Pillow Talk - Improving Sleep Hygiene

February 11, 2020

Improving Sleep Hygiene

by our Sports Nutritionist Kate Shilland

We now have an idea of just how important sleep is for performance and recovery and hopefully since reading the last blog, you’ve bumped sleep up your list of priorities when it comes to your training schedule? This can be easier said than done though, so this time around we will have a look at how to clean up your sleeping environment and improve sleep hygiene, which should lead to better overall sleep quality. First of all, though, we will have a brief look at what can happen when we don’t get enough of the high-quality Z’s.


Just as good sleep quality and duration elicits a plethora of benefits, sleep deprivation and poor sleep quality can lead to some nasty effects on our health and performance. These include:


  • Impaired Immune function [1]
  • Reduced Muscular Strength [2]
  • Impaired Recovery Capabilities [3]
  • Poorer Decision Making [4]
  • Increased Risk of Injury [5]


Considering that sleep is so incredibly restorative and essential for recovery, it is worrying to see how many people simply aren’t getting enough of the good stuff!

According to the American Sleep Association, over 35% of adults report that they sleep for less than the recommended 7-9 hours per night, in a typical 24 hour period.

Now that we know the importance and benefits of sleep, it’s time to think about how we can improve our sleep hygiene. Unfortunately, not everyone has the luxury of a professional sleep coach or personalized orthopaedic mattresses.

There are, however, free and simple steps that can be taken to optimize your sleep. These four easily-implemented changes to your routine will elicit significant changes in the quality of your shuteye. 

  1. Try to have consistent sleep and wake times every day to minimize disruptions to your circadian rhythm (your internal body-clock). [6]
  2. Exercise! A systematic review of literature concluded that exercise and sleep exert substantial positive effects on one another [7]. Upping your physical activity can lead to better sleep quality which subsequently improved your performance in said exercise! A win-win if ever I’ve seen one…
  3. Create a quiet, cool and comfortable environment in which to sleep. Ensure the room is dark and your mattress and pillows are supportive to minimize unwanted strains on your body throughout the night.
  4. Watch your caffeine consumption later on in the day. The half-life of caffeine is on average ~5hrs, meaning if a coffee contains 100mg of caffeine, there will still be 50mg circulating in your body 5 hours later. How we react to caffeine varies massively between individuals based on tolerance and even your genetic make-up [8]! Some will be able to have an espresso and fall asleep ten minutes later whilst a cup of tea past 4pm spells a sleepless night for others – if you’re looking to improve your sleep hygiene it is worth experimenting to see whether limiting caffeine consumption improves your sleep.
  5. Ditch the devices! Blue light emitted from the screens of mobile phones, tablets and televisions mimics daylight and tricks your body into thinking that it should be waking up rather than going to sleep [9]. Avoid screens in the hour leading up to bedtime to ensure your body knows that it should be going to sleep. If you must use a device, then utilize the night-mode setting found on many devices; this limits the amount of blue light displayed to you.

Try and implement these simple steps into your bedtime routines, and you should soon see improvements in your sleep quality.

As we have discussed, there is extensive evidence relating to the negative effects that a lack of quality sleep can cause. Fortunately, the first steps in improving our sleep hygiene are relatively simple and easy to achieve – give them a try and see how amaZzzing your sleep becomes!



1 - BESEDOVSKY, L., LANGE, T. and BORN, J., 2012. Sleep and immune function. Pflugers Archiv : European journal of physiology,463(1), pp. 121-137.

2 - KNOWLES, O.E., DRINKWATER, E.J., URWIN, C.S., LAMON, S. and AISBETT, B., 2018. Inadequate sleep and muscle strength: Implications for resistance training. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport,21(9), pp. 959-968.

3 - SKEIN, M., DUFFIELD, R., MINETT, G.M., SNAPE, A. and MURPHY, A., 2013. The Effect of Overnight Sleep Deprivation After Competitive Rugby League Matches on Postmatch Physiological and Perceptual Recovery. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance,8(5), pp. 556-564.

4 - HARRISON, Y. and HORNE, J.A., 2000. The impact of sleep deprivation on decision making: A review. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied,6(3), pp. 236-249.


6 - POTTER, G.D.M., SKENE, D.J., ARENDT, J., CADE, J.E., GRANT, P.J. and HARDIE, L.J., 2016. Circadian Rhythm and Sleep Disruption: Causes, Metabolic Consequences, and Countermeasures. Endocrine reviews,37(6), pp. 584-608.

7 - DOLEZAL, B.A., NEUFELD, E.V., BOLAND, D.M., MARTIN, J.L. and COOPER, C.B., 2017. Interrelationship between Sleep and Exercise: A Systematic Review. Advances in preventive medicine,2017, pp. 1364387-1364387.

8 - SOUTHWARD, K., RUTHERFURD-MARKWICK, K., BADENHORST, C. and ALI, A., 2018. The Role of Genetics in Moderating the Inter-Individual Differences in the Ergogenicity of Caffeine. Nutrients,10(10), pp. 1352.

9 - CHANG, A., AESCHBACH, D., DUFFY, J.F. and CZEISLER, C.A., 2015. Evening use of light-emitting eReaders negatively affects sleep, circadian timing, and next-morning alertness. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America,112(4), pp. 1232-1237.

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