Sleep hygiene tips for getting a better night’s rest.
Risks of Not Getting Enough Sleep
Mental health and sleep are intertwined. Think of it like playing Jenga and sleep is the bottom three blocks. Typically they are the ones you don’t want to move if you want to make sure the Jenga blocks don’t come crashing down. Many mental health concerns can be associated with having a night of poor sleep. Sleep and lack thereof can play an influential role in forming and maintaining mental health concerns.
How does it affect your mental or physical health if you get a poor night’s sleep or not enough sleep one night?
Insomnia and difficulty falling or staying asleep are some of the most common sleep disturbances. Research has shown that individuals who get less than 7 hours of sleep each night are more likely to be obese, active smokers, have heart disease, asthma, depression, physically inactive and have other physical illnesses and mental health concerns.
Ickes and colleagues (2015) and Wickham et al. (2020) found that sleep can sometimes be used as a coping strategy. Sleep quality and quantity can strongly indicate depressive symptoms and overall well-being.
Depression, anxiety, and interpersonal conflicts have been seen in individuals with poor sleep quality and quantity (less than 8 hours or too long, more than 12 hours). The lowest depressive symptoms were found in individuals who slept approximately 9.7 hours nightly (Wickham et al., 2020). It is also important to remember not to use sleep as an avoidant technique but rather to receive the appropriate amount of sleep regularly for one’s age for overall positive health and well-being.
How Much Sleep is Enough Sleep?
Just about everyone seems to know that getting enough sleep is important. It is essential to our mental and physical health. However, according to the CDC, approximately 1 in 3 adults don’t get enough sleep at night. This number is even high for children and adolescents. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults between the ages of 18- 64 strive to achieve 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Children (ages 6-13) need between 9-11 hours of sleep each night. Teens (ages 14-17) need between 8-10 hours of sleep. Ensuring that you get enough sleep each night allows the mind and body to fully gain the restorative benefits of sleep, which greatly benefits your mental health.
Having general knowledge of the recommended amount of sleep you need each night is just the first step in getting a better night’s rest. When considering how much sleep you need, it is important to reflect on your needs and consider factors like your activity level and overall health. Of course, applying some healthy sleep tips to get the quantity of sleep needed and good quality sleep wouldn’t hurt.
What is Sleep Hygiene?
Amazingly sleep hygiene isn’t that complex. Just like a bedtime routine for children and adolescents, Sleep hygiene incorporates both behavioural and environmental habits that allow for higher-quality sleep and thus help improve overall health. As a bonus, implementing sleep hygiene strategies has almost no risk and is very cost-effective, making it a viable option for many.
Take some time to reflect. What is your sleep hygiene strategy? Is it working to make sure you’re getting a good night’s sleep?
Why is Sleep Hygiene Important?
Unsurprisingly, poor sleep hygiene can lead to poor sleep quality. How do you know that you’re struggling with sleep hygiene? It could be evident if you notice you are having trouble falling asleep at night or falling asleep at inappropriate times (While watching a movie, driving, or out with friends). It can also be evident if you wake up for long periods of time throughout the night or wake up after getting a full night’s sleep and still feel tired.
Here is something to reflect on: How tired are you during the week, around 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm in the afternoon? Do you need a coffee to keep yourself going?
Lacking quality sleep can affect your mood, making you feel unhappy, anxious, and ‘crappy”. But lack of quality sleep doesn’t stop there. It can interfere with memory, affect concentration, and make you more impulsive. However, it doesn’t stop there. It can cause your brain to feel impaired and affect your judgment, like when you’re drunk. Poor sleep quality can even increase your blood pressure, lead to weight gain, increase your chances of depression, and cause you to get sick more often, affecting your immune system.
What Effects Sleep Hygiene
There are a few things that can affect the quality of sleep you get each night. Studies have shown that evening activity and conditions before bed, as well as while falling asleep, can affect sleep quality. Schedule irregularities, intense nighttime exercises, caffeine, cannabis, tobacco and alcohol use, and using the bedroom for activities such as working, eating, watching TV or streaming services, have been associated with poor sleep.
It is recommended that sleep hygiene practices should include intense exercises earlier in the day or light/less intense exercises before bed, altering light exposure, lifestyle practices (restricting alcohol use, cannabis etc.), and reducing arousal factors (stress management and restricting caffeine) can all help in getting a night of better quality sleep. Furthermore, relaxation techniques can help manage stress and include meditation, muscle relaxation and mental imagery.
How Can You Practice Good Sleep Hygiene?
Sleep hygiene aims to get you into the best position to sleep well each night. Through creating a sleep schedule, pre-bedtime routine and daily routine. This helps make getting the needed quality and quantity of sleep feel more automatic. Below are a few tips from the National Sleep Foundation and the Crisis and Trauma Resource Institute that can help you create a routine. These are not rigid requirements; you can adapt them to fit your needs and create your own sleep hygiene routine to get the best sleep possible. If you are looking for more tips on developing a good sleep hygiene routine, check out the Sleep Foundation’s website.
