Sleep hygiene — the cornerstone of good health

Sleep hygiene — the cornerstone of good health

By Anushka Satya

Sleep is needed for the brain to function properly and for the body to restore itself. Sleep deprivation is associated with chronic health problems such as depression, hypertension, obesity, diabetes mellitus and as well as affecting the way you think, learn, work, react, and interact with others.

What is sleep hygiene?

Sleep hygiene is a set of daily behaviours and principles designed to promote and enhance sleep when integrated into daily routine.

Sleep–Wake Regulation

  • Establish regular bedtime and waking time.
  • Avoid laying in bed worrying about sleep.
  • Avoid oversleeping and napping (10–15 minutes “power nap” if necessary).
  • Avoid exposure to bright lights in evening/late night and expose yourself to bright light after rising.

Bedroom Influences

  • Ensure a dark, quiet, comfortable temperature for sleeping.
  • Remove laptop, television, stereo, mobile phone and internet access from bedroom and switch off power points.
  • Ensure pillow and mattress are comfortable.
  • Reserve bed for sleep and sex. Time spent in bed completing other tasks diminishes the association between bed and sleep.
  • If you cant fall asleep within 30 minutes, get up and do something, ensuring you minimise light and mental activity.
  • Avoid having pets in the bedroom.

Lifestyle Influences

  • Avoid energetic physical activity within three hours of bedtime.
  • Avoid mentally stimulating activity within three hours of bedtime.
  • Avoid stressful or alerting ruminations before bed (go through worrying issues earlier in evening).
  • Avoid illicit drug use.

Dietary Influences

  • Avoid heavy, spicy or pungent meals within three hours of bedtime.
  • Light snack or warm drink such as herbal tea before bed can help you fall asleep.
  • Eliminate stimulants such as soft drinks, sugar, and nicotine throughout the day, and especially before bed, these will make it harder to fall asleep and shorten sleep duration.
  • Limit caffeine and avoid after midday as it will make it difficult to fall asleep and make you sleep more lightly, limiting consumption to 200mg, the equivalent of one-two cups of brewed coffee, 2-3 espressos, 3-4 black or green teas, one energy drink, one NoDoz or 330g of chocolate.
  • Avoid alcohol within 4 hours of bedtime. Sleep after drinking alcohol is associated with light sleep, frequent awakenings, night sweats, headaches and nightmares. Note: Binge drinking effects melatonin levels for up to 1 week.
  • An unmanaged food allergy or intolerance may cause an adrenaline reaction and interfere with sleep.

Dietary recommendation

  • Consume a variety of B-complex vitamins (e.g., meat, leafy greens), vitamin C (e.g., vegetables and fruit), magnesium (e.g., leafy greens, beans), and protein (e.g., beans, lean meat, nuts) that contribute to the synthesis of tryptophan and are depleted during with stress and sleep deprivation. Tryptophan is a precursor to melatonin, a hormone that aids in falling asleep and regulates sleep patterns.

This article provides general information and is not intended to constitute advice. All care is taken to ensure information is accurate and relevant. Please see your Practitioner for health treatments and advice.

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