Regular and consistent sleep is important for both physical and mental well-being. Sleep hygiene is about optimising your environment, routine and patterns to sleep well, giving you more energy throughout the day.
Your routine will depend on what works for you and your schedule, however setting and sticking to a routine will help you develop more positive sleeping habits.
Set your sleep schedule
Most young people need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night, and whilst it may seem like a good idea to ‘catch up on sleep’ after a sleepless night, doing so regularly will disrupt your sleep routine.
- Set a fixed wake up time so no matter when you manage to get to sleep, the time you wake up will remain fixed.
- Don’t skip sleep even if you have things to do. It might be tempting to pull an all nighter on that piece of work or game, but you will feel worse off in the long run.
- Try not to have too many power naps as this will contribute to a messy sleep pattern.
- Make adjustments gradually so that your body has time to sync to the new pattern.
Wind down before bed
This is a critical stage in making sure you keep to your sleep schedule. There is no right or wrong way to wind down. Try to find something that suits your interests.
- Allow 30 minutes to wind down so that your body knows it is time for bed
- Try out a bunch of calming activities such as reading, writing or listening to music.
- Make a relaxing drink such as a Horlicks, warm water or herbal tea. Try not to snack too late, otherwise your body will still be digesting.
- Make a to do list so that tomorrow’s challenges are out of your head. Try writing in a diary to get your worries down on paper.
Follow a nightly routine
Along with your sleep schedule it’s important to try and follow a regular nightly routine. Consistency is key to allow your mind and body to relax.
- Keep it consistent as adding dramatic changes to your routine can disrupt your sleep.
- Avoid bright screens as they actually hinder your sleep. Here’s the science bit – blue light from screens (mobile phones, computers, tablets and TV’s) reduce the production of melatonin, the hormone that controls your sleep/ wake cycle. This makes it harder to fall and then stay asleep.
- Let your family know about your sleep schedule as there is nothing more frustrating than getting a knock on the door when you’re trying to sleep! You might also want to think about muting your phone tones, and perhaps even put your phone on the other side of the room to avoid temptation.
- Don’t force yourself to sleep. If you don’t fall asleep within the first 20 minutes, get back up and do something for a bit until you feel sleepy again. Why not try a few relaxation exercises or yoga stretches.
Create a sleep friendly bedroom
Your bedroom should be a space for relaxation and sleep. A place where you can shut the door and zone out.
- Get a comfy mattress and pillows if you can as this will help you feel calm and comfortable
- Regularly clean your bedding as there is nothing nicer than crisp clean sheets.
- Maximise your space by blocking external light (thick curtains), drowning out noises (ear plugs), keeping it tidy (that’s up to you!) and keep the temperature between 18c & 24c (if possible). Failing that buy a cheap water bottle!
- Try calming scents either by using one of those cool steam diffusers or getting a cheap wheat pack scented with lavender that can be popped in the microwave.
Develop healthy daily habits
As well as night time schedules and routines, it’s also important to do healthy activities during the day.
- Get outside in the sun as vitamin D is important for our bones, teeth and muscles. Plus, sunshine makes us feel happier (research SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder).
- Do at least 15 minutes of exercise a day. This could be walking, running, cycling or dancing. Keeping active provides us the energy we need to have a productive day.
- Stay away from caffeine in the afternoon by switching to decaf. Really, it makes a massive difference!
- Eat early and try not to snack late in the evening.
If you’re still struggling to sleep, there are loads of sleep apps or sites online that you can use to help you develop a strong sleep routine. Alternatively, you can always speak to your local GP to get some professional advice.