WAKE WELL by following these Sleep Hygiene factors and ten tips:
Most people have no real idea of how long they sleep on average each night. Sleeping between 6.5 to 7.5 hours a night is recommended for most adults. New research has found that people sleeping fewer than 6 hours a night were 11 per cent more likely to develop, or even die, from heart disease or stroke. On the other hand, however, Sleeping too much may also be harmful, however, with the study indicating that those sleeping greater than 8 hours had a 33 percent greater risk of problems.Teenagers ideally need a minimum of 9 hours quality sleep due to the developmental stage their bodies are in.
Power napping during the day can be helpful. Nap 10-20 minutes only and do it before 3PM.
Tip 1 Become consciously aware of your average length of sleep.
- Routines are important – establish daytime, evening and night time habits.
Tip 2 Waking at the same time in the mornings is more important than going to bed at the same time. Allow yourself some flexibility for weekends and holidays.
- Limit screen time & use of electronic devices before bed, especially in the 3-4 hours immediately prior to bedtime (see below about light exposure)
- Avoid clock watching during sleep
Tip 3 If you find yourself waking and looking at the time, keep clocks, phones out of line of sight and out of reach, preferably even outside your bedroom.
- Eating and drinking – your general diet may need looking at, and you should avoid large meals before bed, especially the 3 hours immediately before sleep
- Manage alcohol intake carefully, or even better, if you have trouble sleeping, avoid it altogether. Alcohol is a sedative initially, but it can interfere significantly with the stages of sleep later in the night and result in a very poor nights sleep – and a hangover from that failure to get quality sleep.
Tip 4 Small snacks before bed are OK, but avoid eating in the middle of the night, and remember – ‘booze’ may destroy your ‘snooze’!.
- Avoid stimulants like cigarettes and caffeine. Caffeine impacts the production of chemicals in the body which impact sleep and adrenaline production. The maximum impact is generally one hour after ingestion, however, caffeine has a half-life of about 4 – 6 hours which means that the impact is ongoing.
Tip 5 Have a cup of tea, or decaf instead. Caffeine content in a single shot coffee is approx. 200 mg, tea approx. 50 mg, caffeinated soft drinks approx. 100 mg
- Relaxation and sleep go hand in hand – whenever possible do not take your worries with you to bed.
Tip 6 Get things off your mind by writing them down. Allocate dedicated time for the cathartic process of writing a diary & task list before you go to bed
- Try to calm your emotions before going to bed. Externalizing emotions may help – again write down your feelings on a piece of paper – and throw it away after finishing. A little yoga, after donning your bedtime toga?
Tip 7 Try meditation / breathing techniques (abdominal breathing) / nasal breathing / muscle relaxation.
- Get your sleep environment right, e.g, temperature. The room temperature ideal for sleep is around 18C. Your core body temp needs to drop 1-1.5 C to initiate sleep.
- 30% of our lives are spent in bed – invest in a good mattress, pillows, sheets and blankets.
Tip 8 Try a warm shower approx. 30 – 60 minutes before bedtime, as the opening of skin pores facilitates heat loss. Try cotton socks / gloves to keep peripheries warm, and light clothing to allow core temperature heat release.
- Too much ambient light suppresses melatonin and inhibits sleep. Keep your bedroom dark to facilitate sleep – block out curtains are ideal to also block out noise, or eye shades may help. Exposure to morning light can be helpful in awakening naturally, and outdoor light is better than indoor light.
Tip 9 Low intensity background white – noise can be comforting for children.
- Regular exercise can be beneficial. Morning exercise in the outdoors is preferred.
Tip 10 Avoid exercising 4 hours prior to bedtime as it raises core body temperature.