Sleep and hygiene may not be two words we necessarily think of putting together. But, sleep hygiene is most definitely a thing (it’s basically just how well you’re taking care of yourself in terms of the amount and quality of sleep you’re getting). There’s no shortage of evidence on why sleep is so important to our health and general sanity (a fact which any parent can surely attest to!).

Did you know that being awake for 24 hours straight has a similar impact on your reflexes and hand-eye co-ordination as having a blood alcohol content of 0.1!? It also leads to symptoms like reduced alertness and attention span, reduced ability to understand complex ideas, poorer memory, less ability to regulate emotions, and increased likelihood of making mistakes (have a read of this to learn more). We all know we need to sleep. Just because being tired has become normalised (idealised even, and associated with being productive, motivated and hard-working) doesn’t mean that it is ok. If you’re tired, you’re not able to function or feel your best. So, let’s improve that sleep hygiene and get in some more zzzs.

What can you do?

Stick to a routine

One way we can improve the quality of our sleep is to have a bedtime and a ‘getting up’ time, and actually stick to it. By maintaining a consistent circadian rhythm, your body and brain are better able to fall into a deep sleep. Tempting though it may be to stay out a few hours later on a Saturday and enjoy a long lie-in on a Sunday (which definitely has its place!), maintaining relative consistency will make that early Monday morning alarm that much less difficult.

Limit the screens

This is far from a newsflash, but we spend a LOT of time on screens, and it’s not always great for our health. Spending just two hours on a phone or computer a day leads to increased risk of weight gain and associated diseases like cardiovascular and heart disease and diabetes (have a read of this article to learn more about the impact of our collective addiction to screens). Specifically in terms of sleep, the blue light of our electronic devices supresses the body’s production of melatonin, a hormone essential to helping us nod off naturally. So, aim for at least 30 minutes of screen-free time pre-bed – maybe a cup of tea, reading a book, listening to some calm music, or taking a shower. Pinterest will still be there in the morning, we promise. One way to help yourself resist the temptation of ‘one more email’ or ‘five more minutes’ is to have the phone in a designated spot NOT in your bedroom.

Avoid stimulants in the afternoon

We are all different in the way our bodies respond to stimulants (like we are all unique in a myriad of ways) but even if you don’t feel that coffee or alcohol have a big effect on you, they still are. Having higher caffeine levels in the bloodstream can make it harder (or impossible for some) to fall asleep, and also prevent us from entering the deep, REM sleep-phase (which is where all the gorgeous, healing, memory-storing, goodness happens). Opt for less stimulating drinks – like herbal tea, or mineral water in the afternoon, or at the very least in the few hours prior to bedtime.

Go as dark as possible

Get your room As Dark As Possible (or ADAP, an acronym which we definitely didn’t just make up right now). Even little bits of light, like around the outside of your blind, or from your computer charger impact how we fall asleep. Try to get your sleeping area as pitch dark as possible – cover any ambient lights (or, even better, switch off the devices at the wall), get blackout curtains (so our bodies can produce the hormone melatonin to increase feelings of sleepiness). There are also some amazing alarm clocks now which use light to ease you back awake in the morning by getting incrementally brighter, mimicking a sunrise (check out theseor these).

Do you have any hacks for getting a fabulous night of shut-eye? We’d love to hear them!

Image by Kaori Aoshim.