Are you not getting enough sleep every night? Do you keep waking up all of the time? According to the NHS, one in three of UK citizens don’t get enough sleep.1
Sleep deprivation and disruption can lead to a series of consequences and conditions.
In the short-term, poor sleep hygiene can lead to reduced quality of life, emotional distress and mood disorders.
It can also potentially impact your performance at work. Meanwhile, from a long-term perspective, sleep disruption in healthy people can lead to heart disease and weight-related issues.2
It's why good sleep hygiene is so fundamental.
In this article, we will cover
- What is sleep hygiene?
- How long should you be sleeping?
- Sleep hygiene for teens
- How to tell if you have poor sleep hygiene
- Good sleep hygiene tips
What is sleep hygiene?
While the word ‘hygiene’ is commonly associated with cleanliness, it also has another meaning regarding your sleep.
To have good sleep hygiene, you need to create a number of positive practices or habits in your daily routine before hitting the hay.
How long should you be sleeping?
The NHS suggests that most of us sleeping beauties should aim to get eight hours of good-quality sleep a night.3
However, it depends on every person.
They also stated that if you wake up tired and spend the day wanting a nap, it’s most probably because you’re not getting enough sleep.
According to the Sleep Foundation,4 the amount of sleep we need depends on how old we are:
|Age||Sleep needed (in hours)|
|0 to 3 months||14 - 17|
|4 to 11 months||12 - 15|
|1 to 2 years||11 - 14|
|3 to 5 years||10 - 13|
|6 to 13 years||9 - 11|
|14 to 17 years||8 - 10|
|18 to 25 years||7 - 9|
|26 to 64 years||7 - 9|
|65 years or older||7 - 8|
Sleep hygiene for teens
As you’ll see from the table above, it’s recommended teenagers get between eight and ten hours sleep a night.
However, it can be difficult for teens to establish a sleep routine for a number of reasons, including:
- Natural teenage sleep cycles – teenagers are inclined to sleep for eight hours and more, as well as naturally stay up later, because of a biological impulse impacting their circadian rhythm (physical, mental, and behavioural changes that follow a 24-hour cycle) and sleep-wake cycle. In turn, this means teens are naturally ‘programmed’ to fall asleep from 11pm to 12pm onwards and wake up at around 8am to 9am. In reality, these natural patterns can clash with being up and about and getting to school in time, which can result in many teens feeling permanently shattered.
- Everyday pressures – homework deadlines, sports clubs and other out-of-school activities, hanging out with friends and family life, are just some of things the average teen has to factor into their life on a daily basis. This constant reprioritising of time can be tiring, as well as stressful at times.
- Technology – mobile phones, tablets, gaming consoles and more, these days, teenagers are more tuned into technology than ever before. But using these devices at night can negatively impact sleep, with research finding that artificial light (e.g. light from mobiles and other devices) can lead to reduced melatonin production. Melatonin is a hormone that helps control our sleep cycle.5
Ways teens can sleep better
There are lots of things teenagers can do to help improve their sleep hygiene, with many of these measures also proving effective and useful for people of all ages.6
Healthy sleep habits include:
Sleeping for seven to eight hours every night – including weekdays and weekends.
Following the same routine every night.
Steering clear of energy drinks and caffeine in the afternoon and evening.
Avoiding using any tech before bedtime – and if you wake up during the night too.
Making your bed as comfortable as possible – e.g. having a mattress that’s not too firm or soft; a pillow that provides adequate support for your head and neck, and a duvet that’s not too thick or thin.
How to tell if you have poor sleep hygiene
On a scale of one to ten, with one being excellent, how ‘healthy’ is your sleep? Because no night’s sleep is ever the same, it can be difficult to gauge how good your sleep hygiene actually is.
Plus the fact, it may be that your sleeping pattern may not be the best, but you’re so used to it, it hasn’t even occurred to you to question it, until now…
As we all know, we all sleep differently. Some people are lighter sleepers than others, some people sleep all the way through without waking up, and some people need less than eight hours a night of sleep, while others need more.
