Sleep hygiene is essentially a set of behaviours that support and contribute to a good night’s sleep, those behaviours begin as soon as you wake from your previous night’s slumber.
As soon as we open our eyes, brain activity and hormones begin their daily circadian cycles in preparation for the next bout of sleep. Two key players in these cycles are adenosine and melatonin, both play a key role in sleep onset and sleep quality.
Adenosine can be best thought of as sleep pressure that builds throughout the day, getting stronger and stronger the closer we get to the evening. Melatonin is a hormone that tells the brain it is time to sleep, it is widely known as the darkness hormone or the darkness chemical, for obvious reasons….it should be at its most potent in the dark when we should be preparing for sleep or catching our much needed ZZZ’s.
So what has sleep hygiene got to do with it?
Caffeine disrupts the production of adenosine. When we consume caffeine whether it be any form of coffee, fizzy drink or for the gym goers….a pre workout, (we’ve all had that itchy face when smashing a pre-workout) the caffeine will block the adenosine receptor thus making us feel wide awake. This temporarily halts the production of the sleep pressure as caffeine rapidly deploys its effects.
Shift the focus to just caffeine. Caffeine is a drug that has a half-life of roughly 6-8 hours in the blood/brain and a quarter life of 12 hours. Putting that into context; having a coffee at 11am and ¼ of that caffeine can still be active in your brain 12 hours later which will affect your sleep in some way or another!
Sleep hygiene tip 1: be mindful of your caffeine intake!
And on to the darkness hormone… AKA melatonin. Melatonin is the product of our pineal gland which is governed by our suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) or essentially our body clock of the brain. As darkness arrives the production of melatonin is ramped up as our body prepares for sleep, its job is to signal that it is time to sleep and off we go into the land of nod.
Poor hygiene around melatonin is blue light and one guilty party in-particular is our mobile phone in our face in the evening. The blue light rays emitted from your phone interfere with the production of melatonin which relays a message to the brain, “It’s not night time, it’s day time, wake up.” After this extremely quick turn of events, a greater sense of wakefulness will occur which can then delay getting to sleep.
Sleep hygiene tip 2: ditch your phone after 9pm!
Without trying to sound too evangelical, we’ve all been guilty of these things but if you want a sound night of slumber, adopting the two approaches above will certainly go a long way in helping you get that sleep quality!
(Phone Image courtesy of https://www.psychologicalscience.org)