A bad nights sleep is something we have all experienced and extended periods of poor sleep can play havoc with our lives, negatively impacting on our physical and mental health. A good nights sleep allows our bodies to rest, recover and regenerate. Sleep hygiene is widely known and used, some of the advice you are likely already familiar with, even if you haven’t heard of it being referred to as sleep hygiene. The guidelines are a list of do’s and don’ts regarding our activities of daily living and how they impact upon our ability to get a good nights sleep. Sleep hygiene is a great starting point and ensures that we are taking responsibility for our own wellbeing, doing all we can to achieve regular quality sleep.
Even if your current focus isn’t the environment, you can still inadvertently “do your bit”, it just so happens that following the principles of sleep hygiene can also do wonders for the planet (without even trying). Set out below is an example day designed to reduce waste and aid sleep, based on sleep hygiene.
Keeping to a routine, getting up and going to bed at the same time each day is an essential part of reminding our minds and bodies when we should be awake and when we should be asleep. A routine can help low waste ways become second nature.
Hang the washing outside to dry naturally. Getting outdoors means sunlight, alerting and resetting our body clocks, building on the repetitive asleep/awake routine we need to be creating. Line drying reduces energy usage running tumble dryers and radiators drying washing indoors.
Have breakfast, as with getting up at the same time each day, eating at the same time daily helps to program your internal clock. Opt for porridge oats, not only are they a healthy choice but they are also generally available plastic free or even unpackaged.
Exercising is beneficial for your physical and mental health as well as your quality of sleep. Make exercise a part of your day, walk to meet friends rather than drive; this does wonders for you and the environment. Go for a walk and forage wild growing (unpackaged) food; blackberries, apples, elderflower. Be mindful of exercising too close to bedtime, leave yourself time to unwind.
Avoid caffeine if you’re looking to promote sleep. Alcohol, coffee, tea, energy drinks, fizzy drinks and chocolate all contain caffeine. Another thing these all have in common (most brands at least) is they are all heavily packaged, require energy to be produced and endless emissions to be transported to us. Fizzy drinks bottles and cans are responsible for much of the litter scattered across our landscapes. Reducing our caffeine intake reduces the waste we produce, especially if we are drinking tap water as an alternative.
Don’t be tempted to nap, even if you’re tired, get outside and practice mindfulness. Take in all your surroundings, take time to appreciate them, look at them, smell them, touch them. Mindfulness, focussing on the little details, allows you to fully emerge yourself in your environment. Being mindful of our environment is likely to lead to us caring for our environment, picking up stray bits of litter for example.
Remove clocks from your bedroom or at least make sure they aren’t visible. Being aware of the time at night and how long you have been awake induces anxiety, which only inhibits sleep. If your room/bedside table feels empty without a clock, try adding a houseplant instead. Houseplants can purify and humidify the air, which is very beneficial for good sleep hygiene.
Dinner time, don’t eat too close to bedtime, it’s important to avoid laying in bed feeling full. Opt for lighter meals, perhaps try a meat free meal. Animals require vast amounts of land, fuel and water before they reach our plates.
Avoid smoking, particularly too close to bedtime. Nicotine is a short-acting stimulant that will keep you awake. Cigarette butts litter our countryside, fewer of them would be no bad thing. As with caffeine, reducing cigarette consumption reduces waste. Avoid stimulating electronics/screen time before bed and in the bedroom. Reducing reliance on electronics reduces our consumption of electricity and battery powered gadgets. Consider reading a book before bedtime, a second hand book of course.
If you’re struggling to turn off your brain at bedtime, write your thoughts down, or write down a quick to do list for the next day. Write it down on paper from your recycling; backs of receipts, junk mail, envelopes. No need to buy fancy notebooks or journals. Make sure your bedroom is comfortable, it needs to be the right temperature, dark enough and quiet enough. Rather than running the heating, use layers and bedding to keep you warm. Charity shops often sell lovely bedding sets that have never been opened, make your room a relaxing space that you want to spend time in at night.