Sleep impacts all aspects of our health and wellbeing. Humans are unique mammals when it comes to sleep; we are the only ones that consciously choose to sleep less but sleep is as important for health as diet and exercise because your brain and body carry out essential repair functions while you are asleep. Not getting enough good quality sleep a night (so you awake feeling refreshed and rested) increases your risk of many diseases and disorders including heart disease, stroke, obesity, cancer and dementia. Aim for 7-8 hours per night. If you struggle to fall asleep or have poor sleep quality, check out the points below which may help you to improve your ‘sleep hygiene’.
- Bedroom – keep your bedroom on the cooler side and minimise noise and light.
- Routine – your body likes routine so try and go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
- Caffeine – caffeine has a half life of 6 hours (it takes 6 hours for caffeine levels in your blood to drop by half), so it can take 10 hours to completely leave your system. Avoid drinking caffeine after lunchtime to ensure it’s not impacting your sleep.
- Blue light – electronic devices such as mobile phones, tablets and laptops emit blue light which suppresses release of melatonin which makes you feel drowsy i.e. they can keep you feeling awake. Avoid using them an hour before bed (or some devices have a ‘night mode’ or you can purchase blue light screens for them).
- Relax for 30 minutes before bed, for example quiet reading, low impact stretching, listening to soothing music and relaxation exercises/meditation are good ways to get into the right frame of mind for sleep.
- Get some natural light during the day, ideally in the morning, to help your body’s circadian rhythm.
- Leave at least 2 hours between eating and bedtime.
- If you struggle with sleep quality then be mindful of drinking alcohol in the hour before bedtime.