Clean sleeping: What is it, and can it help us get a good night's sleep?

Ditch the dog perhaps [Photo: Pexels]
Ditch the dog perhaps [Photo: Pexels]

It doesn’t mean washing our pyjamas regularly, nor dreaming about taking out the recycling (although we’ve probably done both this week).

“Clean sleeping”, a term Gwyneth Paltrow coined a couple of years ago, essentially means making sleep a priority in our lives – even before our diets.

In an article she penned for the Daily Mail, she suggested that not getting enough “good-quality sleep” makes us “easily frustrated, forgetful or struggle to cope with stress”, and that we need to take certain steps to change this.

And compared to so much of Paltrow’s previous advice – including steaming our vaginas and allowing ourselves to be stung by bees – this suggestion is remarkably sound.

Study after study has shown what havoc sleep deprivation can wreak on the body, including making it difficult to live healthily and perform basic tasks. It could even result in a higher risk of early death.

But a Goop-inspired article wouldn’t be a Goop-inspired article without suggesting we spent at least a month’s rent on weird and wonderful health items. In this case, Paltrow has suggested investing in a pricey copper pillow.

So how can we embrace Paltrow’s advice – to really dedicate a portion of our lives to getting better sleep – without making any questionable investments?

Independent sleep expert Dr Neil Stanley of says that you only really need three things to get a good-quality night’s sleep; a bedroom that’s conducive to sleep, a quiet mind and a relaxed body.

“Every other sleep tip on the planet can fit into that paradigm,” says Dr Stanley, and here are some tips on achieving that.

Adjust your bedroom

Keep it nice and dark [Photo: Pexels]
Keep it nice and dark [Photo: Pexels]

First and foremost, Dr Stanley says that your bedroom should be dark.

“And when I say dark, I mean very dark,” he explains. “You need to look at sources of light within the room – things like your clock, your iPad or anything else. Use blackout curtains or blackout blinds.”

It should also be cool. In order to sleep well you need to lose about one degree of body temperature overnight, he explains, so unless it’s absolutely freezing outside it’s best to leave the heating off.

Fresh air circulation is a must, too, so keep your bedroom door open (and a window if possible).

“You also need a comfortable bed,” says Dr Stanley. “Shockingly, 8% of people in the UK have spent less than £100 on their bed.

“You’re going to spend more time in bed than you will in any other position in your life.”

Ideally, your room should also be quiet, though Dr Stanley notes that this can be a tall order for anyone that shares a bed with snorer.

How you “relax” is up to you

No problem if meditation isn’t your thing [Photo: Pexels]
No problem if meditation isn’t your thing [Photo: Pexels]

In her clean sleeping guide, Paltrow suggests something called yoga nidra, a form of meditation.

And Dr Stanley says that if meditation is what works for you, by all means, try it.

“There’s a saying: ‘One man’s relaxation is another man’s torture’”, he explains. “You need to find the way that works for you to quieten your mind. I read every night before bed, for example.”

Cut the screen time

Let’s not kid ourselves [Photo: Pexels]
Let’s not kid ourselves [Photo: Pexels]

“The blue light [in our phones] supresses the release of melatonin,” Dr Stanley explains. “So if you use yours or a tablet, say, before bed you’ll get worse sleep and feel sleepier the next day.”

So in an ideal world, stop using screens two hours – or at least half an hour – before going to bed.

Even those that claim to filter out that pesky blue light, as Dr Stanley says these make “no difference”.

Keep a regular sleep schedule

Try hitting the hay at a reasonable time each night [Photo: Pexels]
Try hitting the hay at a reasonable time each night [Photo: Pexels]

Dr Stanley says that waking up at a regular time every day is probably “the most important change most people can make for their sleep” – and ideally, keeping a regular bedtime too.

“The body starts preparing to wake up 90 minutes before you get up so that you hit the ground running,” he explains. “If your body has no idea what time you’re waking up it can’t prepare.”

No, you don’t need a copper pillow

Normal pillows are quite nice, actually [Photo: Pexels]
Normal pillows are quite nice, actually [Photo: Pexels]

“There is absolutely nothing in that at all,” says Dr Stanley. “There’s no rationale behind what it does scientifically. It’s a faddy idea.”

Instead, get yourself a great pillow that provides support and comfort such as Tempur’s Comfort Pillow Cloud. (It’s seriously good, we’ve tried it).

There is no “golden number” of hours

You might be a seven-hour person or a ten [Photo: Pexels]
You might be a seven-hour person or a ten [Photo: Pexels]

“Our sleep need is like height – it’s genetically determined, and there’s no point in trying to pretend that anything’s going to change,” he explains. “You shouldn’t get more sleep than you need, and you shouldn’t get less.”

So instead of setting an arbitrary number, listen to your body to figure out if you’re getting enough shut eye.

“If you feel awake during the day; focused, alert, then you’ve had enough sleep regardless of how many hours you’ve had,” says Dr Stanley.

And won’t that be a good feeling?

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