Our behaviour throughout the day — especially before we go to bed at night — can have a major impact on the quality of our sleep. In fact, what we do before bedtime often decides if we have a good, sound sleep or a restless night and in turn, an alert day.
Poor sleep can result in us feeling tired and affect how we function during the day, impacting our ability to concentrate on work and affecting our work performance.
Many people with medical conditions such as chronic pain often have trouble sleeping and struggle with getting a good night's rest. When sleep is poor, pain can feel worse.
What Is Sleep Hygiene?
Sleep hygiene refers to a variety of different practices and good sleep habits that are necessary to have a good night's sleep and full daytime alertness. But what are some behaviours that are considered "good sleep hygiene"?
How to Sleep Well
Follow these healthy sleep tips for better sleep:
1. Go to Bed and Get Up at the Same Time Every Day
Try not to let these times differ too much. Your body gets used to falling asleep and waking up at a fixed time every day — even on weekends or holidays.
2. Avoid Taking Naps During the Day
If you must take a nap, keep it within 30 minutes to 45 minutes. Try not to nap in the evening. Doing so may affect your sleep cycle.
3. Watch What You Eat if You Want to Fall Asleep
Avoid big meals, alcohol, caffeine, heavy, spicy or sugary foods four to six hours before bedtime. Drinking alcohol too close to your bedtime may disrupt your sleep.
In fact, while alcohol may make you fall asleep more quickly, studies have found that it also causes people to wake up in the middle of the night as our body starts processing the alcohol. Likewise, caffeine in coffee, tea and chocolate, as well as spice and sugar, also stimulates the system and makes sleeping difficult.
4. Regular Exercise Can Improve Sleep Quality
Especially if taken earlier in the day, exercise can help improve sleep quality, allowing you to fall asleep faster, and sleep more easily and soundly. However, vigorous exercise in the late afternoons and evenings should be avoided as it can make falling asleep at night more difficult.
5. Keep Your Room Quiet, Dark, Well-ventilated and at a Comfortable Temperature for a Sound Sleep
Block out all distracting noise and light. A room that is too hot or too cold can keep you awake. A cool environment is often the most conducive environment for sleeping.
6. Your Bed Should be for Sleep and Intimacy, Only
For better sleep hygiene, don't use your bed as an office table or a games room as your mind may start associating your bedroom with activity rather than sleep. Your sleep environment matters.
7. Establish a Pre-Sleep Habit
This includes activities such as a warm bath, meditation or a few minutes of reading before going to sleep. These healthy sleep habits will get your body ready for rest/sleep and promote a regular sleep-wake cycle.
8. Do Not Go to Bed Unless You Are Sleepy
If you are not sleepy at bedtime, try reading a book, listening to soft music or finding something relaxing to take your mind off worries about sleep.
9. Practice Relaxation Techniques Before Bed
Deep breathing and muscle relaxation are relaxing techniques that relax both your mind and your body, reduce anxiety or muscle tension that may be keeping you awake at night.
10. If You Are Not Asleep After 20 Minutes, Get Out of Bed
Try sitting in a chair in the dark. Avoid doing office work or housework, and don't watch television or surf the internet as these activities will just stimulate your mind. Here’s a reliable sleep hygiene tip: listening to relaxing music has been found to help some people fall asleep more easily.
11. Don't Clock-watch
If you cannot sleep, do not keep lying in bed checking the time on your clock or watch. This may make you more anxious and may make it harder to fall
Contributed By: Health Promotion Board (HPB)
11 Healthy Habits to Sleep Better by Health Promotion Board, 23 June 2021, www.healthhub.sg.