We take care of our physical health through personal hygiene, so it only makes sense that we care for our mental health with sleep hygiene too. But what is sleep hygiene exactly? These are habits and practices we can engage in to make it easier to get our minds and bodies to wind down and promote a sound sleep when they’re supposed to.
In this article we’re going to cover how to create a bedroom environment that is conducive to proper sleep, in turn promoting better health. Improving sleep hygiene is arguably the most important step you can take to get better sleep, but don’t forget that there are other techniques you can complement it to fall asleep faster and improve the quality of your sleep.. But first things first, let’s see what good sleep hygiene is and check out some tips on how to improve it.
Article Overview: Good sleep hygiene
The first rule of sleep hygiene: Your bed is just for sleeping
Do you snuggle up at night with your emails, your favourite series, Candy Crush, or the last slice of pizza? These days, our beds have transformed into multi-purpose spaces where we work, eat, chat, watch TV and much more. But this is absolutely not what a bed should be used for. The first and most important rule of sleep hygiene is to use your bed for sleeping only.
Why is that important? Because our habits have a strong influence over us. You may know of Pavlov’s dog that would drool whenever a bell rang because he had learned to associate that sound with his bowl of food. Our brains work similarly, and when we become used to doing many different activities in bed, it becomes a place no longer associated with sleep.
However, it’s possible to recondition ourselves through positive habits with good sleep hygiene, so that lying in bed signals to your body that it’s time to sleep rather than read, work or eat. If there’s one piece of sleep hygiene advice that you take from this article, this should be it!
Transform your bedroom into a sleep sanctuary
While your bed should be solely for sleeping, your entire bedroom should also ideally be a place to feel good and relax. Trust your gut feeling here: What items do you associate with relaxation? Maybe the fluffy bathrobe you wear before bed, or your CBD diffuser pen that is on hand when you wind down in the evening?
You should also transform your bedroom into a destination for relaxation by choosing certain colours. According to colour psychology, blues and greens are calming, while reds and oranges are considered stimulating or exciting. This should guide your bedroom decor. Bright-coloured duvets, pictures with gaudy or active designs, and other distracting decorations should be avoided when designing a sanctuary for sleep.
Even more relevant in these times: don’t put your home office in your bedroom! Associating your bedroom with work isn’t terribly relaxing, and having your laptop around can also turn into an unwanted distraction.
When redecorating a bedroom, the position of the bed is often given a lot of thought. Many people feel most comfortable when they can keep the door in view (even with their eyes closed). Others like to have a wall next to the bed or sleep near the window. There’s really no particular rule here, and you should always go with what feels most comfortable to you. The best course of action is to test different things out over time to find out which one works best.
Poor sleep hygiene calls for a digital detox
For those struggling to fall asleep, our next major sleep hygiene tip is to keep digital devices out of the bedroom, including TVs, computers, and—here’s the big one—your smartphone.
If you find this a little challenging, you're not alone. Many of us are attached to our phones until just before bed to catch up on news, chat with friends, or watch a favourite show. But even if they feel necessary, these distractions interfere with healthy sleep habits. And don’t forget the big question still being tackled by science of whether blue light from screens disrupts sleep. If you can't do without your smartphone in the bedroom, put it in airplane mode at night so it can’t interfere with your sleep. Any clocks in the room should also be positioned so that the numbers aren’t visible in the dark, so you won’t have the ticking time staring you in the face if you accidentally wake up in the middle of the night.
Improve sleep hygiene by upping your bed game
Surely you know the tale of Goldilocks and her visit to the house of the Three Bears. Her meticulous taste dictated that the porridge shouldn’t be too hot or too cold, the chair not too big nor too small, and the bed neither too hard nor too soft. Be like Goldilocks when it comes to your own bed. If your mattress is uncomfortable, maybe it’s time to find the perfect one that doesn’t leave you stiff or pained in the morning. Don’t be shy about seeking “professional help”—choosing the right mattress is no easy task, so it’s worth visiting a shop for expert advice.
To improve your sleep hygiene, you can also be choosy when it comes to bed linen. Choose bed linen that feels pleasant against your skin and is made of breathable natural fibres, rather than a blend of nylon or polyester that can feel rough or cause you to sweat. And if you sleep with a partner who tends to hog the duvet, why not just get another one exclusively for yourself?
Don’t forget the ambiance
Yes, bedroom ambiance is important for sleeping too. For example, bright lights can cheer us up and make us feel awake, but they also inhibit the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone that signals to our body that it’s time to fall asleep. You can improve your sleep hygiene by blocking light sources in your bedroom using blackout blinds or even a sleeping mask. If you can’t really escape light in the evening, a product with ingredients that promote melatonin production can be of help.
Many bedrooms are also plagued by background noises that you have no control over. Modern windows can block a good amount of sound, but only if they’re kept closed at night. During the hotter months, or in rooms with older windows, earplugs can be a real lifesaver. You can have earplugs custom made or individually fitted by a hearing care professional so they’re more comfortable to sleep in. If urban or other background noise absolutely can’t be avoided, you can also try covering it up with soft nature sounds and imagine you’re falling asleep in a cabin on the seashore or in the woods.
One important aspect of sleeping environments that often gets ignored is optimal bedroom temperature. What is considered “optimal” of course depends on your personal preference, but there are a few factors that can impact this:
- The season
- The type of duvet, bedding and mattress
- Your pyjamas (including socks!)
- The ventilation in your bedroom
Considering these factors and practicing these sleep hygiene tips should put you must closer to your goal of restful nights. Want to know more about how to get to sleep? Check out our 10 tips for better sleep with CBD, or learn more about sleep-inducing foods.