The Ultimate Guide to Sleep Hygiene: 14 tips to Help You Get Better Sleep

trying to sleep

What is sleep hygiene?

Sleep hygiene is a variety of different activities and behaviors that are necessary for good quality of night sleep and full day alertness.

Significant work has been conducted to develop a set of recommendations and suggestions designed to enhance healthy sleeping, and there is plenty of evidence to suggest that these techniques can provide long-term solutions to sleep issues.

There are many medications used to cure insomnia, but in the short term they appear to only be effective. Continued use of sleeping pills can result in dependence and interfere with the development of good sleeping habits independent of medication, thus prolonging sleep difficulties.

Speak to your health care provider about what’s best for you, but as an important part of treating insomnia, we suggest good sleep hygiene, either with certain approaches such as medicine or cognitive therapy or alone.

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Why is it important to practice good sleep hygiene?

It is vital for both physical and mental health to get healthy sleep. Productivity and overall quality of life can also be increased. Everyone can benefit from the practice of good sleep habits, from children to older adults.

Your mind and body are busy replenishing cells as you sleep, recovering strength, and tissue regeneration. You wouldn’t have enough energy to perform basic body functions without sleep, much less get your forty-hour work week in. Getting enough sleep can also bring a lot of benefits to your physical and mental health. It has been known that a proper amount of sleep reduces your risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, obesity, and Alzheimer’s. It also maintains the level of your strength, boosts your mood, and battles anxiety and depression.

Within, you have a biological clock that helps to regulate all of your body’s processes that occur over 24 hours. The cycles, called your circadian rhythm, tell the body when it’s time every day to go to sleep and wake up. You may have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep when your rhythm is out of sync, which can lead to insomnia and other sleep problems. Good sleep hygiene is the best way to control the circadian rhythms.

What’s bad sleep hygiene?

The short answer: bad sleep hygiene does the opposite of any of the tips that we talk about below.

But the response you’re probably looking for is this: if you’re waking up unrested every morning, waking up regularly during the night, feeling exhausted during the day, or having trouble sleeping at night, there’s a very good chance you’ll have bad sleep hygiene that’s messing with your sleep.

Cliffnote tips:

The most important elements of sleep hygiene require the following from your bedroom:

  • Temperature – neither too hot nor too cold
  • Darkness – the darker, the better
  • Quiet – the quieter, the better
  • A comfortable place to lie down and stretch out

How can I improve my sleep hygiene?

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One of the most important practices in sleep hygiene is to spend a reasonable amount of time sleeping in bed, not too little or too much. Sleeping needs differ over the years and are influenced by lifestyle and wellbeing in particular. There are recommendations, however, that can provide guidance on how much sleep you generally need. Other common practices for sleep hygiene include:

