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by Guest Author November 26, 2020 5 min read

Behavioural patterns and habits that we exercise during the day have a great effect on the sleep quality that we get during the night. Not paying close attention to sleep hygiene can result in trouble falling and staying asleep, constantly feeling restless, mood swings and a low tolerance to stress triggers.

What is Sleep Hygiene?

The term "sleep hygiene" refers to a complex of healthy sleep habits [1], behaviours and environmental factors that attribute to a person's ability to have a good night's sleep and wake up feeling rested and refreshed.

It is no secret that sleep is important for people of all ages and essential to maintain good performance, physical and mental health. Therefore building and following optimal sleep hygiene is one of the most effective and natural ways to improve sleep and overall health.

What Affects Our Sleep?

There are numerous factors that influence sleep. Sometimes we might be unaware of the harmful effect of things that surround us on a daily basis. 

factors influence sleep

Image Source: https://beprana.co/wellness-news/factors-that-influence-sleep-quality/

 

Factors that interfere with our sleep can be divided into external and internal.

  • External factors include lighting, noise, sleep environment, room temperature, caffeine intake, medications, work schedule, etc. For the most part, these things are within our control to alter in order to enjoy better sleep.

  • Internal factors include body aches and pains, anxiety, depression, stress, overall mental state, etc. At first glance, it seems that they are much harder to control as opposed to external factors, but it is important to remember that everything is in our power to change.

Top 7 Ways to Optimise Your Sleep Hygiene

When we want to lose weight or improve our body physique, we go to the gym, follow an exercise program and diet. So why not do the same for our sleep?

By examining your current lifestyle, eliminating harmful factors, and implementing new healthy sleep habits, it is possible to significantly improve your sleep health.

Take these 7 ideas and adapt them to your current circumstances to create your personal sleep hygiene.

1. Don't Eat Before Bed

Consuming food right before bedtime may lead to weight gain [2] and also cause digestion problems [3] that may interrupt your sleep.

Try to eat around sunset or shortly after. Plan to be in bed about no more than an hour after your meal and asleep within an hour after that. This approach fits especially well for any intermittent faster. Assuming your meal is done by 8pm, your 16 hour IF is complete by 12pm.

2. Sleep In The Dark

Exposure to light during the night time sends the wrong signal to our body and inhibits a natural rise of melatonin - a hormone that regulates our sleep-wake cycle. The presence of artificial light has greatly affected our natural sleep patterns and created new serious challenges related to sleep.

Darkness is essential for quality sleep. Aim to sleep in a dark where you are not able to see the other end of the room. Use a sleep mask or at least use black electric tape over led light emanating from TVs, A/Cs and other electronics. Black or dark curtains or blinds are best to ensure no external lighting is creeping into your home. Light should only be creeping back into your bedroom when the sun is coming back up.

effect of light on sleep
Image Source WebMD

3. Avoid Blue Light (especially after sunset)

While we know that light, in general, suppresses the production of melatonin, the effect of blue light, in particular, is much greater. Harvard researchers conducted an experiment that revealed that blue light suppresses melatonin production twice as long as the green light and shifted circadian rhythms by twice as much. [4]

Since our modern life is full of blue light sources (light bulbs, screens, etc.), wearing blue light blockers can be a great way to reduce blue light exposure especially in the evening. 

4. Fill Your Proverbial Cup

Fill yourself with knowledge, perspective and gratitude. Read, listen or watch something that raises your IQ and your vibration.

Doze off listening to insightful audiobooks or something philosophical on Youtube with your laptop screen turned off.In those waking hours in the stillness of the night and perhaps in your dreams, your mind will wander around these ideas, and ponder.

You have unquestionable ownership over this time. It reminds of the "early to rise" advice so often cited by high performance personalities - that waking up at 4, 5 AM is where you’ll find your edge.

 

5. Increase Daytime Natural Light Exposure

The extreme darkness of your sleeping room should be balanced by extreme light exposure in the morning.

While we want 6 lux at night, we want direct sunlight (100,000 lux) in the morning and at a minimum, the 25,000 lux of natural daylight. For context, standard indoor lighting is only 500 lux. The more daylight you’re exposed to, the earlier you’ll be inclined to be in bed once the sun goes down. 

6. Exercise Regularly

There is evidence that regular exercise can improve sleep quality. For instance, people who engage in at least 30 minute of moderate aerobic exercise may see a difference in sleep quality that same night. [5]

What's great is that any type of exercise contributes to the overall sleep health. Moreover, choosing sports you like will increase chances to sticking to it for longer hence offer greater results. [5]

For those who do not enjoy sports, a simple walk outside during the daytime will provide exercise benefits as well as much needed sun exposure.

Learn more about how resistance training can support your mental health.

7. Wake Up Naturally

Nature was our ancestors’ timekeeper. No alarm clocks. No iPhones. No 9-5 schedule. It wasn’t until the 1800s that watches of some prescription made an appearance. In 1880 Thomas Edison patented the incandescent lightbulb, marking the start of the most significant shift in how our sleep-wake cycles. 

Our circadian rhythms are controlled by our genes, but they are also greatly affected by the light/dark cycle of the sun. By keeping track of your sleep patterns on days when your wake up time is not affected by work schedule, alarm or alcohol you can learn more about how much sleep your body naturally needs. Use this information to adjust your evening routine and other habits to give your body the rest it requires. 

What is segmented sleep? Learn why waking up in the middle of the night used to a norm.

Like anything new, creating an optimal sleep hygiene pattern will take time and practice to get good at it. The challenge is compounded in our fast-paced world filled with opportunities that we fear missing out on. That said, the best time to start your experiment is tonight.

References:

[1] - https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/sleep_hygiene.html 

[2] - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25439026/

[3] - https://www.businessinsider.com/eating-late-causes-indigestion-and-weight-gain-2015-1

[4] - https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/blue-light-has-a-dark-side

[5] - https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/exercising-for-better-sleep 

Guest Author
Guest Author

This article was contributed by a guest author with expert knowledge in their field.


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