Sleep disorders have always been a problem for humanity, and are now a widespread phenomenon. Unfortunately, the volatile circumstances of the last year, fears for the future, and increased media consumption have not helped – in fact, they have made things worse.
According to “Sleep in the Time of Corona” a study carried out by mhplus, a German public health insurance company, more than half (!) of the German population has problems getting to sleep in the evening, for a variety of different reasons. These days, there are over 80 different official sleep disorder diagnoses, including sleep walking, nightmares, and insomnia.
So it’s interesting to note that sleep is making a comeback as a miracle cure. The sleep industry is booming. There are apps that wake you up during the right phase of your sleep cycle, mattresses that claim to aid sleep, and a plethora of sleep advice to follow. Everyone wants a perfect night’s sleep.
In this article, we want to share six tips designed to inspire you to improve your sleep hygiene, which will in turn improve your mindfulness and happiness during the day.
Tip 1: Eat well, sleep well
There are plenty of scientific studies that prove that consuming a well-balanced mix of micronutrients helps people fall asleep and stay asleep. Nutrition helps to manage hormone production, and hormones are one of the tools our body uses to put us to sleep.
The following tips can support your body as you switch into relaxation mode in the evening:
- Eat more fruit, vegetables, full-grain products, and high-quality vegetable oils (for example cold-pressed olive, avocado, or hempseed oil).
- Eat more fish and less meat – or, even better, make that meal vegetarian.
- Try and reduce the number of milk products in your diet.
- Stop eating 2 hours before bedtime.
- Avoid spicy food in the evenings.
- Avoid foods that cause bloating.
- Stop drinking caffeine after lunch.
- Stop drinking alcohol completely (when our bodies break down alcohol, they produce stress hormones that stop us sleeping through the night).
Tip 2: Keep your bedroom cool in the heat
Everyone knows how hard it can be to get to sleep when it’s hot outside. You turn restlessly from side to side, feeling hot and sticky and… ugh!
To aid sleep even during soaring temperatures, you should do your best to keep your bedroom cool during the day. One way to do this is to close the windows and use blinds or curtains to block out the light, preventing sunshine from entering the room. If you need to let in fresh air, do so right before you go to bed by opening the windows wide for 15 minutes.
Hanging up damp towels can also help to keep the room cool. The water creates cold air as it evaporates, lowering temperatures in the room.
Even though it feels good over the short-term, don’t have a cold shower before going to bed on a hot day. It will wake you up and make it more difficult for you to fall asleep. Instead, have a lukewarm shower and, if you need to, place a cold footbath beside your bed for when the heat becomes too much.
Tip 3: Keep your mobile phone away from your bed
These days it’s practically normal to fall asleep holding your phone, and check it as soon as you wake up. Most of us keep it right next to (or even under) our pillows. But keeping the phone in bed with us is bad for our health, and not just due to any radiation it might emit; it also has psychological effects.
Humans did not evolve with phones to keep us company in bed, and using them before going to sleep has been proven to increase stress. Staying glued to the screen in the evening keeps us awake and may cause our thoughts to start whirling. Sometimes we get so worked up that we just can’t sleep.
A study from scientists at the University of Lincoln discovered that mobile phone screens produce blue light, which has a short wavelength and influences production of melatonin, a sleep hormone produced in our pineal gland. Basically, our body doesn’t know it’s time to sleep until the room is dark, and since the phone produces light…
So start by putting your phone away an hour before you go to sleep, and then go from there. After a week, put the phone away two hours before going to bed and keep it up until you have established a routine. Which brings us to our next tip.
Tip 4: Create a routine
Scientific studies confirm that people who always go to bed at the same time sleep better. According to a study by TK, 61 percent of people in Germany who claim to sleep well stick to regular sleep schedules.
In addition to always going to bed and waking up at the same time, it helps to always follow the same routine before going to bed. A solid nighttime routine will help you to reduce stress.
Sleep routines can vary from person to person. You have to find a routine that feels good to you. Here are a few ideas:
- Drink some herbal tea (lemon balm tea is soothing!)
- Open the windows and let fresh air into your bedroom for 10 minutes.
- Listen to a sound or sleep meditation program (there are plenty available in the Humanoo app!)
- If you practice yoga, try a moon salutation, or, if you don’t, some other calming movement routine (there are courses available in our app).
- Go for an evening walk in the fresh air.
- Read an interesting book.
- Write in a notebook or journal: you can simply write down whatever your thoughts are in that moment. Another idea to consider is always answering the same questions about your day (for example 3 things that made the day special, what you are grateful for, or what you are looking forward to tomorrow).
Don’t forget that it takes more than two months to establish a routine (66 days, to be precise). There are days when it will be easier, and days when it will seem almost impossible. Be kind to yourself and simply return to your routine once you can.
Tip 5: Get moving
We know that people who work out regularly are healthier. But getting enough exercise during the day will also improve your sleep.
A study by Oregon State and Bellarmine University concluded that 150 minutes of sport per week improved participants’ quality of sleep by 65 percent. Exercising increased the number of sleep cycles, leading participants to feel more rested after waking up. The researchers therefore recommend that those with sleep problems engage in sport daily.
However, it’s important to make sure you don’t work out just before going to bed, because sport gets your blood pumping and wakes you up. The best time to exercise is in the morning, but exercising in the afternoon or early evening works well too. Give it a try and see how it feels!
Tip 6: Why not take a nap?
Southern European countries like Spain and Italy are famous for siestas. It might be totally normal in Mediterranean countries to take a nap in the middle of the day, but here in central Europe it’s practically considered shameful. A midday nap is seen as ‘lazy’.
And people erroneously assume that those who reward themselves with a nap work less. That’s a myth: usually, the time spent napping is compensated for by working in the evening.
But forget Italy, Spain, Portugal – did you know that napping is also popular in Japan? There, napping at work is so popular that it has its own name: “Inemuri” means something like ‘present while sleeping’.
No surprise, then, that there is scientific proof that a short nap has a positive effect on blood pressure and the cardiovascular system. Plus, a short nap is good for you, and can improve creativity.
Of course, it’s important to make sure it really is just a short nap. We all know how easy it is for ‘I’m just going to close my eyes for a bit’ to turn into 2-3 hours of sleep.
It’s best to stick to 10–30-minute naps, because after that your body will enter a deep sleep phase. And waking up in the middle of deep sleep can make for a pretty sleepy day, as well as making it harder to get back to sleep in the evening.
How important is sleep hygiene to you?
We hope that this article has proved to you that good sleep hygiene is not a fantasy. There are so many things you can do to improve the quality of your sleep.
Remember: sleeping well should be at the very top of your self-care priority list. After all, we need sleep to regenerate cells, fight off illness, and strengthen our immune systems.
We need sleep so that our subconscious minds can process our day. We need sleep to consolidate what we learned during the day, saving important events in our memory, and letting go of things we no longer need.
And nothing is more antithetical to good sleep hygiene than stress. If you have followed all these tips and still find yourself unable to shut off your thoughts and fall asleep, consider visiting a qualified therapist who will help you discover the cause of your stress and provide tips for dealing with unwanted thoughts.
Once you start treating sleep with the respect it deserves, you will find it easier to be creative and live up to your full potential.
Here at Humanoo, we want to support you as you develop excellent sleep hygiene, with meditation sessions to help you fall asleep, nutritional courses, or workouts for winding down at the end of the day. Our app features a wide range of interesting options designed to meet your needs, so you can find the best sleep routine for you.
Your Humanoo Team