What Is Sleep Hygiene? 7 Benefits of Getting a Restful Sleep
Good sleep hygiene is the cornerstone of overall health and wellness. Just one night of sleeplessness is enough to compromise your productivity, energy levels, and quality of life — along with a whole host of health conditions if sleep hygiene remains poor long-term. But what is “sleep hygiene” and what benefits can a restful night’s sleep have on my body? To help you gain a better understanding of how sleep can impact your overall health and wellbeing, we’ve put together this guide to sleep hygiene.
What is sleep hygiene? The importance of sleep
Sleep hygiene is a term to describe the habits and practices that are needed to achieve a good night’s sleep on a regular basis. Whether you feel constantly tired throughout the day or are simply on the path to health and wellness, we can all take steps to improve our sleep hygiene. With a good sleep routine in place, you’ll be able to improve the overall quality of your sleep and wake up energised.
Signs and symptoms of poor sleep hygiene
Sometimes, it can be difficult to discern whether our sleep hygiene is good or not. Other than the constant complaint of being tired, it’s not something we talk about often with other people. Here are just a few signs of poor sleep hygiene:
It takes you longer than 30 minutes to drift off once you get into bed
You wake up regularly throughout the night and find it difficult to fall back to sleep
You spend less than 85% of your time in bed asleep
You have been diagnosed with insomnia
How to achieve good sleep hygiene
While it’s always important to speak to your GP if you notice a change in your sleep pattern, in the meantime, there are a few simple steps you can take to improve your sleep hygiene. Try these top tips below:
Set an alarm to remind you when it’s time for bed to establish a regular routine
Avoid using technology 90 minutes before bed, so switch them to ‘night-mode’
Remove screens from your bedroom — so don’t use your phone as an alarm clock
Fit blackout blinds in your bedroom
Live by the ‘no caffeine after noon’ rule
Embrace morning light with regular outdoor breaks
Exercise and socialise earlier in the day
Try intermittent fasting, and stop eating after 7 pm
Key benefits of getting a restful night’s sleep
To put it simply, getting a good quality sleep every night is one of the most effective things you can do to nourish your brain and body.
Better memory and sharper recall
After you drift off to sleep, your brain is still busily working away. During rest, new skills and memories are consolidated and embedded. A good night’s sleep sharpens recall and improves cognitive functioning – even one bad night can make you feel scattered and hazy the next day. One study found that participants who completed a task on two consecutive days, with a good night’s sleep in between, had improved by the second day.1 However, participants who stayed awake for 30 hours after learning the same task found it much harder to improve. As this study demonstrates, getting enough rest may be the key to better memory and sharper recall.
Maintain a healthy weight
Ever noticed the urge to eat more when you’re fatigued? It’s not surprising. Although quality sleep isn’t a magic cure for weight loss, it can certainly keep you from putting on weight. Poor, broken sleep accelerates the production ghrelin, the hormone that increases appetite, and suppresses leptin, the hormone that signals food satisfaction. What’s more, sleepless nights can also leave you feeling stressed out — making you more prone to unhealthy food cravings. If you’re on a diet, quality sleep can be a great tool in your arsenal.
Discover more about the link between hormones and sleep in our article.
Better emotional health
Rousing from a nourishing sleep can make you feel bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Small stressors – deadlines, traffic, and spilling coffee down your shirt – aren’t met with the usual irritation. But if you practice poor sleep hygiene, it can have the polar opposite effect on your mood. Poor sleep is a recipe for stress, anxiety, and low mood. In fact, a review on sleep deprivation demonstrated sleeplessness has a more profound impact on mood than motor function or cognitive ability.2 In short, good quality sleep is vital for emotional stability.
Keeps your heart healthy
Sleep deprivation is one of many contributing factors to poor heart health. Getting too little sleep per night can lead to a spike in stress hormones such as cortisol, which may increase the likelihood of high blood pressure and heart attacks. In fact, one large study discovered that sleeping less than five hours a night increased the risk of heart attacks by 45%.3 To keep this major organ happy and healthy, nourish your body with seven to nine hours of rest every night.
Boosts your immune health
When sickness hits, your first instinct is to jump back into bed. This is because sleep is also a powerful tool for immune function. Prioritising good sleep hygiene will keep the cells and proteins that make up your immune system healthy, thereby improving your capacity to fight colds, flu, and other pesky infections. When researchers exposed a group of participants to the common cold virus, those who clocked less than seven hours of sleep were three times more likely to get sick.4 Good sleep hygiene may therefore be the key to great immunity.
You’ve probably noticed that the more fatigued you are, the harder it can be to concentrate on tasks. And distraction can take a hefty toll on both your work and personal life. Researchers are pretty unanimous in their belief that attention activities seem to be especially sensitive to sleep deprivation.5 So to stay sharper at work, and more able to perform difficult tasks, an early night with plenty of rest is necessary.
Good sleep hygiene doesn’t just happen overnight — it’s a process that takes time but is well worth the payoff. Want to learn more on how to improve the quality of your sleep? Simply visit our Sleep Hub for even more helpful articles.
Stickgold. R., James. L. & Hobson. J. (2000). Visual discrimination learning requires sleep after training. Nature Neuroscience. 3(12), 1237-1238.
Pilcher. J. & Huffcutt. A. (1996). Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Performance: A Meta-Analysis. Sleep. 19(4), 318-326.
Colten. H. & Altevogt. B. (2006). Sleep disorders and sleep deprivation. The National Academies Press. 59.
Cohen. S., Doyle. W., Alper. C., Janicki-Deverts. D. & Turner. R. (2009). Sleep Habits and Susceptibility to the Common Cold. Archives of Internal Medicine. 169(1), p.62.
Goel. N., Rao. H., Durmer. J.S. & Dinges. D.F. (2009). Neurocognitive consequences of sleep deprivation. Seminars in neurology. 29(4), 320–339.
Olivia Salter has always been an avid health nut. After graduating from the University of Bristol, she began working for a nutritional consultancy where she discovered her passion for all things wellness-related. There, she executed much of the company’s content marketing strategy and found her niche in health writing, publishing articles in Women’s Health, Mind Body Green, Thrive and Psychologies.