Sleep Hygiene


Not everyone has a problem sleeping, but for those who do, maybe some new practices during the day and leading up to bedtime could help. Sleep hygiene is a set of behaviours that sets us up for good quality sleep every night.  

Artificial lighting and more specifically blue light that radiates from cell phones and tablets, computers and televisions disrupts our circadian rhythm or natural sleep cycle. This is due to over-stimulation of the pineal gland, the gland that releases the sleep hormone melatonin, which is necessary for us to be able to sleep at the appropriate time.

Our bodies start producing melatonin from when the sun goes down, but because we are exposed to artificial light that doesn’t dictate a time to be switched off, we can inhibit the production of this essential hormone and thereby affect the ability to sleep and the quality thereof.

It is believed that the shorter wavelengths in blue light cause the body to produce less melatonin. Blue wavelengths suppress delta brainwaves, which induce sleep, and boost alpha wavelengths, which create alertness.

Healthy sleep is vital for optimal mental and physical health.

Tips to ensure optimal sleep hygiene: 

  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, nicotine before bed.
  • Use your bedroom only for sleep and intimacy. Don’t have a television in your bedroom and avoid clutter that can be disruptive to sleep
  • Establish a wind down pre-sleep routine. This usually starts a few hours before bed-time
  • Don’t get into bed too early – trying to go to sleep too early if you’re not tired can be counter-productive. Avoid trying to force yourself to sleep
  • Use natural light to assist your body. First thing in the morning, spend some time watching the sunrise. Spend pockets of time during the day in natural light
  • Avoid exercising too late
  • Take power naps early in the day if necessary. Long naps and late afternoon naps can disrupt night-time sleep
  • Ensure that your room is dark, even a light on an alarm sensor or the bedside clock can be too much light so cover those and use black out curtains if necessary.
  • Wear an eye mask

What does a wind-down pre-sleep routine look like?

  • Use low lighting in your home. Red hues are suggested to be best at night (mimics sitting around a fire)
  • Avoid watching anxiety provoking movies or reading thrillers before bed if anxiety is a problem
  • Avoid working late at night. If you must work, use blue light filters on your technology. Amber coloured glasses can also be effective
  • If exercising later in the day, exercises like yoga or pilates can be less stimulating so they would be better than other stimulating exercises
  • Avoid large meals after 7pm. Going to bed with a full stomach can be disruptive to sleep
  • Certain natural remedies can help for a good quality sleep, but it is a good idea to check with your health professional in case there are any interactions with any other medications you may be using. Chamomile tea is safe for just about anyone to use. Milky drinks with a little honey and cinnamon (if you don’t have any allergies) can also be helpful.

Listen to my interview with Brad Kirsten from Radio Cape Pulpit on 28 December 2023 to learn more. Listen to my next interview on Thursday at 7.45am.