Consistent, healthy sleep means good habits. This is known as sleep hygiene. Everyone has different needs and abilities when it comes to sleep, but having healthy habits can work wonders.
What’s behind healthy sleep?
The first is simple: go to bed and wake up at the same time every day; bedtimes aren’t just for kids. Dedicate 7 to 9 hours for sleep every day and make time for quiet relaxation before this to help you wind down. If you can’t fall asleep, get up and read or do another quiet activity before trying again in 20 to 30 minutes.
Your sleep environment also needs to support healthy sleep. Install blackout curtains or wear an eye mask if light is disturbing you.
The same goes for noise – this disturbs almost everyone when they’re sleeping. Shift workers tend to be particularly light sleepers. Consider wearing earplugs, turning off ringers, or even posting a sign asking people not to ring your doorbell.
If people are awake in your home when you need to sleep, talk to them about how they can keep noise down without interrupting their lives. You may want to put carpets in or install sound insulation.
Temperature is also a factor. Keeping your room around 18.5 C is optimal for staying nice and comfortable beneath the sheets.
Sleep Hygiene During Waking Hours
There’s a lot you can do before bed, as well. The biggest is staying away from blue light before bed. Ideally, you should avoid screens – TVs, smartphones, tablets – for an hour or two before you lie down.
This is increasingly hard, we know. Some people use tinted glasses or certain apps to reduce or block blue light, but it’s best to avoid it altogether. Instead, read a book or listen to a podcast. Just find something you like to do that doesn’t involve screen time.
Another thing is social life. It’s not going to kill you to stay up a little later on the weekends, but you should schedule social activities around sleep, not the other way around
With shift workers this is a particular challenge. Try to eat one meal a day with your family and keep regular meal times. Sleeping and eating at unnatural or irregular times can disrupt digestive enzymes.
If you are working nights, avoid excessive snacking, especially of processed foods loaded with salt, fat, and sugar. Eat breakfast before going to bed so you don’t wake up hungry.
As always, drink lots of water, don’t have caffeine or large meals before sleep, and keep a healthy, balanced diet.
Naps, Exercise, and Consistency
What about resting during the day? Napping is great if you do it right. Don’t nap for too long, because it might be hard for you to get up.
If napping during the day, do so before 3 p.m. If you work nights, try to nap for 2 hours before work.
A big thing a lot of insomniacs are missing out on is exercise. In fact, it’s so important to your health that it combats insomnia and excessive sleepiness.
You should be getting 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week. This can, of course, be a wide range of activities.
Just don’t go for a workout too close to bedtime. This raises core body temperature, making it harder to sleep.
Employers can make a big difference, too. Schedule the most demanding work early in a shift when employees are more alert and make sure there is enough time between shifts for employees to get home, eat, and still get 8 hours of sleep.
If possible, provide facilities on site for employees to nap before or after their shift. Promoting social activities for staff and family members also goes a long way.
Night workers seem to sleep better with four 12-hour shifts (rather than five 8 to 10 hour shifts), but workplace accidents increase after 8 hours, so this isn’t always a good solution.
So think about your sleep hygiene before you seek medical help or take sleep-inducing substances. Change your habits; make your schedule more consistent – there’s no harm in trying!
Thank you for following our series. We hope it brings you healthy sleep!