If you’ve recently visited your doctor complaining of insomnia; whether it’s struggling to fall asleep at night, waking frequently, or waking earlier in the morning than necessary, you may have heard the term ‘sleep hygeine’ as a potential solution. Because sleeping medication and tranquilizers can be habit forming and unhelpful in the long-term, developing good sleep hygeine can be a safe, effective and longer lasting solution for your sleep problems. The key is in setting your bedroom up to make this new way of living possible.
Maximise the comfort of your bed.
Your bed is absolutely essential when it comes to creating a soothing sleep environment, which is really what proper sleep hygeine is all about. You’ll need a bed and mattress that suits your body and keeps you comfortable, as well as weather-appropriate bedding so that you’re not too hot or too cold when the time comes to turn in.
Keep the bedroom for sleeping.
If you begin to associate your bed with other activities, such as reading, watching TV, browsing on your laptop or speaking to people on the phone, your brain won’t understand that this space is specifically made for sleeping. The only exception to this, for comfort’s sake, is sex. If you have developed the habit of hanging out in bed during the day, working on your laptop in bed, or doing any non-sleep activities, try to move them out of the bedroom and into a different space so that your brain can be retrained for good quality sleep.
Create a soothing bedtime routine.
Your mind needs some time to wind down before it can completely shut off and fall asleep. You can help it do so by designing your own tailor-made relaxing routine that you follow every evening. This could involve reading a good book in a nice hot bath with lavender oil to help you bring down your stress levels, and then setting up some quiet time just for you before you get into bed. You could use the quiet time for prayer or meditation if that’s part of your lifestyle, for some relaxing bedtime yoga, or just to write down your thoughts about the day.
We already know that watching TV in bed is a no-no for good sleep hygeine, but far too many of us still bring our phones into bed with us. Your phone’s blue light is all wrong for trying to create a relaxing atmosphere in the bedroom. The light wakes up your brain rather than allowing the darkness of the night to get your melatonin flowing, and all of that activity that you’re scrolling through keeps your mind stimulated and stops you from winding down. Ban your phone and laptop from your bedroom altogether.
Don’t lie awake for too long.
If you do find that you’re lying in your bed for hours on end in the middle of the night, it may actually be less helpful to lie there ‘resting’ and hoping you fall back asleep. For this reason, sleep hygeine experts suggest that you try a different strategy. Set up a comfortable armchair in the corner of your room so you can remove yourself from the bed area, sit somewhere different, grab a boring book, and take a break from trying to sleep.