Sleep Hygiene Guide
The term "hygiene" is often misunderstood as strictly being synonymous with
"cleanliness." The true meaning of hygiene has to do with sets of practices,
habits, and environmental influences that impact one's health. Hygiene of all
kinds are important to your health and well-being as most are aimed at
reducing your chances of coming into contact with diseases, getting infections,
spreading germs and viruses, or preventing oral cavities and gingivitis.
If all of these other types of hygienic practices are aimed at preserving your
health, exactly what is sleep hygiene and how can it help you in your everyday
The Importance of Quality Sleep
Getting a full night's sleep every night is important to people's overall health and
happiness. Most of us are aware that when we lose a few hours of sleep, we are
often tired and cranky the next day and have difficulty concentrating, staying
alert, and being in a positive mood. And all of these things can occur after just
one day of lost sleep.
If you're regularly losing sleep, you're putting yourself at risk to a whole slew of
health issues and medical conditions including:
• heart disease
• heart attacks
• cognitive impairment
• memory loss
• chronic stress
• heart arrhythmia
• increased likelihood of accidents
• mood disorders
It's mind blowing to think that all of these problems can occur simply from losing
a few hours of sleep a night. In today's 24/7 world where our time is in high
demand, many people feel that their sleep comes second to societal needs.
With our professional, social, academic, and family lives requiring so much of our
time, it's no wonder that so many people experience sleep deprivation.
How To Practice Sleep Hygiene
Many people may realize the impact that poor sleep quality is having on their
daily lives, but may be unsure of what types of activities are contributing to their
sleep loss, or simple practices they could be doing to ensure they get not only
more sleep, but better sleep.
Many people believe that because they slept between the 7-9 hours of
recommended nightly sleep, that they're doing things right. However, while
getting enough hours of sleep is very important, getting quality sleep is more
important. If you're doing things that are disruptive to your sleep, your body and
mind are not truly resting enough to repair and prepare themselves for the next
Getting (or not getting) great sleep every night is often due to two important
factors: your personal habits and your sleeping environment. The things you do
during the day and leading up to sleeping at night can impact your sleep just as
much as the environment you choose to sleep in. Optimizing both your personal
habits and your sleep environment is paramount to successful sleep.
• Establish a regular bedtime routine. Getting into a regular routine of going
to bed and rising at the same times everyday is one of the most important
practices you can perform for better sleep. Part of keeping a healthy
bedtime routine is to keep it up even on the weekends by avoiding
staying up late and sleeping in. Depriving yourself of sleep during the
midweek and binge-sleeping on the weekends does more harm to your
sleep cycles than good.
• Exercise regularly. Exercise breeds energy and also helps reduce stress,
anxiety, and depression. Exercise in the late afternoon is best for sleep
because the physical activity helps wear us out, and the post-workout
body temperature drop helps cool the body, making sleep come more
readily. However, exercise too close to bedtime can make sleep difficult
to come, as your body doesn't have enough time to cool itself off.
• Eating healthy. It's no secret that some foods are great for sleep, and
others can help keep us awake at night. Fatty foods, processed carbs,
and spicy foods are the worst for sleep. Foods high in fat and processed
carbs don't have the nutrients and vitamins your body needs to produce
energy, leaving you feeling sluggish during the day. Spicy foods, eaten
too close to bedtime, can disrupt your sleep by causing acid reflux, which
can disturb your sleep. Foods that help promote sleep are those that are
high in amino acids, proteins, antioxidants, and vitamins.
• Don't eat too close to bedtime. Eating too close to bedtime can disrupt
your sleep, mostly because it gets your stomach acids going, and lying
down can cause those acids to creep up into your throat. If you're really
craving a late night snack, try a bowl of cereal with milk or cheese and
crackers. These types of foods are rich in minerals, such as tryptophan and
calcium, which help promote sleep.
• Avoid caffeine and nicotine close to bedtime. Caffeine and nicotine are
stimulants that, when taken within 3 hours of bedtime, can make it difficult
to go to sleep or stay asleep until the chemicals wear off. Many people
may recognize that drinks such as soda, tea, and coffee contain caffeine,
but may not realize that foods such as chocolate also contain caffeine.
• Avoid alcohol before bedtime. Many people falsely believe that alcohol
help promotes sleep as it makes them drowsy and more likely to fall
asleep quicker. However, once your body begins to metabolize the
alcohol there is a period of arousal, which disturbs one's sleep.
• Get light when possible. Your circadian rhythm, the internal clock that
regulates periods of sleep and wakefulness, is triggered by light and
darkness. Getting ample amounts of natural light during the day and less
light at night helps keep your circadian rhythm in harmony with the
• Practice relaxation techniques before bedtime. To help get your body
and mind prepared for sleep, try some relaxing activities to prepare
yourself for sleep. Dwelling on problems or bringing arguments to bed can
keep you awake and worrying. Activities such as meditating, praying, and
stretching can help ease the stresses in the body and mind before
bedtime. Writing your frustrations out in a journal can also be therapeutic
and stress relieving.
Your Sleep Environment
• Associate your bedroom with sleep only. These are really the only activities
that your bedroom should be designed for. Doing any other activities in
your bedroom can cause your mind to associate it with other stimulating
endeavors. Don't watch TV, listen to the radio, or talk with your partner
about important life occurrences or problems in bed. Bringing stimulating
content or conversation to bed can keep you awake engaging in it or
worrying about it.
• Keep electronics out of the room! All electronic devices including TV's,
tablets, laptops, cellphones, portable gaming systems, and e-readers
should be ditched before bedtime. For starters, the content may be
stimulating and keeping you awake as you play "just one more game" or
read "just one more post." Furthermore, the light emitting from these
devices is similar in wave-length to daylight and can trick your circadian
rhythm into believing it's daylight and delay the release of melatonin, a
hormone that promotes sleep.
• Keep your room dark. Light is bad for sleep as it can disrupt your circadian
rhythm. Keep your room dark by using heavy window shades, wearing a
sleep mask, and avoiding staring at glowing electronics.
• Keep your room quiet. Noise can keep you awake so make sure your
room is as free of unnecessary sounds as possible. If you're still having
trouble sleeping because of noisy neighbors or others in the house
consider using earplugs to block out sound or try "white noise." Fans and
sound machines that make continuous rhythmic sounds can be both
relaxing and aid in drowning out distracting or sudden noises.
• Keep your room cool. As you go to sleep your body temperature begins
to drop as it prepares itself for slumber. Keeping your room a cool
temperature (between 60-67 degrees) can help aid the process of
cooling your body.
• Make your bed as comfy as possible. Most mattresses are good for about
9 years. If your mattress is out of date or uncomfortable, getting a new
mattress can go a long way towards great sleep. Having an
uncomfortable pillow or bedding can keep you from sleep as well. If
you're constantly readjusting your pillow before bedtime, it may be time
to get a new one.
• Set your alarm and keep it away from your bed. Too often people get
used to using their phone as their wake-up device. Having your phone
close to your bed makes it too easy to continuously check it for new texts,
emails, or just looking at the time. Constantly reminding yourself of the
time can create anxiety, making sleep more difficult. Also, keeping your
alarm away from your bed reduces the chances of hitting the snooze
button over and over, and it makes you get up out of bed to shut it off.
By following these best sleep hygiene practices on a nightly basis, you're almost
guaranteed to get more fulfilling sleep at night and be more awake and alert
during the day. If however, you're practicing these hygiene tips and still finding
yourself feeling tired and sluggish during the day, it could be a sign of a sleep