Getting a good night’s sleep is essential for your health and well-being. While a single restless night doesn’t cause many problems, long-term sleep deprivation can lead to chronic health issues.
Practicing healthy sleep hygiene—forming habits and optimizing your environment for better sleep—can help alleviate these issues. However, sleep hygiene alone will not treat serious sleeping disorders like snoring or insomnia.
Consistent Sleep Schedule
If you are struggling with sleep, the first step is to get on a consistent schedule. Our circadian rhythms are tightly linked with the sleep-wake cycle, and keeping a consistent bedtime and wake-up time can help you feel more rested and energized during the day. Start by figuring out when you need to wake up, and then work backward to pick a bedtime that will give you the number of hours of rest you need. Stick with this schedule as much as possible, even on weekends.
Of course, everyone’s sleep needs are different, and it’s fine to stay up late one night and go to bed early another. But you should try to be consistent most nights. This will help your brain wind down for sleep, so that you can feel ready to relax at bedtime and fall asleep quickly. Optimizing your bedroom environment and daily routines is also part of healthy sleep hygiene, so that sleeping feels automatic. This will help you get the restful, nourishing sleep that you need to be your best self.
Create a Relaxing Bedtime Routine
A regular bedtime schedule is important because it normalizes sleep as part of your day and gets your body and mind conditioned to feel sleepy at that time each night. A relaxing bedtime routine also helps you unwind, making it easier to fall asleep.
For most people, it is best to avoid eating or drinking anything but water at least an hour before bed. This may help prevent acid reflux or heartburn that can disturb sleep. Alcohol is a depressant and it can interfere with sleep, so it should be avoided as well. If you have trouble falling asleep, a few minutes of meditation or gentle stretching can calm your body and mind.
Getting sufficient, restful sleep is an important part of good health, but it can be difficult to achieve for many reasons. If you suffer from chronic insomnia or another sleep disorder, improving your sleep hygiene can help but it is not a cure. If you continue to struggle with sleep problems, it is a good idea to talk to your doctor.
Optimize Sleep Environment
The sleep environment is an important element of a good night’s rest. It can make the difference between falling asleep quickly and tossing and turning throughout the night in fits of insomnia.
The ideal sleep environment is a cool, dark space. Health experts recommend a temperature between 65 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit. This is a comfortable range for most people, but you may have your own preference. You should also minimize light sources in your bedroom during the night. If necessary, try using blackout curtains to keep out unwanted light from entering your room.
Practicing healthy sleeping habits can improve your ability to fall asleep quickly and stay asleep for the entire night. These habits can also help you feel refreshed in the morning. However, sleep hygiene is not a cure-all for chronic sleep problems, and you should see your doctor if you have severe insomnia or other serious sleeping disorders. If you are interested in learning more about sleep hygiene, read our blog post, The Best Sleep Hygiene Tips for Better Sleep.
Limit Stimulants Before Bed
The quality of your sleep impacts more than just how well you function in the daytime. Getting adequate rest also helps reduce risk of physical health conditions and mental health challenges. Fortunately, many common sleep problems can be addressed with healthy habits and environmental changes.
For example, avoid caffeine and nicotine close to bedtime and limit alcohol consumption late in the evening. Instead of consuming these stimulating substances, drink decaffeinated tea or warm milk. Similarly, don’t dine late, as this can cause digestive upset when you are trying to fall asleep. In addition, use the bedroom for sleeping and sex only and keep work-related materials and electronics out of it.
In addition to these basic steps, consider incorporating relaxation techniques such as meditation or cognitive behavior therapy for insomnia (CBT). Additionally, talk with your doctor about the benefits of a polysomnogram, or a sleep study, if you have not already done so. This can help pinpoint specific issues that might be impeding your sleep and guide you to the right treatments for you.
Mindful Use of Electronics
Your sleep habits throughout the day and before bedtime have a huge impact on your ability to get restful sleep. These daily behaviors, such as the foods and beverages you consume, your schedule and evening routines can promote healthy sleep or contribute to poor sleep.
Practicing good sleep hygiene can help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer, which can improve your overall health and performance. If you are struggling to get enough sleep or have recurring sleep disturbances, you may need to make a few changes to your lifestyle and habits.
Avoiding screens and minimizing exposure to blue light before sleep can help you achieve better sleep. If you must use a device before bed, try using an app that reduces blue light emission or turn your screen on a dark mode. You can also limit screen time by charging your electronics outside of the bedroom and silencing notifications to avoid waking up in the middle of the night. Also, try using a calming bedtime activity like reading or listening to relaxing music.
Regular Physical Activity
A regular exercise routine can improve sleep quality over time, as well as helping you fall asleep and stay asleep. However, you should not exercise within 4 hours of bedtime, as this can disrupt your sleep. Also, avoid caffeinated beverages such as coffee, tea or cola prior to sleeping, as these can interfere with your ability to fall and stay asleep (see the Sleep Health Foundation fact sheet on Napping and Caffeine for more information).
Getting enough good-quality sleep is an essential part of overall wellness. If you have persistent sleep problems, try these healthy sleep hygiene tips to help you get a more restful night’s rest. If you still can’t get a better night’s sleep, talk to your doctor about options like visiting a specialist or undergoing a sleep study. Getting enough high-quality sleep will improve your mental and physical health and can help you stay more productive during the day. However, if you are experiencing severe sleep issues such as insomnia or snoring, other treatments may be necessary to address your condition.
Moderate Food and Fluid Intake
The foods you eat and beverages you consume before sleep have significant impacts on your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night. It can be difficult to fall asleep if you are still digesting your last meal, so avoid eating a big dinner before bed and try not to eat anything fatty or spicy before going to sleep. Similarly, consuming large amounts of caffeine or alcohol before bed can interfere with your sleep as the stimulant effects take hours to wear off.
Restrict in-bed activity to sleep and sex only. By only using your bed for sleeping and sex, you can build a clear mental association between your bed and sleep. This can also help prevent the habit of turning on your laptop or a book before bed.
Many people experience sleep problems that can be improved with simple lifestyle adjustments. However, sleep hygiene is not a cure-all for sleeping disorders and it is important to seek medical help if you continue to struggle with insomnia or excessive daytime sleepiness.
Sleep is vital for good health, and yet many of us struggle to get the restful nights we need. Your habits during the day and at bedtime can impact how well you sleep — these are known as your sleep hygiene. Practicing healthy sleep hygiene habits can help you fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer and wake up feeling refreshed.
Babies need 12 to 16 hours of sleep each night (including naps), school-age kids need nine to 13 hours and adults need seven to eight hours a night. Although these are high goals, the good news is that you can improve your sleep habits by making a few simple changes. By making these small adjustments, you may find that sleeping better is easier than you thought.