31 May Sleep Hygiene Series: Part 3 – Your sleep routine
Question: What is Sleep hygiene?
Answer: Practices and habits that help to promote a good nights sleep
A sleep routine is not something many of us know that we may have. Going to bed at 10pm and waking “when the kids get up” is not actually your sleep routine. A sleep routine is a set of behaviours or practices that you typically do as you prepare for bed. This may include a warm glass of milk or brushing your teeth. What we don’t realise is that elements of Part – 1 and Part – 2 of this series play a role in our sleep routine i.e. reduce bright light, avoid caffeine etc. Before reading further, it may be worth reading parts 1 &2 of this sleep hygiene series.
What time do you go to bed? Is it the same time every night? Having a regular bedtime and wake time is important part of your sleep routine (but is not all of your sleep routine). If you go to bed/sleep at a standard time each and every night, your body will get used to going to sleep at that particular time. This is similar to you having lunch every day at 12:00, over time your body naturally starts to get hungry at that time. Try and stick to this sleep and wake time, as good habits are ones worth keeping.
With your bedtime in mind, begin to wind down in the lead up to bed. This includes avoiding exercise, caffeine, mental stress and bright light. Aim for about an hour, but this will vary from person to person. It is ok to read or watch TV, so long as the content is not mentally straining or engaging. You don’t want your brain to be overly stimulated, the last thing you want is to not be able to sleep because you are wondering what will happen in the next chapter or on the next episode. The key to this period of winding down, is to do the same thing at the same time each and every day. Have this time as loss stress as possible, avoid a lot of effort and be comfortable, you want the end result of your wind down being you climbing into bed nice and relaxed, tired and ready for sleep.
Tip: Some meditation techniques can be useful for people with issues with sleep onset (getting off to sleep).
Fun fact: Did you know that sleep blocks your short to long term memory pathways? Have you ever been able to remember the exact moment you fell asleep? You can’t. While the length of time will most likely vary from person to person, sleep will wipe a period of time from your memory starting from the very moment you fell asleep. Hopefully this memory loss hasn’t caused you to have arguments with your significant other… Hopefully you never have to hear: “I told you last night!! You never listen to me!”