term to describe the habits and practices that you can put in place to optimise your sleep. 

If you’re having frequent sleep disturbances, or you’re struggling to stay awake in the daytime, then your Sleep Hygiene should be the first thing to look at.

It’s often the small, simple things that can be the difference between a great night’s sleep, and a night spent tossing and turning.

Find your routine 
This is about getting into good habits that you can stick to. Aim to get to sleep at the same time every night, and aim to get up around the same time every morning.
Whatever gets you ready to go to sleep – reading a book, taking a warm bath, doing some yoga. Get yourself into a regular pattern, so your brain begins to recognise when it is time to start winding down.

Limit your caffeine intake
In particular in the afternoon! Pick a time, say 3PM, and avoid caffeinated drinks from this point. 
Otherwise it will keep you alert well into the evening.
This may be a difficult task for some, but there’s plenty of de-caffeinated options available, or even try some different herbal teas – Peppermint or Chamomile for example.

Consider whether you really need that nap…
Or just put some rules in place for when you feel like you really need one. Set a timer on your phone and limit it to 30 minutes, and make sure it is at least 4-5 hours before bedtime. 
You don’t want to be feeling too refreshed when the evening draws in!

Eating and exercise – time them right to get the best out of your sleep
Keep evening meals light. Going to bed on a full stomach can be the perfect discomfort to keep you wide awake. Likewise, being hungry can have the same effect, so find your balance.
Getting some exercise in can drastically improve your sleep quality, even if it is as gentle as a 20 minute walk outside. 
But avoid anything too strenuous just before bedtime – exercise stimulates the body to secrete the stress hormone cortisol. This alerts mechanisms in the brain, which is the last thing you want before trying to doze off.

Finally, try a sleep diary
It can be hard to keep on top of the changes you’ve made when trying to improve your sleep hygiene. So each night make a note of your pre-bed routine, and give your sleep a score out of 10 in the morning. 
Within a couple of weeks, you may notice patterns emerging, this can be a key indicator to find out which habits work well for you.