5 tips to improve your sleep hygiene

Discover our top tips for optimising your sleep habits and practices, from sticking to a routine and avoiding caffeine, to creating a restful sleep environment.

A man sleeping in a bed

Adequate sleep is essential for both physical and mental well-being. Not only does good sleep practice improve your focus and concentration, it also promotes healing and reduces your risk for a plethora of health conditions

A recent survey has revealed that during the coronavirus lockdown, almost 50 per cent of us are experiencing more sleep disruption than usual.

The term ‘sleep hygiene’ refers to the habits and practices conducive to sleeping well on a regular basis. One of the key principles of sleep hygiene is simply achieving an appropriate amount of sleep for your person. Both too much and too little sleep can negatively affect your health, with researchers agreeing between 7-9 hours is the optimal length of shut eye required for the average adult.

As with many things, the key to improving your sleep is to experiment and discover the strategies that provide you with deep, restorative sleep every night. Take a look at our top suggestions below and find what works for you.

1. Establish a routine

Your body works on a sleep/wake cycle known as the circadian rhythm. This cycle loves the consistency of a routine as it can be quite sensitive to change. By adopting a regular nightly routine, you are clearly indicating to your body when it is time for bed, allowing it to prepare for a restful night of sleep. Establishing a set bed and wake time, as well as incorporating wind down rituals such as putting on your pyjamas, making a cup of herbal tea, taking a bath or even just brushing your teeth are great ways to prime your body for a restful night.

2. Manage your intake of stimulants

Studies suggest that consumption of stimulants such as caffeine and sugar can cause sleep issues for several hours after consumption. If you’re struggling to sleep, reducing or eliminating your intake of these items by noon can be a great first step. Consider switching to decaf or herbal teas after 12pm. If you’re craving a sweet treat, opt for something wholesome like a piece of fruit or try one of our lower sugar recipes.

Two mugs of lemon and ginger tea

3. Go easy on the bedtime snacks

Eating large quantities of food before bed can really throw off your sleep. If you think about it, the primary function of food is to create energy, so if you’re eating a lot before bed, you’re stimulating your digestion, leading to sleep disruption for some. Ideally, your last meal should be at least 2-3 hours before bed to allow sufficient time for digestion. With that said, you don’t want to go to sleep hungry either, so if you do require a light snack, choose something with some protein and carbohydrate which support the creation of your sleep hormone melatonin.  

Why not be inspired by some of our healthy snack recipes?

4. Choose the right light

Light is a huge factor when it comes to supporting or inhibiting the production of your sleep hormone melatonin. To support your sleep/wake cycle, it’s important to try and get at least 30 minutes of sunlight each day; while at night, your room should be as dark as possible. Tools such as eye masks and blackout curtains can be useful here, as well as limiting your screen time closer to bed. Devices such as laptops and tablets emit blue light which can disrupt melatonin creation. Instead, if you must use your device late in the evening, consider downloading a light-changing app which can switch your screen backlight from blue to red which is less disruptive.

A couple asleep in a bed

5. Optimise your sleeping environment

Creating a pleasant environment is an important consideration for healthy sleep. Choosing a supportive mattress, comfy pillow and breathable sheets can go a long way in providing a comfortable setting for a good night of rest. 

Temperature control is also critical – try to create some air flow by opening windows and doors during the day. Dehumidifiers, air purifiers and fans can also be useful. If you live in a noisy area, items like ear plugs or noise cancelling machines are great options too!

Enjoyed this? Check out more well-being articles…

How to get a good night’s sleep
Stress relief: How diet and lifestyle can help
5 top tips to boost your energy levels
10 things you should know before giving up sugar
How much caffeine should I drink?

Do you have trouble sleeping? What helps you nod off? Let us know below...


This article was published on 8th June 2020.

All health content on bbcgoodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local health care provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.

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