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Sleep

Battling behaviours that can affect sleep

What are the things that can stand in the way between you and a good night’s rest?
September 22, 2022

From pills to cognitive and behavioural approaches: battling behaviours that can affect sleep

We’ve spoken about the behaviour that can promote sleep, but what about the things that can stand in the way between you and a good night’s rest? A number of things can impact sleep but the good news is, it’s entirely possible to change them.

What is sleep hygiene? 

Good sleep hygiene involves looking at the environment in which we sleep and also our behaviour in the lead up to bed. Often by optimising these key things you can influence the quality and quantity of sleep you get. The first step is becoming familiar with the techniques that can promote sleep. Are you ready to get snoozing?

Don’t eat too close to bed 

Eating a heavy meal can be disruptive to sleep so aim to eat a light and healthy dinner instead. Try to give yourself between 2-4 hours for food to be digested prior to sleeping. Also, avoid drinking too much prior to going to bed as having to get up multiple times a night to use the bathroom will disrupt your sleep. 

Create a sleep window

In the 60-90 minutes before bed try to do things that will prepare you for sleep. This can include taking a warm bath (the subsequent cooling down following a bath lowers core body temperature which signals to the brain that it's time to rest)¹; or drinking a milky drink (compounds such as tryptophan which is found in milk can promote sleep)². Practising mindfulness, muscle relaxation techniques or yoga are also good options, and a quick search online should unearth plenty of tutorials to guide you.

Exercise

Working out for an average of 30 minutes a day is great for regulating sleep patterns and also stress hormones, but try to avoid vigorous exercise within three hours of going to bed.

Create a good sleep environment

Optimise your sleep space by controlling noise, temperature, distractions, light and how comfortable you are. Simple ways to do this include sleeping in a room that is between 18-22 degrees, quiet (use ear plugs if you need to) and having a supportive mattress. Be sure to move your clock where you can’t see it to avoid clock watching which can create an anxiety response which is disruptive to sleep. Make sure to block out sources of light at night and blue light from devices as this can prevent the release of melatonin, the hormone which signals to the brain it is time to sleep³.

What’s next? 

The way you behave in the lead up to bed can often make a big difference to how much you sleep and also the quality of rest you get. It’s time to adopt good sleep hygiene (start with what’s listed above) and say goodbye to habits which are robbing you of the sleep you need and deserve. Commit to changing your behaviour starting today and you’ll be well on your way to sleeping like a baby.

Smart Change

Look at whether any of the above is impacting your sleep. If it is, implement one of the above practices for a week.

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