What Is Clean Sleep & How Does It Impact Sleep Hygiene?
10 min read
Last Modified 31 August 2023 First Added 10 December 2020
Brought to prominence by Gwyneth Paltrow in 2017, the science of clean-sleep has since developed leaps and bounds and is now widely lauded as a successful approach to improving sleep. Equally, with the recent rise of mindfulness and meditation, it’s no surprise that people are starting to consider how they can impact their sleep through alternative approaches.
And with a 76% increase in the amount of people who have disturbed sleep, it’s clear that something needs to change!
Here, we’ll explore the ins-and-outs of all things clean-sleep, providing advice on how to achieve it and whether it really does improve your sleep hygiene.
Clean sleep is a practice centred around maximising your sleep hygiene before bedtime. This includes ensuring your mind, body, and sleeping area are all optimised for a healthy night’s rest. To achieve clean sleep, you prepare your mind for sleep through meditation or winding down, ensure you only use your bed for sleep, and have a clean, technology-free sleeping space.
Clean sleeping all boils down to getting a better quality night’s rest. Part of this is increasing how much sleep you’re getting if you don’t get the recommended 7-8 hours per night. Some of the benefits of getting more high-quality sleep are:
For more information on the benefits of sleep, check out our post on how to sleep better.
Although some of the clean sleeping ideas may be time-consuming and expensive, you can definitely learn from their objectives. Here are some approachable ways to use clean sleeping in your own life:
The best meditative practices for improving sleep are those which direct attention away from your thoughts and to your body. Simply, this allows the mind to relax while also reaping the benefits of focusing on the areas of the body which are tired and ready for sleep.
Yoga nidra, also know as psychic sleeping, is a useful practice. This is a form of meditation that mimics the qualities of sleep while the body is still awake.
You focus on each body part separately, in a circular motion. For example, focus first on your fingers and allow them to relax.
Then do the same for the palm, wrist, forearm and so on, so forth. Eventually, you’ll have circumnavigated the entire body, allowing each area to relax and turn off before moving on to the next. This type of meditation helps put your brain in a state of near sleep. Once mastered, this can be extremely relaxing, but you will need to practise to feel the full effects.
Mindful meditation works in a similar way to Yoga Nidra. It focuses on how the body and mind feel at the precise moment we are trying to fall asleep. The important thing is not to dwell on thoughts. If a problem or worry comes into your head, acknowledge it and let it go. Breathe deeply and focus on your body, allowing yourself to become fully relaxed.
If you do find yourself focusing too much on thoughts, direct your attention to your breath and as you breathe in, let your mind say “in” and likewise for breathing out. Its absolutely natural at this point to find your mind wandering. Simply recognise that it has wandered and draw your attention back to your breath.
Dreams’ sleep expert Dr Pixie McKenna recommends having a strict sleep routine to improve your sleep in the new year. Meditation would fit perfectly into this wind-down routine. She says:
“As part of your routine, and especially on weekdays, try to plan an hour of relaxation before bed each night. Avoid screen time, as this keeps your brain active when you are trying to send it to sleep. Why not take a bath, read a book, meditate, or spend time catching up with family. This will help your body wind down ahead of hitting the pillow.”
This is a good rule to stick to if you want to improve your sleep hygiene. Detox expert, Dr. Alejandro Junger advises you should keep a 12-hour fasting window at night. So, if you usually wake up at 7.30 am, don’t eat after 7.30 pm the night before. He says, ‘This is because your body won’t slip into deep detox mode until about eight hours after your last meal and then it needs about four more hours of undisturbed sleep to do its job properly.’
A study by the American Journal of Gastroenterology also found a significant link between late-night eating and acid reflux symptoms. So, it could not only harm your sleep but also make you ill in the long run.
Dr Pixie McKenna also suggests eating and drinking healthily as one of the best ways to improve your sleep. She says:
Dry January and diets are of course some of the most common New Year’s resolutions. Sleep and diet have a symbiotic relationship. If you’re eating lots of unhealthy food, you’re likely to be getting poor quality sleep, and vice versa. Aim to eat a healthy, balanced diet of seasonal fruit and veg, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and oily fish to aid sleep.
Junk food and produce high in saturated fat are more likely to lead to poor quality sleep. Likewise, when it comes to drinking, try and cut down on caffeinated drinks like tea and coffee, which stimulate your brain and make you feel wide awake. Limiting alcohol, which is a notorious sleep disruptor, will also help your sleep quality.
