Sleep is one of the most under-estimated pillars of health and well-being. Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of people pay close attention to diet, exercise and developing emotional resilience but I still see a number of people who underestimate the importance of proper sleep as part of well-being.
There are so many demands on us and so many distractions that being disciplined to obtain a good number of hours of sleep per night can be a real challenge. Psychologists and other health professionals often talk about “sleep hygiene” – I like this phrase because it’s reminds us that sleep is linked to health.
Here are my top tips for developing good sleep hygiene:
- Aim to have a regular bedtime. I know this is a challenge if you’re a shift-worker.
- Get between seven and eight hours sleep a night if you are a healthy adult.
- Make your sleep environment as dark and as quiet as possible.
- Avoid electronic screens for at least 90 minutes before you go to bed.
- Develop a routine prior to going to bed. This can vary from person to person but aim to make evenings after 7:00pm a time of “winding down” rather than “winding up”.
- Make sure your evening meal contains protein and carbohydrate – meat, beans, pulses, potato, rice and pasta are examples.
- If you wake at night and have a sense that you won’t go back to sleep, don’t look at the clock! There’s no value in knowing that you have woken at 2:00am or 4:00am. Get out of bed, use the bathroom, drink some water, sit somewhere quietly and read or practice mindfulness for 15 to 20 minutes before going back to bed. If you don’t fall asleep, do it again! If you’ve developed a pattern of insomnia it may take some weeks of practice before you can re-establish your regular sleeping routine.
- 30 to 60 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity each day will help to increase your natural levels of fatigue.
- Don’t suffer in silence – if you can’t make it work, seek help from your GP or a Psychologist.