- Having a predictable and constant schedule. No matter the day, it is good to have and wake up and go to bed at the same time every day. Constantly fluctuating makes it more difficult to get into a constant sleep routine.
- Sleep only when tired and try to limit naps. While they can be helpful to regain energy during the day they can make it difficult to sleep at night. If a nap is needed try to take a short nap either earlier in the day or afternoon.
- 90 mins before bed lowers the amount of light/daylight you get. While getting some sunlight throughout the day can help your circadian rhythm which encourages quality sleep, having too much light when you are trying to sleep can disrupt your sleep.
- Use the bedroom for bedroom activities only (this means no watching tv, eating or having meetings in the bedroom etc.) This helps your mind link that being in the bed means it’s time to sleep.
- Avoid eating right before bed unless it’s a light snack and limit alcohol and cannabis use before bed. While alcohol and cannabis might help you to fall asleep, the effects wear off and can disrupt your sleep later in the night. It can also affect the quality of sleep you are getting.
- Limit caffeine and Smoking. Both of these are stimulants. They can keep you wired when you want to rest and smoking cam disrupt your sleep and has been linked to many sleep concerns.
Tricks to Get a Better Nights Sleep
On her youtube channel Georgia Dow (link below), offers some tricks to help get a better night’s sleep.
Exposure to Sunlight
- The sunset provides yellow spectrum light. This helps our body to realize that it’s time to get ready for bed. It’s a good idea to set a light filter on your phones and computers. The blue lights they emit helps to keep us awake. If possible, it’s best to attempt to put tech away 1-1.5 hours before bed.
- Try to get a minimum of 15 mins of yellow spectrum lights a day (sunlight). This will improve our sleep and help with our body clock, also known as the circadian rhythm.
Deep breaths help to signal the brain that “I am calm, I am relaxed and ready to sleep.”
- Deep breathing: in through the nose for 5 sec – exhale through the mouth for 5 seconds- hold breath for 5 secs at least 5 times
- 4-7-8 Breathing: in through the nose for 4 sec – Hold for 7 -exhale through the mouth for 8 seconds a few minutes before bed, increase as you get more comfortable.
- What you tell yourself throughout the day is what you will get back at night.
- Try to think positive/happy things before bed
- When you begin ruminating, you increase the cortisol(stress hormone) and adrenaline in your body, which makes it harder to sleep
- Remind yourself if it wasn’t important enough to bother you during the day it’s not important enough to bother you at night
- To help combat rumination journaling your thoughts may help.
- Try playing the Alphabet game. This game helps keep your mind from focusing on ruminations or negative thoughts. Pick a category, for example, animals and try to come up with an animal for every letter of the alphabet ex. A-aardvark, B-baboon, C-Cat D-Dog…
- Focusing on relaxation techniques.
- Breathing exercises like the ones listed above can help you to relax but use your body’s natural relaxation response.
- Visualization exercises like body scans are another way to enlist your body’s natural relaxation response. It uses mental imagery to care for as a sense of well-being within the body and helps reduce stress making it easier to fall asleep
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Cherry, K. (2020). What Impact Does Sleep Have on Mental Health? Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/how-sleep-affects-mental-health-4783067
Dow, G. [Georgia Dow]. (2021, February 18). 5 Tips for YOU to Get Better Sleep! [Video]. YouTube.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wYoqKONHnCs&list=PL3I0HsOf9M_Q9Qfqu5RgBYJlyABce-yLS
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Ickes, M. J., Brown, J., Reeves, B., & Zephyr, P. M. D. (2015). Differences between Undergraduate and Graduate Students in Stress and Coping Strategies. Californian Journal of Health Promotion, 13(1), 13–25. https://doi.org/10.32398/cjhp.v13i1.1810
Jerath, R., Beveridge, C., & Barnes, V. A. (2019). Self-Regulation of Breathing as an Adjunctive Treatment of Insomnia. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 9. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00780
Koop Harder, J. (2022). Depression Practical Intervention Strategies [Slides]. Crisis and Trauma Resource Institute (CTRI). https://ca.ctrinstitute.com/product/depression-practical-intervention-strategies-webinar/
Krob, A. (2011). Fix Your Sleep Hygiene: 14 tips for getting better sleep. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/prefrontal-nudity/201112/fix-your-sleep-hygiene
Sleep Foundation. (2022, July 13). Sleep Foundation | Better Sleep for a Better You. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/
Wickham, S. R., Amarasekara, N. A., Bartonicek, A., & Conner, T. S. (2020). The Big Three Health Behaviors and Mental Health and Well-Being Among Young Adults: A Cross-Sectional Investigation of Sleep, Exercise, and Diet. Frontiers in Psychology, 11. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.579205