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04th Jun 2024

Her Health: The importance of sleep hygiene

Niamh Ryan

Last week Her spoke to a chartered physiotherapist Chris Carr on the importance of back health and maintaining good posture.

An important thing Carr mentioned was sleep hygiene, as the way we sleep can greatly impact our back.

But what is sleep hygiene, and how do we know if we’re sleeping the ‘right’ way?

What is sleep hygiene?

Sleep hygiene is essentially a term used for good sleep habits and practices. It also applies to our lifestyle during the day, as these activities can affect us as we try to sleep during the night.

If you’ve ever woken up after getting a decent amount of sleep, but still felt tired and groggy, then these tips might be helpful for you.

Evening routine

Settling down for the evening is a crucial step in preparing for bed.

The HSE recommends having a wind down time about 90 minutes before you go to bed. This allows your mind to relax and will help you get tired, allowing you to fall asleep faster.

It’s best to only have a small snack before bed, or stop eating a couple of hours before bed. This will decrease any chance of heartburn or acid reflux, and will allow food to digest before you go to sleep.

Caffeine and alcohol should also be avoided before bed as they can keep us up. Herbal tea like peppermint or chamomile can help you relax before bed.

We all know that screens are bad before bed, yet it can be hard to turn off our phone and pick up a book instead.

If you simply can’t stay away, try turning off the blue light on your screens (this can be done in settings) or wear a pair of blue light glasses.

Morning routine

According to sleep medicine specialist Dr. Peter Polos, “your daily routine directly impacts the quality of sleep you’re going to get at night.”

Having a good morning routine can be as beneficial for our sleep as a night time routine.

According to Polos, you should get out of bed as soon as you wake up.

Lying in bed can make us feel more tired, the same way oversleeping can negatively affect our quality of sleep.

Letting light and fresh air in is a good way to get the day started and wake up properly.

Making your bed is another step to start the day right as it forces us to get up.

The essentials

You don’t need to go on a spending spree for sleep gadgets and accessories to have a good night’s sleep.

However, it should be noted that there are products that will encourage better sleep.

A firm but comfortable mattress is crucial for back support, and will help avoid any pain in the mornings.

A good quality mattress topper is an affordable alternative.

Pillows are also important for supporting our necks and allow us to maintain spinal health.

Avoid flat pillows, as they can not properly support your head and neck. Doctors typically recommend microfibre or memory foam.

It’s best to choose cotton materials as they are breathable.

A good sleep environment

The room that we sleep in can have an affect on our quality of sleep.

Clutter can make our mind feel cluttered, so sleeping in a clean room may make us feel more relaxed.

While some people are happy enough to sleep with light coming into the room, darkness actually helps us sleep better. Darkness allows the production of melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleeping and make us feel tired.

You can invest in a black out blind or use an eye mask to get the same effect.

Air quality is another important step in getting quality sleep.

According to studies, people sleep better when the air is clean and fresh. Unbalanced humidity can disturb our sleep – if the air is too damp or too dry we may find it difficult to feel rested.

Opening the window and allowing fresh air to circulate can be useful. A humidifier or dehumidifier is also ideal to improve the air quality.

Helpful tips

  • Wake up and go to bed at the same time everyday to establish a sleep pattern.
  • Use a lavender spray or oil to relax you
  • Journal before bed to ’empty’ your head – write down anything that’s bothering you or make a list of everything you have to do the next day
  • Only use your bed for sleep
  • Wash your bed sheets every two weeks for a more comfortable sleep