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Sleep Hygiene

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Published: 15 April 2020

A bed and pillows

Whilst we’re studying at home it can feel like getting a good night’s sleep is hard. The news is filled with distressing topics and statistics right now. That can make it hard to stop worrying and get some well-deserved rest.

Some people need less sleep and some a little more. But the average amount of sleep an adult needs is between six and eight hours. However much you need, lack of sleep can lead to:

  • Poor concentration
  • Irritability and bad moods
  • Slower judgement and reaction time
  • Poor physical health

What is sleep hygiene?

Sleep hygiene is the name for a range of practices and habits that you need to get a good night’s sleep to be fully alert during the day.

Establish a routine

It might seem obvious, but our bodies love routine and structure. Try going to bed and getting up at the same time every day. This will let your body to develop a natural rhythm.

Think about including mindfulness meditation or stretches in your nighttime routine. This lets your body know to expect sleep. Try having a bath one or two hours before bed. This raises your body temperature, which makes you tired.

Avoid screen time

We’re stuck to our phones now more than ever. But, by the backlight on your phone tricks your mind into thinking it is daytime. The blue light given off by screens on phones, computers, tablets, and televisions limits the production of melatonin, the hormone that controls your sleep/wake cycle (or circadian rhythm). That makes it much harder to fall, and stay, asleep.

Think about your environment

Ideally, your bedroom should be tidy, dark and the right temperature (about 15 to 19 degrees Celcius) before you go to bed. Outside noises and lights can also distract you and stop you sleeping.

Diet and exercise

Avoid caffeine and nicotine: Both of these are stimulants - they make you feel more awake. Try to avoid these four to six hours before bed. Exercise is really important for our wellbeing and it can help your sleep. But try not to do a lot of exercise less than four hours before you go to bed.

We all know that eating a healthy balanced diet is good for your health, but when you eat is just as important. Some people find an empty stomach distracting before sleep, so a light snack can be useful. But, eating a large meal before bed can make it just as hard to fall asleep. If you’re feeling peckish try a warm milky drink.

For more information read the NHS information on how to get to sleep and the Sleep Council. The University of Sunderland in London’s Health and Wellbeing team are here to help you with confidential support, guidance and advice on a wide range of areas. Find out more on the Health and Wellbeing section of our website, if you want to book a one-on-one meeting with the team.