Sleep Hygiene: Importance of Maintaining Healthy Sleep

Sleep is a vital component of overall health, being as important as nutrition intake and exercise. An adequate amount of sleep is critical for maintaining physical and mental well-being, influencing everything from cognitive functions to emotional stability. Despite its importance, sleep is often overlooked, leading to widespread issues with sleep disorders, and specifically poor sleep hygiene.

With four in every ten Australians regularly experiencing inadequate sleep due to poor sleeping qualities caused by multiple external factors, the existence of sleep hygiene may come as a solution for your sleeping troubles. We will thoroughly help you understand about sleep hygiene, how it is important for your body and mental health, and will also give you essential tips on how to build up and maintain sleep hygiene through this blog.

What is Sleep Hygiene?

Sleep hygiene can be referred to as a set of practices and habits that can promote good sleep qualities for individuals, specifically for the ones having sleeping troubles and insomnia. It’s essentially all about creating an environment and routine that encourages the body and mind to wind down and fall asleep easier and quicker, and eventually staying asleep throughout the night without experiencing wide awakenings.

The concept of sleep hygiene has been coined and developed for decades since the late 1970s, and has been considered as the earliest treatment option for insomnia. Since then, a number of recommendations have been made, from refraining from developing negative habits, lifestyle changes, and other aspects that may positively or negatively affect sleeping routines.

The Importance of Sleep

Physical Health

Sleep plays a crucial role in maintaining physical health. One of the benefits of a good sleep is that it supports metabolic regulation, which in this case, a good sleep quality influences the hormones such as ghrelin and leptin that control both hunger and appetite, and a deprivation of a good quality sleep might increase the risks of developing diabetes and obesity. It also has been suggested that sleeping aids the body’s healing processes. During sleep, the body can repair damaged tissues, build muscle, and synthesise proteins.

Mental Health

Good sleep is essential for mental health, aiding in emotion regulation, stress management, and cognitive processes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) mentioned that poor sleep quality has been commonly linked with mental health distresses such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder, which has been found in one-third of adults in the United States. Thus, an adequate amount of sleep should be done to help improve mood, enhance decision-making skills, and foster resilience against stress.

Cognitive Function

Sleep is integral to brain function, affecting memory consolidation, learning, and overall cognitive performance. During sleep, the brain processes information from the day, forming memories and clearing out toxins that accumulate during wakefulness. A lacking amount of sleep impairs different aspects of memory, from attention and working memory, long-term memory, and other cognitive functions correlated with memory.

Common Sleep Disorders

Before going into the details about how to establish and maintain sleep hygiene, here are some  common sleeping problems that may lay the foundation for what should be done when starting to maintain sleep hygiene for a good sleep quality in the foreseeable future:

Insomnia

Insomnia is arguably one the most common causes of sleeping disorders, with its prevalence approximately 33 percent of the worldwide population are experiencing insomnia, whether it be short-term (acute) or long-term (chronic). Common symptoms of insomnia include trouble sleeping, waking up frequently during the night, and experiencing daytime fatigue or irritability.

Read more about insomnia here

Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA)

OSA is a serious sleep disorder where breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep due to airway obstruction. Similar to insomnia, it has become one of the most common causes, with its global prevalence estimated to reach 1 billion people, meaning that approximately 1 in 7 people are susceptible to OSA. Some of the symptoms of OSA may include loud snoring, gasping for air during sleep, morning headaches, and excessive daytime sleepiness.

Read more about insomnia here

Narcolepsy

Narcolepsy is a chronic neurological disorder that affects the brain’s ability to control sleep-wake cycles, leading to excessive daytime sleepiness and sudden sleep attacks. Approximately 3 million adults are susceptible to narcolepsy, worldwide. Some of the common symptoms of narcolepsy may include sudden onset of sleep, cataplexy (sudden loss of muscle tone), hallucinations, and sleep paralysis.

Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)

RLS is a disorder that causes an uncontrollable urge to move the legs, usually due to uncomfortable sensations. In terms of its prevalence, it has been suggested that the percentage to reach 10 percent of population, according to one research. Some of the common symptoms of RLS may include tingling, itching, or aching in the legs, which worsens in the evening or at night and improves with movement.

Practical Tips for Maintaining Sleep Hygiene

Tips to maintain good sleep hygiene

Establish a Regular Sleep Schedule

Finding a proper, regular sleep schedule can be a good start in creating good sleep hygiene, and consistency is essentially a key to good sleep hygiene. Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day for a set amount of hours helps regulate the body’s internal clock, making it easier to fall asleep and wake up naturally. Doing this regularly is important for maintaining sleep quality and overall health, especially cognitive and metabolic processes.

