For a lot of us, sleep is often an afterthought. We go about our days - and evenings - and expect that when our heads hit that pillow, slumber will come.
For some, it's not that simple. Sleep can be incredibly elusive. Unfortunately, the negative effects of under sleeping are also cumulative. Consistently under sleeping is a massive problem for your hormones, stress response and energy. It can increase your appetite, reduce cognitive awareness and generally make us grumpy which has a flow-on effect to our relationships at work and at home.
Sleep hygiene is the term used to describe the habits and practices that are conducive to sleeping well on a regular basis.
The most important sleep hygiene measure is maintaining a regular wake and sleep pattern, seven days a week.
It is also important to spend an optimal amount of time in bed, not too little, or too much. This may vary by individual. For example, if someone has a problem with daytime sleepiness, they should spend a minimum of eight hours in bed. If they have difficulty sleeping at night, they should limit themselves to no more than 8 hours in bed. This will help to keep the sleep pattern consolidated.
Everyone is unique so it will vary from person to person. The following list is a guideline – not a set of steps you MUST do in order to get good sleep. Don't forget, if you've had a problem with sleeping for a while changes won't happen instantly. Stick at it.
7 - 8pm After dinner - and the chores that go with it - begin to wind down for the evening.
9pm Ease the transition from wake time to sleep time with a period of relaxing activities an hour or so before bed.
10-10.30 Lights out.
Struggling to fall asleep can be the most frustrating thing ever. If you’re not asleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed, go to another room, and do something relaxing until you’re tired enough to sleep. For example reading or listening to music. If you're sensitive to light, invest in some blackout curtains.
The time you go to bed will depend on what your mornings look like. If you don't have to wake until 8am you have a bit more wiggle room with the time you go to bed.
That being said, the deepest and most restorative sleep you will experience is in the hours before midnight.
You will also need more sleep to support your immune system and hormones in darker months such as Autumn and Winter than in the lighter months of Summer and Spring.
If poor sleep is persistent read our blog Tips for When You Just Can't Sleep to find out what could be going on.
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We are all unique. Our genetics, our environments, our lifestyles, our emotional wellbeing. There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach to health and wellness or a single solution to your health concerns. If you want to learn more about your personal health story, Ben is touring to 30 cities around NZ presenting his new, 'What's Your Health Story?' seminar now. Learn more here.
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