- Several studies show good sleep hygiene is important for promoting healthy and restful sleep, which has many known benefits.
- While good sleep is possible, and should not be ignored, poor sleep is linked to years of poor cardiovascular health, one study shows.
- Deep sleep is important as that's the moment the body produces growth hormones, which help in tissue repair.
Putting yourself in the best position to get good sleep each and every night is the least you can do for self-care. It’s known as “good sleep hygiene.”
Many of us do the opposite, spending countless hours on social media, then parking our smartphone next to our pillow, so as to never to miss anything important posted by a friend, acquaintance or an influencer.
This is toxic for both mind and body, designed to be addictive, and stands in the way of restorative sleep, say experts.
Why does good sleep hygiene matter?
Experts cite certain advantages: observing good sleep hygiene improves memory, for one; its boosts the immune system, for two.
There's so much more to it (than meets the eye, better shut for a good number of hours).
Make good sleep hygiene a habit
“Habit” is the key word — i.e. going to bed and waking up at the same time every day. But this is just one part of it.
It is well known that we function better when we get sufficient good-quality sleep, but studies have shown that sleep also affects our satiety and hunger levels.
A good or improved sleep hygiene encourages quality sleep — which helps regulate appetite-control hormones, said Dr Vaishal Shah, M.D., of Cleveland Clinic’s Sleep Disorders Center.
“It is well known that we function better when we get sufficient good-quality sleep, but studies have shown that sleep also affects our satiety and hunger levels.”
There new challenges that stand in the way of quality sleep: the modern-day habits of being glued to a mobile phone screen, and caffeine overconsumption before bed. These are now seen behind the global phenomemon of “poor sleep hygiene”.
What is poor sleep hygiene?
Inadequate sleep hygiene is a form of insomnia caused by poor sleeping habits that disrupt consistent healthy sleep. Some of the factors that can make it hard to sleep well at night include:
- Background noise
- Temperature extremes (too hot or too cold)
- Uncomfortable bedroom
- Tech/smartphone overuse and
- Caffeine overconsumption.
Why good sleep is important?
Experts explain that good sleep hygiene is key to restorative sleep — a deep and restful sleep that allows the body to repair and rejuvenate itself.
Dr. Shah cites studies which suggest that without sufficient and consistent quality sleep, the immune response is suppressed — making people more susceptible to infections in general, and taking longer to recover from them.
To get enough sleep, he suggests certain steps.
What happens during restorative sleep?
It’s when the body goes through a series of processes that help restore energy, repair tissues, and consolidate memories.
Restorative sleep is characterised by a few key features:
#1. Deep sleep
It typically involves a longer period of time spent in deep sleep, which is the stage of sleep where the body is most relaxed and the brain waves slow down.
During deep sleep, the body produces growth hormone, which is important for repairing tissues and promoting growth.
⦿ 10 hours before bed: No more caffeine.
⦿ 3 hours before bed: No more food or alcohol.
⦿ 2 hours before bed: No more work.
⦿ 1 hour before bed: No more screen time (shut off all phones, TVs and computers).
Restorative sleep is often associated with dreaming, important for processing emotions and consolidating memories. During rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is the stage of sleep where dreaming occurs, the brain is highly active and processes information from the previous day.
#3. Wakefulness, alertness
Upon awakening, restorative sleep is characterised by a feeling of wakefulness and alertness.
When we get enough restorative sleep, we feel refreshed and energised in the morning, and are able to concentrate and perform tasks effectively throughout the day.
Overall, experts say that restorative sleep is an essential component of good sleep health and is critical for maintaining physical and mental well-being.
What are the studies on good sleep hygiene?
Key findings from studies:
#1. Practices that promote good sleep hygiene, such as maintaining a regular sleep schedule and avoiding stimulating activities before bedtime, are linked to higher levels of sleep quality, according to a study that was published in the Journal of Sleep Research.
#2. Practices that promote good sleep hygiene, such as abstaining from caffeine and alcohol before bed, and providing a comfortable sleeping environment, have been shown to increase sleep duration, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.
#3. According to a study in the Journal of Adolescent Health, adolescents who reported poor sleep hygiene behaviors, such as irregular sleep schedules and engaging in stimulating activities before bed, were more likely to have sleep issues, including difficulty falling asleep and waking up during the night.
#4. Insomniacs who exercised good sleep hygiene, such as keeping a regular sleep schedule, reported better sleep quality and less symptoms of insomnia, according to a study that was published in the Journal of Sleep Research.
How to practice good sleep hygiene?
Stick to a regular sleep schedule: Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends.
Create a comfortable sleep environment: Make sure your bedroom is cool, dark, and quiet. Use comfortable bedding and pillows, and consider using blackout curtains or a white noise machine to block out any unwanted noise or light.
Limit caffeine and alcohol intake: Avoid consuming caffeine and alcohol before bedtime, as these substances can interfere with sleep.
Avoid large meals and snacks close to bedtime: Eating a heavy meal or snack close to bedtime can make it difficult to fall asleep.
Engage in relaxation activities before bedtime: Consider practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, yoga, or meditation before bedtime to help promote relaxation and reduce stress.
Limit screen time before bedtime: The blue light emitted from electronic devices can interfere with sleep. Avoid using electronic devices such as smartphones, tablets, and computers for at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
Exercise regularly: Regular exercise can help improve sleep quality, but avoid exercising close to bedtime as it can interfere with sleep.
By incorporating these habits into your daily routine, you can promote healthy and restful sleep and improve your overall well-being.
What if uninterrupted sleep cannot be avoided?
If people choose to divide their sleep into a number of sessions throughout the day, Dr Shah advises that they should make sure this includes one consistent longer block of continuous sleep that is at least five or six hours long — and to aim for the recommended total of seven to nine hours of sleep in a day.
Dr. Shah also advises individuals who have significantly changed their sleeping pattern during Ramadan to ease back into routine afterwards.
More than the number of sleeping hours, it is also the quality of sleep that matters, Dr. Shah said.
He strongly suggests: people should aim to turn off their televisions and electronic devices at least an hour before going to bed.
“Sleep needs to be uninterrupted as far as possible, leaving you feeling refreshed or rejuvenated and able to function appropriately during the day without feeling sleepy,” Dr. Shah said.