What Is Sleep Hygiene?

May 08, 2019

Woman sleeping in bed
Kyleigh Roessner RN-BSN

We spend nearly half our lives sleeping, but for many Americans, too much of that time is spent attempting to fall asleep, waking up during the night and tossing and turning. Good sleep hygiene practices can help.

What Is Sleep Hygiene?

According to the National Sleep Foundation, it is a set of behaviors that can facilitate quality nighttime sleep that allows you to wake up alert and refreshed for the day.

Here are five tips that you can use to improve your sleep hygiene:

1. Make Your Bedroom a Perfect Place for Sleep

How many of us use our bedroom as a place to hang out, watch TV and check work emails? According to Harvard Medical School, we should be making our beds and bedrooms a haven for sleep, which means banishing electronic devices like TVs, computers, tablets and smartphones.

Additionally, they recommend that mattresses and bedding be comfortable and supportive. The temperature should be cool, and the room should be dark, using blackout curtains if necessary. If your dog or cat is more disruptive to your sleep, then you should consider finding them a different place to sleep.

2. Create a Soothing Bedtime Routine

Regular sleep habits help train our bodies to sleep when we lay down on the pillow. As a part of your routine, it's a good idea to stop caffeine intake long before it's time to go to bed. The National Sleep Foundation also cautions against alcohol too close to bedtime because, although it can sometimes help you fall asleep faster, it can disrupt your sleep later in the night. Also, stop looking at electronic screens at least 30 minutes before bed.

Soothing activities may include reading a book, gentle stretching or meditation, and a warm shower or bath. Do the same things each day in the same order, at the same time, and your body will come to associate these activities with sleep, making it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep.

If you're not sleepy, or you can't fall asleep within 20 minutes, leave your bed and do some quiet activities, listen to music or read a book until you feel tired.

3. The Importance of Daylight

Exposure to the light of the sun, especially early morning sun, is important for setting our circadian rhythm, or the internal biological clock that tells us when to wake and when to sleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation. In our modern society, some people go directly from their homes to their cars, and then to the office, exclusively exposed to fluorescent lights, which simply doesn't have the same benefits as the light of the sun. So, take some time to enjoy the early morning sun when you wake up each day, it can benefit you long into the night.

4. Exercise and Sleep

The National Sleep Foundation encourages people to get at least 10 minutes of mild exercises, such as walking or cycling, per day to improve sleep at night. The timing of the exercise, however, depends on person to person. Some are able to exercise heavily right before bed, while others are too stimulated by so much exercise so close to bedtime. They encourage individuals to experiment with the timing of their exercise to yield the maximum benefit.

5. Daytime Napping

It's tempting to make up for staying up late by taking a luxurious nap late in the day, but that can decrease your ability to sleep later in the night and can get you stuck in a vicious cycle of poor sleep and needing to nap during the day.

It's recommended that if you do want to take a nap, that it be no longer than 30 minutes, and that you try and make it before 5 p.m. to prevent nighttime sleep disruptions.

What is sleep hygiene? It's the key to overall health and quality restful sleep. If you are practicing good sleep habits regularly and still aren't able to sleep, then it's a good idea to consult your personal physician for advice.

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