Create a Relaxing Bedtime Routine

Engage in calming activities before bed, such as reading, taking a warm bath, or practising meditation. Avoid stimulating activities like watching TV or using electronic devices, as the blue light emitted can interfere with your ability to fall asleep. Relaxation techniques, including deep breathing exercises, have been shown to improve sleep quality.

Create a Sleep-Friendly Environment

Environmental aspects such as light, noise, pollution, and so many other aspects can negatively affect the quality of sleep. Thus, a proper and conducive sleep environment is essential to build and significantly enhance sleep quality. This includes maintaining a cool, dark, and quiet bedroom before sleeping, or even start investing in a comfortable mattress and pillows that may contribute positively to a good night’s sleep.

Limit Stimulants and Alcohol

Some stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine can cause negative side effects towards sleep. Consuming both stimulants such as smoking or drinking caffeinated beverages like coffee or tea, especially during the evening or approaching bedtime, can interfere with sleep quality due to the alerting characteristics of the substance, specifically caffeine.

Similarly, another substance such as alcohol can disrupt the overall sleep quality during the night time, despite being capable of inducing drowsiness which can induce deep sleep in the early stages. Eventually, by limiting, or even completely stopping consumption of these substances, particularly hours before sleeping, can improve sleep quality.

Exercises To Improve Sleep Quality 

Doing exercises regularly have been shown to increase overall sleep quality. However, there are a few considerations regarding exercise that have to be done, including other factors such as timing, intensity, and eventually what type of exercise.

A study has proven that regular exercise with a moderate intensity for a duration between 12 weeks to 6 months has positively affects sleep quality, especially among older adults. Additionally, an exposure of natural lights such as the sun has been proven to improve overall sleep qualities. Thus, doing physical exercises, especially during the day, can optimally affect sleep quality later in the night.

Manage Stress and Anxiety

Managing stress and anxiety is crucial for maintaining good sleep hygiene because these factors can significantly interfere with your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. Here are some detailed strategies for managing stress and anxiety to improve sleep quality:

There are few techniques that can help you manage stress and anxiety, such as: 

  • Deep Breathing Exercises
    Practising deep breathing can help calm the nervous system. Techniques such as diaphragmatic breathing or the 4-7-8 method (inhale for 4 seconds, hold for 7 seconds, exhale for 8 seconds) can be particularly effective. 
  • Meditation and Mindfulness
    Regular meditation or mindfulness practice can help reduce anxiety and promote relaxation. 
  • Sleep Meditation
    Sleep meditation can significantly improve sleep quality and overall well-being. It involves practices such as mindfulness meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, and guided imagery, which aim to promote relaxation and prepare the mind and body for sleep. 

Limit Naps

While napping can be beneficial, especially if you’re sleep-deprived, long or irregular naps during the day can negatively affect nighttime sleep.

Long naps can lead to sleep inertia, a feeling of grogginess and disorientation that can last for a while after waking up. Additionally, long or irregular naps can interfere with your ability to fall asleep at night and reduce overall sleep quality.

Good Sleep Hygiene Is Key To Improved Quality Of Life

Having sleeping troubles are essentially normal, occasionally. However, constant disturbances during a good night’s sleep can be a problem. Thus, maintaining healthy sleep is key for physical and mental health to properly function during daily activities. Implementing some sleep hygiene practices, such as maintaining a regular sleep schedule, creating a conducive sleep environment, and limiting stimulants, can significantly improve sleep quality. 

Addressing common sleep disorders and raising public awareness about the importance of sleep are also crucial steps in promoting overall health and well-being. By prioritising sleep and promoting good sleep hygiene, individuals can enhance their quality of life and reduce the risk of various health issues.

Written by

Priyom holds a Ph.D. in Plant Biology and Biotechnology from the University of Madras, India. She is an active researcher and an experienced science writer. Priyom has also co-authored several original research articles that have been published in reputed peer-reviewed journals. She is also an avid reader and an amateur photographer.

Written by

Priyom holds a Ph.D. in Plant Biology and Biotechnology from the University of Madras, India. She is an active researcher and an experienced science writer. Priyom has also co-authored several original research articles that have been published in reputed peer-reviewed journals. She is also an avid reader and an amateur photographer.

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