What is poor sleep hygiene?
If you have trouble sleeping, you’re not alone. 😅
Struggling with sleep disturbances, having trouble falling asleep, waking up throughout the night, or suffering from excessive daytime sleepiness are all signs of poor sleep hygiene.
But that’s no need to worry.
By following some simple sleep hygiene techniques, you could be on your way to turning your sleep habits around and experiencing better, higher-quality sleep in no time. 🥳
There is one caveat, though: You have to set up new healthy habits and routines - and stick to them.
That’s because poor sleep hygiene is often related to a body clock that’s slightly out of whack.
To reset it, your body needs time and consistency. ⏰
We won’t bore you with the science behind circadian rhythms, but it’s important to know that there are two main hormones responsible for regulating sleep cycles, melatonin and cortisol.
If melatonin production increases and cortisol production decreases, you’ll feel sleepier - and vice versa.
But the internal system is quite delicate and, in our modern environment with all its stress factors, it can easily become a tad confused.
When this happens, you may not produce enough melatonin to make you sleepy.
Or perhaps your cortisol production is in overdrive, leaving you tossing and turning all night long.
Adopting healthy sleep habits resets your inner clock and fixes your sleep-wake cycle.
Sleeping in difficult enviroments
Following good sleep hygiene practices is all good and well if you're working a normal 9 - 5 schedule and are largely in control of your bedtime routine.
But what if you're not?
What if your work or living arrangements force you into different sleeping patterns?
Let's look at a few more isolated examples to see how you could best approach sleep then.
Sleep hygiene for shift workers
Humans are designed to feel sleepy when it gets dark.
But many modern professions force us to work through the night or have otherwise irregular sleep schedules. 😔
This generally means you need to prioritise good sleep habits even more, but the following may also help:
- Avoid any caffeine products 3 - 4 hours before you go to bed.
- If you can, don't go to sleep immediately when you come home. Instead, plan your sleeping schedule so you wake up as close as possible to when your next shift starts.
- Invest in blackout curtains to keep your bedroom as dark as possible.
- Avoid relying on melatonin supplements or medication unless you're under the care of a medical professional.
You should also build some pre-bed rituals, like taking a warm bath or drinking tea, to settle down before bed.
Sleep hygiene in a hospital
Hospitals are notorious for creating conditions that aren't conducive to good sleep, including irregular call times, early doctor visits, a lack of fresh air, and excessive noise. 🏥
Setting the ideal sleep conditions in a hospital may be more difficult, but not impossible.
- Ask for your curtains to be opened early in the morning so you get a good flood of bright light.
- Ensure the room you're in is dark enough at night so you can sleep well. Use an eye mask as an alternative, as long as it's safe to do so.
- If you're struggling with noise and it is safe for you to do so, then consider sleeping with earplugs.
- Ask for your windows to be opened a few times a day to allow fresh air in, if possible.
- If you are able to move, go for a slow walk or do some simple stretches.
Of course, please check any specifics with your doctor or nursing staff.
Being in a hospital itself may be quite stressful, so you may feel inclined to listen to some relaxing music, seek the help of sleep meditations, or turn to reading a good book with noise-cancelling headphones.
These can help you find some calm amidst the chaos.
Sleep hygiene on a plane
Frequent travellers will be well-aware that sleeping on a plane or train isn't always ideal, and being bumped up to first class only seems to happen in the movies.
Even if lights are switched off on overnight flights, space is tight, there are hundreds of people around, and you'll find yourself trying to get comfortable on some of the smallest seats available.
So what can you do?
Turns out, the secret to getting good (ok, decent) sleep on a plane starts before you even board.
- Choose the seat you're most comfortable on ahead of time, especially if you're flying a long distance.
- Consider the time zone you're travelling into - if you're arriving at your destination at night, it may be worth staying awake during the flight so you can adjust to the new time zone better.
- Board your flight well-rested and without any sleep debt.
- Wear comfortable clothes that allow you to snuggle up as best as possible.
- Invest in good earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones.
- Get a blackout sleep mask, like the Manta Sleep mask, which we love.
- Invest in a supportive travel pillow, like the Ostrichpillow Go Neck pillow.
- Avoid drinking too much caffeine or alcohol on the flight.
Finally, you may also wish to invest in some sleep-inducing essential oil or sleep tea that you can use before trying to get some shut-eye on the plane.
Something like the Aeyla Stress Reliever Roll-On is ideal since it's designed to be travel-friendly and features a blend of essential oils to promote calm and relaxation.
Sleeping in a new place
Many people struggle to sleep well if it's their first night in a new hotel room or when sleeping over at someone else's house.
This is actually a natural instinct.
If you're sleeping in a new place for the first time, a part of your brain stays extra alert to make sure you're in a safe environment.
There's nothing you can do to turn off that biological wiring, but you can ensure you give your body enough signals so it knows it's safe. 🥰
If you've already established a good sleep routine that involves practices like meditation, evening stretching, sleep tea, deep breathing, or the like, you can continue these habits in the new environment.
You may also want to consider adding some extra familiarity, like your pillow from home, a teddy that sleeps in your bed, or a snuggly blanket that you're used to.
All of these give your body a sense of calm and familiarity.
Sleep hygiene for people with medical conditions
Some medical conditions require more stringent adherence to good sleep habits.
People with epilepsy, for example, are more likely to suffer from seizures if their sleep is impaired.
The sleep hygiene tips we've shared above are generally safe to follow, but if you're struggling with a certain medical condition, please talk to your GP about best sleep practices.
Do good sleep habits help?
Good sleep hygiene can help you tackle some of the issues concerning sleep and our modern lifestyles.
They are not cure-alls, but following good sleep habits will set you on the right path to getting the quality you sleep you need - and deserve.