Routine and habits which have a direct impact on our quality of sleep, is often referred to as “sleep hygiene’. Our daily schedule and actions especially prior to going to bed, can impact how easy it is to fall asleep, stay asleep and feel refreshed when we wake up in the morning. A person’s health, brain function and mood is directly affected by the quality of sleep we get. The following are some tips to help establish healthy sleep habits:
- Ensure that the room is cool, quiet and dark. An important sleep-regulating hormone called melatonin, is enhanced when a person sleeps in a dark room with the shades and curtains drawn. Even a small amount of light reduces the melatonin output from our brains.
- By going to sleep and waking up at more or less the same time each day, including weekends, it reinforces a schedule on the body’s sleep-wake cycle and helps a person fall asleep easier at night. It is also advantageous to create a wind-down routine before bedtime, such as taking a warm bath or shower, reading a book or listening to relaxing music.
- It is preferable to avoid an adrenaline rush first thing in the morning. Therefore, turn off computers, smartphones and other devices that might trigger a shock to your system, and place alarms at least 10 feet away from the bed. It is also better to turn off night lights.
- Avoid adrenal stimulants which impose excessive stress on the adrenal glands, such as sugary foods and caffeine – especially at night time – and can interfere with sleep patterns.. Nicotine and alcohol also have an adverse effect on sleep.
- Our cortisol levels are lowest at night and it is therefore best to go to sleep before 10pm, so as not to push our bodies beyond their natural limits. In the years before the invention of electricity, people had no choice other than to go to bed when it was dark and awake at sunrise.
- A light protein snack before bedtime can help promote sleep, for example; a handful of nuts or cottage cheese.
- If you have trouble falling asleep, try and do some breathing exercises or relaxation techniques and go back to bed when you are tired. Don’t agonize over falling asleep, it creates added stress.