  1. Get on a regular basis. One of the easiest ways to train your body to sleep well is to go to bed and get up every day, even on weekends and holidays, at more or less the same time! This daily rhythm will make you feel better and offer something to work out of your body.
  2. Limiting daytime naps to 30 minutes. Napping does not compensate for poor sleep during the night. However, a short nap of 20-30 minutes can help to improve mood, alertness and performance. So to ensure that you are exhausted at bedtime, it is best to avoid taking naps during the day. If you can’t go all day without a nap, make sure it’s less than an hour before 3 pm.
  3. Avoiding stimulants such as caffeineand nicotine close to bedtime. And as far as alcohol is concerned, tolerance is key. While alcohol is well known to help you fall asleep quicker, in the second half of the night too much near bedtime will disturb sleep as the body starts processing the alcohol. It is best to avoid consuming at least 4-6 hours of caffeine (in coffee, tea, cola drinks, chocolate, and some medicines) or nicotine (cigarettes) before going to bed. They act as stimulants and interfere with the ability to sleep
  4. No monitoring of the clock. Most people struggling with sleep tend to watch too much of the clock that is next to you or on your phone. You can wake up regularly by checking the clock during the night (especially if you switch on the light to read the time) and reinforce negative thoughts like “Oh no, look how late it is, I’ll never get to sleep” or “it’s so early, I’ve only slept for 5 hours, it’s awful.”
  5. Unplug an hour before bed You have heard this perhaps a million times, but it is worth repeating: screens and sleep are incompatible. It is necessary for sound sleep to keep screen use to a minimum, at least one hour before bed. In addition to the light that disrupts your body clock, games, videos, work emails and social feeds, they all conspire to keep your mind active— and keep you awake later than you should. Make it a habit of sleeping out of reach with your phone, if possible. Holding your mobile off your table at night means it’s going to be out of control, especially if you can’t sleep. If you find like keeping your phone in another room at night is not feasible, consider placing it in “Do Not Disturb” or nighttime mode to block alerts from blinking or vibrating your phone at night. One idea is to keep it face-down so you won’t see it light up at night. Try an old-fashioned alarm clock if you need help to wake up.
  6. Avoid foods that can disrupt sleep Citrus fruits, spicy foods, fat or fried foods, and heavy foods are all hard on the digestive system and can cause indigestion. Eating too close to bedtime will mean a night of suffering if you are prone to heartburn. That’s because it takes 3 to 4 hours to drain your stomach, and the digestive juices still churn when you lie down right after a big meal. The result: chest pain burning and sleep interrupted.
  7. Exercising to promote good quality sleep.  A 2013 study found that a regular exercise routine can help contribute to improved sleep. Nevertheless, the study results indicate that the effects of exercise may not be immediate on improving your health. It may take a few weeks or even months before an exercise routine has a significant impact on your sleep’s quality and quantity. As little as 10 minutes of aerobic exercise, such as walking or cycling, will improve the quality of sleep during the night.  Most people should avoid strenuous exercises before bedtime for the best night’s sleep. The result of intensive nighttime sleep exercise, however, is different from person to person, so find out what works best for you.
  8. Steering clear of food that can be disruptive right before sleep.  Many people may be indigested by heavy or rich foods, fatty or fried meals, spicy dishes, citrus fruits, and carbonated drinks. It can lead to intense heartburn, which disrupts sleep when this happens before bedtime.
  9. Ensuring adequate exposure to natural light. This is especially important for people who may not regularly venture outside. During the day, access to sunshine and nighttime darkness help to maintain a balanced cycle of sleep-wake.
  10. Establishing a regular relaxing bedtime routine.  A regular routine at night helps the body to know that it’s bedtime. This may include taking a warm bath or shower, reading a book, or relaxing out. If necessary, before trying to sleep, try to avoid emotionally disturbing conversations and events. Whether it’s a warm bath, reading a book, listening to sleepcasts, sounds of nature, sleeping music, or meditation, any calming activity about an hour before bed helps create a bridge between wakefulness and sleep.  
  11. Making sure that the sleep environment is pleasant and dim the lights after dark. You should feel comfortable with the matress and pillows you have. The bedroom should be cool for optimum sleep–between 60 and 67 degrees. The bright light from lamps, cell phone, and TV screens can make it hard to fall asleep, so turn off or adjust the light when possible. That’s because light, especially blue light from your laptop or cell phone, interferes with melatonin release, a hormone that tells our body it’s time to wind down. Think of dimming the lights at home after dinner, or when you go to bed. Consider using blackout curtains, eye shades, ear plugs, machines with “white noise,” humidifiers, fans, and other devices that can make your bedroom more relaxing. The perfect place to sleep is cool, quiet and dark.
  12. Only use your bed for sleep and sex If you are struggling with sleep problems, using your bedroom only for sleep (and sex) is necessary. Which means no television, no internet browsing, no heart-to-heart late night with a friend or girlfriend. You’re going to train your mind in doing this to see your bed as a place of rest. If you don’t fall asleep within 20 minutes, sleep hygiene experts recommend getting out of bed and going to another room. A soothing activity— reading, listening to music, even taking a warm shower — can help you get sleepy. The purpose of this strategy, called stimulus management, is to break the bed connection as a place of agitation and concern (when sheep counting is not working).
  13. Use a diary. A sleeping journal can be a helpful way to make sure you have the right information about your sleep instead of creating theories. Since a diary includes monitoring the clock, it is a good idea to use it for just two weeks to get an idea of what is going on and then maybe two months.
  14. Get help when you need it. Sadly, all these tips may be applied and practiced in a dutiful way, and you may not yet experience better sleep. You may have a sleeping disorder or another health problem if this is the case. Keep a diary of sleep and get help from your doctor.

Keeping up with your Sleep

Hygiene Sleep hygiene requires day-to-day maintenance and care, like most things in life. Make sure you create a routine and stay with it on a daily basis. The most important thing you can do for your overall health is to improve your sleep, so every day you want to give it the right amount of attention. Keep up with these tips on sleep hygiene, and you will begin to feel the benefits of great rest on a regular basis before long.