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Why is it so important to practise good sleep hygiene?

“If you wake often during the night or start each day feeling tired and groggy, you may not be keeping up with your sleep hygiene. This is the term that some sleep experts use to refer to the before-bed routines and practices that help you sleep better – and have better days. See how good sleep hygiene could make a difference to your days and nights”. Dr Ranj, Furniture Village sleep ambassador
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You might be wondering why it’s so important to practise good sleep hygiene. Or even what sleep hygiene actually is. Here we explore exactly what sleep hygiene means and how you can work it into your bedtime routine to ensure you get a better night’s sleep.

What is sleep hygiene?

Does it take you ages to drift off? Are you a real night owl, not going to bed until gone midnight? Do you wake up a lot during the night? Then you may have a few poor sleep hygiene habits that are stopping you from getting the full rest that your body needs.

Sleep hygiene is essentially the practices and habits that are necessary for you to have a good night's sleep, and that allow your body to rest completely and feel refreshed and alert the following day. Sleep hygiene also refers to any activities that help you gradually unwind, and to your ideal sleep space and sleep conditions.

And getting a good night's sleep isn't as hard as it may sound. Your daytime routines and behaviours and, especially, your bedtime routine and your sleep schedule can all affect the quality of your rest. By replacing some of your bad habits with good habits, you'll be on your way to a better night's sleep.

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What are the benefits of having good sleep hygiene?

Practising good sleep hygiene can help us get good quality sleep every night. So, how does this affect us?

1. If our bodies are well rested, we’ll feel more alert, and be more focussed and productive.

2. Sleep helps us to learn more and make more memories. As you sleep, your brain begins to organise and process all the information you’ve taken on during the day, converting short-term memories into long-term ones.

3. Good sleep can help you maintain a healthy weight. If you’re sleeping less and awake for longer, you may eat more, or make unhealthy food choices. There’s also some evidence to suggest that a lack of sleep interferes with our body’s hunger-regulating hormones.

4. A lack of sleep can increase your risk of developing long-term health conditions including high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease.

5. A lack of sleep can also disrupt your immune system, making you less able to fight off illnesses.

6. Sleep helps reduce your stress levels as it relaxes the systems in your body that are responsible for releasing your fight or flight stress hormones.

7. Relaxing and restorative sleep can help you take care of your mental health, too. A lack of sleep can cause anxiety, low mood and stress which can affect your relationships at home and work. Regularly enjoying good sleep can help you feel more positive and more confident.

What are the signs of poor sleep hygiene?

Now we understand the benefits of practising good sleep hygiene, it’s important to also spot the signs of poor sleep hygiene so that we can take action and prevent any harmful consequences.

The signs of poor sleep hygiene are:

  • Going to bed at erratic times
  • Taking longer to fall asleep
  • Waking up frequently in the night
  • Not wanting to wake up and hitting the snooze button
  • Waking up feeling groggy and unrested
  • Feeling excessively tired and lacking energy throughout the day
  • Feeling the need to take long naps in the day

If you think you may be suffering from sleep deprivation, be sure to read our guide on how to spot the symptoms of lack of sleep.

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Getting on a sleep schedule to improve your sleep hygiene

By making these small changes and getting on a sleep schedule, you can improve your overall wellbeing.

1. Pick a bedtime and a wake up time and stick to them as much as possible. By having consistent sleeping and waking hours that follow its natural circadian rhythms, your body will promote feelings of sleepiness and drowsiness when it’s in need of sleep, as well as feelings of alertness when you have had enough sleep.

2. When you wake up, go into natural light as soon possible, preferably at the same time each day. Seeing natural daylight helps us reset our internal clocks which helps us to get over the feeling of grogginess that often comes with waking up.

3. Do some exercise in the daytime. Although exercising too close to bedtime can keep you awake, exercise in the daytime can promote deeper and more restorative high-quality sleep at night.

4. Avoid caffeine and stimulants in the evenings or at night. While caffeine and stimulants affect everyone differently, it’s important to ensure you leave enough time between that cup of coffee and your bed time to avoid impacting your quality of sleep. Read about our top 5 foods to avoid before bed.

5. Be cautious about how much you eat and drink in the evenings. Being hungry or thirsty at night time will have an effect on the quality of your sleep, as will drinking too much since you will likely wake up to go to the bathroom. Being too full may make it too uncomfortable to sleep. Ensure you eat your last meal of the day at least three hours before bed.

6. Make sure your room is dark, quiet and cool. Temperature, light and noise can impact our ability to get to sleep and increase the chance that we wake up in the night.

7. Have a wind-down routine before bed and avoid electronic devices for an hour before sleep.

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How can a bedtime routine help improve my sleep hygiene?

If you have a solid bedtime routine, your body will start to associate your pre-bed activities with getting ready to sleep. But most of us cannot just put our head on the pillow and drift off into dreamland. We have to unwind gradually.

A bedtime routine can help calm an overactive mind, alleviate any anxiety you may feel about the next day, and relax your body. Read our tips to get a better night’s sleep.

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What should a bedtime routine look like?

A bedtime routine can be as long or as short as you feel it takes you to unwind and forget about the busy day you’ve just had. It can take just 15 minutes or as much as an hour.

But what should be included in your bedtime routine?

1. Switch off electronic devices at least an hour before bed. Whether it’s a television, computer, tablet, smartphone or games console, the blue light emitted by screens can easily erode our precious sleep time as well as make us feel more alert.

2. Have a warm drink. It’s best to avoid food in your bedtime routine as well as caffeine, so why not try a herbal tea or malted milk drink?

3. Keep to an evening ritual, whether it’s reading a book, having a bath before bed or listening to music. Turn off that TV and associate a different task with winding down.

4. Let yourself decompress from the day. This is your time so don’t spend it loading the dishwasher or sending a work email. Try a relaxation exercise or meditation and, if you’re worried or stressed, writing down your thoughts can help stop them swimming around in your head.

5. Create a comfy sleep environment. Make sure your mattress is comfortable and your pillow is just right. But don’t get into bed until you are ready to sleep.

Evaluating your sleep schedule and revising your bedtime routine could mean that a few simple changes will improve your sleep hygiene and take you from a night spent tossing and turning to a peaceful night's rest. Read more about why you might be having trouble sleeping.

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