Nothing is more frustrating than looking forward to getting a good night’s sleep only to find yourself tossing and turning once it’s finally time to go to bed. How can sleep’s grasp elude you when you’ve been so tired all day? Sleep hygiene is a good place to start. What’s that? Although sleep hygiene may conjure images of fresh-smelling sheets and clean pajamas, it’s about much more than aesthetics. It focuses on the habits affecting your ability to fall and stay asleep.
Overall, the sleep hygiene definition involves the practices and habits that contribute to a good night’s sleep. It’s not just what you do before bed – sleep hygiene habits encompass everything you do throughout the day that can affect your sleep. For example, that “pick me up” cup of coffee at 3 p.m. is likely contributing to your tossing and turning, not to mention a poor sleep hygiene habit.
So what’s the difference between good sleep hygiene and poor sleep hygiene? Not to worry, we’re addressing this and other sleep hygiene tips and facts that can help you get more restful zzzs at night. So, let’s start with the positive, shall we?
What is Good Sleep Hygiene?
Forming sleep-friendly habits and routines are the first step to improving your sleep hygiene and overall rest at night. Good sleep hygiene involves being mindful of habits that encourage better rest to help you stay refreshed and aware during the day. It’s about creating routines around healthy habits and avoiding the things that can potentially interfere with sleep, such as caffeine, nicotine, or alcohol, at least 3 to 4 hours before bedtime. Your path to establishing good sleep hygiene begins when you wake and – hopefully – rewards you when you’re asleep.
How to Improve My Sleep Hygiene?
Although every person is different, there are everyday sleep hygiene habits that are beneficial to all. Let’s begin with the sleep environment, a.k.a., your bed (or wherever you usually sleep at night). The most important rule here is this – your bed is for two things, sex and sleeping. Trying not to use your bed for other activities is critical to establishing good sleep hygiene because your body comes to associate bed with sleep. You likely jeopardize good sleep hygiene if you watch TV, eat, read, work on your laptop, or pay bills in bed.
Bedrooms that align with good sleep hygiene are quiet and comfortable. A cooler room with enough blankets to stay warm is optimal, as well as curtains or an eye mask to block out early morning light and earplugs if there is disruptive noise outside your room.
There are also daily habits and routines you can try to improve your sleep hygiene. For starters, try to go to bed and wake at the same time every day – even on the weekends. Also, eating healthy and nutritional foods and regular exercise are great habits for improving your sleep hygiene. However, try to avoid strenuous exercise in the four hours leading up to bedtime.
Here are some other tips for establishing good sleep hygiene:
- Establish a soothing pre-sleep routine (ex: reading, baths, or stretching).
- Avoid caffeine after lunch.
- Lighten up on evening meals and avoid pre-bed snacks.
- Don’t drink too much right before bed – especially not alcohol.
- Turn off electronic devices before you go to sleep.
- Go to bed only when you are tired.
Why is it Important?
Creating good sleep hygiene habits can be very beneficial to your health by improving your sleep quality. Our bodies are surprisingly busy while we sleep. For example, your body cognitively and physically restores itself while snoozing as cells synthesize protein, tissues repair themselves, growth hormones are released, and more. Poor sleep hygiene can lead to disruptive sleep that interferes with these critical restorative functions.
What is Poor Sleep Hygiene?
Do you think you are suffering from poor sleep hygiene? If you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep or continually feel tired throughout the day, your sleep hygiene likely needs a tune-up. Also, if you revisit the sleep hygiene checklist we covered earlier and discover that any of the tips mentioned are missing from your routine, your sleep hygiene probably needs some work.
Better Sleep Hygiene for Better Health
The bottom line is that forming and sticking to healthy sleep hygiene habits will take a little work and vigilance to become routine. The earlier you incorporate good sleep hygiene habits in life, the better. In fact, sleep hygiene for teens and children is critical to healthy growth and cognitive development.
For adults, getting quality, restful sleep every night for 7-8 hours strengthens your immune system, can help you maintain a healthy weight, and can lower your risk for serious health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.
At the Better Sleep Council, we’re devotees of healthy sleep. We continually provide research, insights, and educational resources to empower consumers to make smarter sleep decisions. Visit our resources page for the latest news and research about sleep, including more articles like this to help you on your path to better sleep.