Massage can really help us turn off from daily stresses, whether that’s full-body, foot, pressure point head rubs or any other variation. Clearly, certain types of massage would be unachievable to incorporate into our daily bedtime routine but it’s worth considering which are achievable. For those types of massage which are more difficult to achieve, you could always introduce it to your night-time routine on a once-weekly basis, which can help create a long-term clean sleep ritual.
Give yourself a gentle head massage stimulating pressure points on the back of your head. These are located about five fingers from the back of your ear at the base of your skull. You will feel a dip and a tender point in the right spot. Massaging these in a circular motion can relieve headaches, and tension and can stimulate circulation.
Alternatively, a relaxing foot massage will help ground and relax you. Practice mindfulness during this and focus on the act and how it makes you feel. Or, you could ask your partner to do it for you and give them a massage in return.
Dr Graeme Blennerhasset’s post on which types of massage help you sleep clearly identifies why you should consider adding massage to your bedtime routine. We’d recommend reading that post but in the meantime, here’s a quote on the success seen:
Clinical trials have shown that a variety of regular short duration remedial type massages improve the quality of sleep. These ranged from daily to two or three times per week. There are various pressure points, reflex points and acupressure points [that] are said to help sleeping, but only one of the trials used such points, indicating that they may be useful, but certainly not necessary.
The clinical trial results show a variety of different massages worked. One used pressure point type therapy, but the bulk used conventional remedial type massages. Of these, they ranged from slow stroking back massage through to deeper harsher sports massage. Most of the massages were mainly directed to the back and shoulder region, but in two trials the feet and hands were massaged. This indicates that it is probably not critical where you massage.
Setting yourself a sleep schedule is a great way to regulate your sleeping pattern and train your body to know when it’s bedtime. The NHS advises us to ‘keep regular sleeping hours. This programmes the brain and internal body clock to get used to a set routine. Most adults need between six and nine hours of sleep every night. By working out what time you need to wake up, you can set a regular bedtime schedule.’
Additionally, devising your own bedtime routine will aid the natural progression into sleep. It’s important to choose a routine that will suit you- there’s no point doing yoga stretches or meditating if you aren’t really into it. Find what calms you down and do that. It’s often a good idea to have a warm bath, clear your mind and read a book instead of watching TV or using your smartphone.
Whilst your motive may be to lose weight for aesthetic purposes, another huge benefit of getting fit is that it can help your sleep cycle dramatically. What you eat can be the deciding factor on sleeping well or not. As a rule of thumb, it’s good to avoid caffeine, alcohol and sugar, and to eat a well-balanced healthy diet throughout the day.
But can some foods promote good sleep? Sleep Council’s Yinka Thomas MSc states:
‘There are three substances that are key to understanding how nutrition can affect the brain chemistry that promotes good sleep: Tryptophan, Serotonin and Melatonin.’.
This is because, in layman’s terms, when tryptophan reaches the brain, it becomes serotonin, which then transforms into melatonin – the chemical that makes you sleep. She goes on to discuss that the best sleep-promoting food combination is protein-carbohydrate. A good example would be pumpkin or sunflower seeds with yoghurt.
Exercise is also a key component for a clean sleep. Thomas also states,
‘Sometimes sleeplessness can be caused simply because we have not been active enough during the day’.
So as well as all of the known health benefits of exercising, it can also aid a proper, well-deserved rest at the end of the day. It’s important not to overdo it though as this can be counterproductive and cause restlessness.
Clean sleep is not just about what you do, but also about your sleeping environment. It may seem obvious, but having a calm, inviting space to rest is a key element of clean sleep. It’s a good idea to keep the room at a neutral temperature so that you are comfortable and open a window to let air ventilate around the room (providing it is not too cold).
You should limit the amount of time you spend in your bedroom other than resting, as this way your body will recognise that this is a space for sleep. After all, there’s nothing like your own bed.
Another key component is to keep your room as dark as possible. Your body only produces melatonin most effectively in complete darkness so any light can hinder your sleeping experience. Cover up small lights on TVs and leave hall lights off to ensure a restful night.
You can also learn how to improve your bedroom’s Feng Shui for better sleep.
Ultimately, clean sleeping promotes good sleep hygiene, something that can take time to establish and maintain. After all, this is about having a sleep routine that enables you to have good quality sleep. As they say, quality is better than quantity!
When it comes to making your new year’s resolution this year, why not consider clean sleeping to improve your lifestyle? For more information, read how to sleep better.