πŸ›Œ Sleep Hygiene 101 - 8 Simple Tips to Easily Improve Your Sleep

πŸ™ŒπŸΌ The Importance of Sleep

This post will cover easy ways to improve your sleep without needing to spend crazy amounts of money. Everyone stresses about getting more sleep - it's completely normal. Epecially in these crazy times! But you're in luck. There are lots of very simple changes someone can make, that require minimal effort and minimal cost.

Since reading Matt Walker's phenomenal Why We Sleep, I've become obsessed with getting enough quality rest. It's a given that sleep affects your physical and mental health. And so in turn, it affects:

  • Relationships
  • Exercise
  • Motivation
  • Concentration
  • Weight loss/gain

The list of course goes on. Walker's exploration of Why We Sleep is exactly what it says on the tin - and also what happens when we do, and when we don't, get enough. It's essential reading, and will hopefully put you onto the path of better sleep as it did for me.

In this this series of posts however, I want to focus on the how rather than the why of getting better sleep. There are lots of easy and simple ways to get more effective sleep that I've read about and tried for myself. There'll be plenty in these posts for you and I guarantee that with some consistency, you'll see the benefits yourself.

You might have accepted by this point in your life that you are a bad sleeper. But this isn't something out of your control! With some consistency, a bit of discipline, and the right mindset, you can improve your sleep and live a healthier, more satisfying life.

In this series of posts, I'll cover πŸ›Œ Sleep hygiene 101 - How to Easily Improve Your Sleep, πŸ₯± Setting Up Your Sleep Environment, βœ… The Dos and Do Nots of Sleep, and ⏰ Useful gadgets/accessories to help - tested by yours truly!

This post, all about improving sleep hygiene, will look at:

  • πŸ›Œ What is 'Sleep Hygiene'?
  • 🌚 8 Tips to Easily Improve Your Sleep
  • πŸ“΅ Mobile phones
  • πŸ“±βŒ Mobile phones - Part 2
  • πŸ§‘πŸ»β€πŸ’» Pre-sleep screentime
  • ⏰ Reducing sleep anxiety - Clocks
  • 🀯 Reducing sleep anxiety - Frustration
  • πŸ“š Reading
  • πŸ—“ Making changes to your own sleep routine
  • πŸ€“ You're now an expert in sleep hygiene!

Let's get started.

πŸ›Œ What is 'Sleep Hygiene'?

Sleep hygiene covers how often you change your bedshee- only joking. It's not that kind of hygiene. Sleep hygiene is defined by sleepfoundation.org as:

Having both a bedroom environment and daily routines that promote consistent, uninterrupted sleep.

This starts from the minute you wake up, to the minute you fall asleep. Getting into a consistent routine is the key to sleeping more. But not only sleeping more. It's also the key to getting better quality sleep, which is equally important.

There's different elements to sleep hygiene.

It covers what you should and shouldn't do during the day, and how to prepare for bed at night.

Below is 8 pointers that hopefully will help you create positive change. Some will be things to do, others things to avoid. And remember - all of these points won't cost you a penny! No excuses!

πŸ“΅ Mobile phones

The classic example of keeping your best friends close but your enemies closer. Phones and sleep don't go hand in hand. You don't need me to tell you that scrolling through your Insta feed or buying new trainers before you sleep isn't a good idea.

πŸ”‘ The light from your phone screen acts in a similar way to sunlight, tricking your brain into thinking it's earlier than it is. This 'wakes' you up after your brain has slowly been preparing for nighttime - bad for two reasons. It prevents you from falling asleep quickly, and affects the quality of sleep itself. Avoid.

πŸ“±βŒ Mobile phones - Part 2

The simplest way to avoid nighttime scrolling, email checking, and cat video rabbit holes, is to avoid having your phone by your side entirely. I leave my phone on my desk, well away from where I sleep (several meters) and it works perfectly. For some, removing the temptation altogether by leaving your phone on charge in the hallway works. This is great for waking up too - your alarm going off across/outside the room forces you to get out of bed!

Perfect for those dark, hellish January mornings.

πŸ§‘πŸ»β€πŸ’» Pre-sleep screentime

Avoiding harsh screens before bed can make all the difference. Try to put at least an hour between screentime and bed time (another reason to avoid nighttime scrolling). This isn't always easy but with discipline you'll benefit. It's not as hard as it sounds. Brushing your teeth (3min, or 53min if you floss), washing your face (2min) and reading (30min) before bed alone gives you a good 35min gap. Other options include journalling, writing a to do list for tomorrow, tidying - anything that you'll do consistently. This is all about getting your nighttime routine in check.