Generally speaking, if you frequently experience any of the following, your sleep hygiene is in need of some improvement:
- Struggling to get to sleep
- Waking up throughout the night
- Feeling tired throughout the day
- Sleeping well some nights and not others
- Sleeping longer some nights and not others7
- Good sleep hygiene is all about having good sleeping habits
- The amount of sleep we need depends on our age. For instance, new-born babies need 14 to 17 hours a day, while 65-year-olds and over need just seven to eight hours
- Always feeling tired when you wake up and need a nap throughout the day are two of the main signs you need more sleep
Good sleep hygiene tips
To form good sleep hygiene, there are a number of environmental and physical elements to consider.
Just a few simple changes can make the difference between a good night’s sleep and a night spent tossing and turning.
- No phone before bed – one study found that using your phone before bed can be associated with poor sleep quantity in children and adolescents.8 It can lead to you getting easily distracted and going to sleep later than planned. Meanwhile, further research says you should avoid screen time for 37 minutes before getting into bed.9
- Eat your last meal three hours before going to sleep – as a guideline, this has a number of benefits. Firstly, it will give your body time to digest certain foods that could keep you up or disrupt your sleep.10
- Try magnesium - the mineral is believed to improve cases of insomnia in the elderly,11 so try eating more foods like spinach, kale and broccoli or supplements containing magnesium.
- Bathe with mineral salts – it will help your muscles relax and allow your mind to switch off…..
- Keep your bedroom cool – being too warm at night can lead to a restless night’s sleep. The temperature of your bedroom should be less than 18°C, with eve Sleep’s research discovering that 16.1°C is optimum.12
- Install blackout blinds – the morning sunlight can disturb your sleep. Try using some blackout blinds to help keep your room nice and dark.
- Limit blue light exposure – blue light is thought to suppress the production of melatonin AKA ‘the sleep hormone.’ Try changing your settings on your electronic devices around two hours before bed to limit your exposure to blue light while you wind down for the night.
- Limit naps – a 20 to 30 minute nap is fine, but it won’t make up for a poor night’s sleep. Overall, naps may help improve your mood and concentration, but they decrease the amount of sleep we need the next night, which can lead to problems with dropping off and staying asleep.
- Avoid certain food and drink – believe it or not, your diet may be stopping you from sleeping. Avoid fatty foods and caffeine as these can disrupt your sleep.
- Establish a routine – if possible, go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time. After a while, your body will adjust to the routine, making it easier for you to drop off and wake up.
- Keep your pets out of the bedroom – if your pets are in the habit of disrupting you while you’re asleep, you may want to consider making your bedroom a pet-free zone. It’s the only way you can guarantee they won’t wake you up throughout the night or first thing in the morning.
- Don’t oversleep – when you’re tired, it’s easy to try and sleep for as long as you can when you can. However, this can have a counterproductive effect on your overall sleep pattern. We all need to sleep for a certain amount of hours each night. Once you’ve worked out your personal sleep hour quota, stick to it.
- You don’t have to be stuck with poor sleep hygiene; it’s something we can all do something about
- Looking at your everyday routine and making some practical changes here and there can help improve the quality and quantity of your sleep
- Sleep-boosting tips include: avoiding caffeine before bed, not looking at your phone during while winding down for bed, making sure your room is not too hot or cold and establishing a sleep routine and sticking to it
A final few words about sleep hygiene
Has this article got you thinking about how good your sleep is and made you realise you could probably benefit from making some changes?
Or perhaps you happened to find this article because you already know your sleep isn’t great and you want to do something about it?
Either way, sleep hygiene is something we all have and all have the ability to influence. While you may not necessarily see a difference overnight, following some or all of the tips listed above can potentially help improve your sleep hygiene.
You don’t have to implement them all at the same time either. Making one to two changes at a time, and then building on those changes, is the easiest and most manageable way of transforming your sleep regime.
For more in-depth support, you can speak directly with qualified sleep experts through a one-to-one video consultation for personalised and private advice.
The advice in this article is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP or healthcare professional before trying any supplements, treatments or remedies. Food supplements must not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle.
Last updated: 3 March 2022