Last week we explored why sleep is so important and what happens to our bodies when we do sleep. This week it’s all about getting a great nights sleep and practical tips for implementing that.
What is good sleep hygiene?
We talk a lot about good sleep hygiene and how essential it is to achieving restful and rejuvenating sleep. But what is it? Put simply it’s the habits and practices that are conducive to sleeping well on a regular basis. To make it even simpler we’ve broken down the dos and don’ts of good sleep hygiene below.
The sleep don’ts:
- Don’t make dinner the biggest meal – planning for evening meals is the key to establishing a good sleep routine. Ideally dinner should be a fairly light meal, with minimal meat and fatty foods. Sleep is a time for your body to rest and repair, if you’ve just consumed a large meal then your bodies energy will be focused on digesting that rather than getting on with all the amazing other things it has to do at night.
- Don’t drink too much liquid – drinking too much liquid before bed can be disruptive as you will need to wake to use the bathroom. Try and consume the bulk of your liquid in the day time and keep evening consumption to a minimum.
- Don’t drink alcohol before bed – while alcohol may help you fall asleep faster, it reduces your quality of sleep. Your body is busy detoxifying the alcohol and so is less able to enter that deeper level of sleep we so desperately need to be in. Try having 3-4 alcohol free days a week and notice how your sleep improves.
- Don’t exercise less than 3hrs before bed time – exercise is stimulating to the body and can activate the sympathetic nervous system (this is our fight or flight response and not what we want to be doing before sleep). Instead focus on calming activities that slow down your body in preparation for sleep. If you are going to sleep before 10pm then you’ll be more likely to wake up early to do exercise in the morning, which will set you up for a productive day (and hence a great routine is established).
The sleep dos:
- Prioritise sleep – sleep is THE most important time of the day, so take it seriously. Prioritise getting 7-8hrs of good quality sleep each night. A consistently good nights sleep has been shown to have a positive impact on all aspects of physical, mental and emotional health. The opposite is also true; poor sleep predisposes you to a greater chance of physical and mental disease. Make it a priority.
- Develop a good routine – good sleep is all about good routine. Of course you may have some days where you sleep in or go to bed late, but it’s what we do the majority of the time that will make all the difference. Aim to go to bed at 9-10pm and wake at 6am.
- Switch off the technology – at least 1hr before bed, dim the lights and stop using your mobile phone, computer and TV. The blue light from these screens affects your pineal gland which shifts your circadian rhythms and suppresses your melatonin production, which is a key hormone to help you sleep. Try to get into the habit of winding down with a ritual to help you relax such as reading a book or taking a bath. We should also include here that removing technology from your bedroom is extremely important. Even the light’s shining from ‘stand-by’ mode can disrupt melatonin production and act as a stimulant.
- Eliminate stimulants – just as technology is a stimulant so are some other habits. Avoiding caffeine after 2pm will reduce the amount of adrenaline produced and help you achieve a better night sleep. Nicotine is also a stimulant and can disrupt your sleep (not to mention countless other health problems). Sugar is another stimulant not conducive to a good night sleep.
- Prepare your bedroom – it’s important your bedroom is a sanctuary for sleep. Use dimmers for your main bedroom light so you can control the brightness. Having a brightly lit bedroom can interfere with your circadian rhythm and the all important melatonin production. Make your bedroom is as quiet and dark as possible for when you do sleep so you’re not distracted by other stimulants.
If you struggle to sleep well you may benefit from a consultation with one of our dentists. At SHDC we offer countless treatments to help you achieve a great night sleep, some of which you can learn about here, here and here. Get in touch to learn more.