πŸ”‘ TVs aren't as bad as laptop and phone screens, but ideally you should avoid altogether.

⏰ Reducing sleep anxiety - Clocks

Sleep anxiety can come in many forms.

The first is waking up and checking your clock to realise that once again, you've woken up at 3am. There's 2 issues here - the first being that you've woken up at 3am, followed by the fact you've checked that it's 3am. This post will hopefully help frequent waking up, but for checking the time, the solution is more simple.

Avoid clocks. Don't check the time on your phone. (Why is your phone close enough to check the time!?) Take down the clock on your wall. "I keep waking up at 3/4/5am" will become a self-fulfilling prophecy if you check the time every time you wake up at night. This will really help, and it's a really simple change. And remember, it's entirely normal to wake up during the night. Most people wake up several times a night but we usually don't remember.

πŸ”‘ Avoid any indication of the time if you can.

🀯 Reducing sleep anxiety - Frustration

That feeling when you've been trying (and failing) to get to sleep and realising you've been awake for half an hour. When you're thrashing from right to left, and you can't get comfortable. It can be so frustrating!

Sometimes, it just happens, and it's difficult to avoid. But the skill here is avoiding the frustration before it takes hold and wakes you. And, more importantly, before the association forms between falling asleep and getting frustrated at all.

From time to time, all of us will struggle to fall asleep as quickly as we'd like to (even if you've followed every point in this post to the letter). And sometimes you'll make mistakes - you'll have a coffee too late, or maybe you're less tired than you thought you were.

When you're in this situation, and it feels like 20 minutes or so have gone by, I choose one of 2 options. My Kindle. I accept the situation, grab my Kindle, and read until I feel sleepy. This works 9/10 times, and the bonus is I get to read more! If that doesn't work, I get out of bed and leave the room for 5 minutes or so, perhaps get some water, and reset.

πŸ”‘ - Be mindful and recognise the frustration building before it gets a chance to do so.

πŸ“š Reading

Reading to avoid getting frustrated takes us nicely into the next point. There aren't any silver bullets in this post, but in my experience this is the closest thing to one. Reading before bed is one of the most effective ways to improve your sleep. It will help:

  • Rest your mind
  • Destimulate (not a scientific term) your eyes and brain after a day full of sunlight and screens
  • Replace any distracting thoughts, as well as any worries and anxiety (including not being able to fall asleep)
  • Give you time to actually become sleepy if you weren't when you came to bed
  • Prevent you using your phone
  • Prevent frustration when you can't get to sleep
  • Plus all of the other benefits of reading - learning, experiencing amazing stories

πŸ”‘ Reading is also a great way to set yourself into a routine. It's a clear step before going to sleep, and the only thing that should follow it is putting your head on the pillow.

πŸ—“ Making changes to your own sleep routine

I'm a night owl, so every fibre in my body resists going to bed at a normal time. That's why it's important to have a clear nighttime routine to ensure I get a good sleep. Remember - nobody's routine will be perfect, and sometimes you'll just sleep badly. That's life.

If a lot of these points apply to you, take them step by step. Focus on small, consistent changes to form long term habits. Over time, long term habits will amount to huge changes.

The easiest place to start is your phone. Leave it away from your bed - that way, you'll avoid nighttime scrolling, as well as morning scrolling. Win-win. Another easy win is to remove clocks. Not everyone will benefit from this, but it's helped me in the past after a few sleepless nights.

Other changes will take more time. Starting to become aware of frustration when you can't sleep won't happen overnight, but you'll get better over time.

As I mentioned earlier, creating a set routine an hour from bed will help remove the temptation to stick on Netflix. In the hour before bed, there's plenty of ways to wind down and put an hour between screen time and bed time. Reading, meditation, minor chores - as well as the actual bedtime prep (showering, teeth, face). You'll be well on your way to a good hour.

One final point: sleep schedule. Try to wake up and go to sleep at the same time. Your body will get into a nice rhythm and fall into the deeper stages of sleep faster. This will also help get your routine in check.

πŸ€“ You're now an expert in sleep hygiene!

There you have it - we've gone through lots of really simple steps to help improve your sleep. The next step is to choose one or two areas to focus on. Take your time and don't be too harsh on yourself. The key is to form habits that are easy to replicate, so start slow and start easy.

Habit formation takes place only with consistent, easily replicable changes. Take your time making these changes, and make it so easy you can't fail. That's why leaving your phone away from your bed is so good. What could be easier than that?

Look out for my next post - How to get MORE work done!

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