Federated Health Charities’ mission is to improve the health and quality of life of all Ontarians by supporting 21 different health charities providing critical services to those experiencing, or affected by, illness. We believe education and prevention are key parts of supporting the health of our communities so our weekly Health Hint series strives to provide tangible and easy to implement hints and tips on how to maintain your health, prevent disease, and enjoy increased quality of life. Check out our latest Health Hint on sleep hygiene & improving your quality of sleep. We hope you find it helpful. If you would like to join our efforts to support the health of Ontario please consider a donation to Federated Health Charities.
Importance of Sleep
Sleep is on of the four pillars of health; nutrition, exercise, sleep and stress. Yet, of those four, sleep is one of the most neglected component of health. The amount and quality of your sleep is critical as it directly impacts your physical and mental health. Not getting enough sleep or having the sleep you get be of poor quality, can take a serious toll on your health, energy, productivity, and emotions (Smith et al., 2020).
Sleep enables our bodies to perform many functions and provides opportunity for it to repair itself. There are many benefits to getting adequate sleep, including; increased productivity, better concentration, weight regulation, prevention of depression and anxiety, lowering inflammation, reduced risk of heart disease, increased physical and athletic performance, and a strengthened immune system (Fletcher, 2019).
We are all familiar with the term ‘personal hygiene’ and know that it encompasses your daily routines towards maintaining your physical hygiene. Each of us has our own personal hygiene routine, which may include flossing, brushing our teeth, showering, shaving, putting on deodorant, etc. We tend to settle into our routine and follow it consistently each day to maintain our hygiene. Well, your sleep hygiene is like this. Your sleep hygiene is your daily routines that promote consistent, quality sleep (Suni, 2020).
You have a good amount of control over the amount and quality of sleep you get and establishing an effective sleep hygiene routine can be one of the easiest ways to set yourself up for adequate sleep (Smith et al. 2020).
If you have a difficult time falling asleep, wake up frequently throughout the night, have difficulty waking up in the morning, or experience significant fatigue during the day, you may want to reassess your sleep hygiene (Suni, 2020).
Improving your Sleep
While we think of sleep as something that occurs at night, our daytime routines and choices are often the prime culprit for sleep problems (Smith et al., 2020).
The Help Guide (Smith et al., 2020) provides this list of tips to improve your sleep hygiene and set yourself up for a good night’s sleep:
1. Keeping a regular sleep schedule: keeping a regular sleep schedule allows your body to begin to develop a rhythm and adjust its internal clock. Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day and avoid sleeping in, even on weekends, as the more your weekday/weekend sleep schedules differ the harder time your body will have setting an internal sleep clock (Smith et al., 2020). Avoid lengthy naps as well as they can interfere with your body’s ability to adhere to its nighttime schedule. If you need to nap, keep it to about 15-20 mins.
2. Control exposure to light: Our bodies naturally release a hormone called melatonin, which plays a significant role in our sleep. When it is dark our bodies release melatonin which makes us sleepy. In contrast, when we are exposed to light our body reduces its melatonin release which keeps us feeling awake. Because of this, you want to avoid your exposure to light as you lead up to bedtime. This includes investing in light blocking blinds, avoiding bright screen for an hour or two before bed, avoid watching TV in bed, and dim bright electronics such as alarm clocks (Smith et al., 2020).
3. Develop a daily exercise routine: regular exercise provides many benefits to our health, one of which being its positive impact on our sleep. Daily exercises result in you sleeping better at night as it fatigues your body and leaves you ready for rest and repair. It’s positive impact on your sleep also means it leaves you feeling more awake and alert during the day. Keep in mind though that exercise speeds up your metabolism and increasing your cortisol, so it is best to do it in the morning or afternoon rather than right before bed (Smith et al., 2020).
4. Monitor your caffeine and nicotine consumption: both caffeine and nicotine are stimulants and interfere with your ability to fall, or stay, asleep. Depending on how sensitive you are to it, caffeine can cause sleep issues up to 10 or 12 hours after drinking it (Smith et al., 2020), so try to keep your coffee to the morning and to avoid smoking right before bed.
5. Avoid large meals in the evening: both the timing and the type of food you eat can impact your sleep. Going to sleep overly full can result in disturbed sleep. Similarly, overly rich, heavy, or spicy food can also negatively interfere with sleep. Try to eat earlier in the evening and avoid overeating.
6. Improve your sleep environment: try to reduce noise as much as you can, keep the temperature of your room cool, and make sure your bed is comfortable. All of these can contribute to how quickly you fall asleep and whether you stay sleeping.
7. Keep your bed for sleeping: while the rooms of our house are serving double duty right now as offices, workspaces, and kid’s classrooms, you want to try to reduce the time you spend in bed outside of sleeping. By keeping your bed for only sleeping your body begins to associate your bed with it being time to wind down.
Investing the time to develop an effective sleep hygiene routine can not only improve your sleep and reduce levels of fatigue, but it can significantly improve your mental and physical health. Take the time to figure out the routine that works for you and enjoy yourself a good night’s sleep!
We hope you liked out latest Health Hint!
Fletcher, J. (2019, May). Why Sleep is Essential for Health. Medical News Today.
Smith, M., Robinson, L. & Segal, R. (2020, October). How to Sleep Better. Help Guide.
Suni, E. (2020, August). Sleep Hygiene: What it is, why it matters and how to revamp your habits to get better nights sleep. Sleep Foundation.