Sleep hygiene refers to all the rituals contained in any routine you regularly perform before going to bed. A person’s sleep hygiene is a huge determinant of how well they sleep at night and their performance during the daytime. Good hygiene practices contribute to a better night’s sleep, so much so that doctors using cognitive behavioral therapy to treat sleeping disorders like insomnia and somnambulism use sleep hygiene methods as a significant part of treatment. The following are some good sleep hygiene practices and tips that support restful sleep.
Establish a Regular Bedtime Routine
For a consistently good night’s sleep, it is important to establish a routine that regularly precedes going to bed. A routine helps your body recognize bedtime and begin winding itself down in preparation for sleep. In order to optimize its effectiveness, your bedtime routine should adhere to the following sleep-hygiene tips.
Your sleep routine should begin at the same time every night. A part of ensuring that your body recognizes it as a routine is its ability to fit the activities into its circadian rhythm — a 24-hour pattern that it cycles through each day. Having a haphazard schedule will hamper your body’s recognition of this sleep routine as an actual recurring pattern. However, when your body recognizes a pattern, it will work with you to prepare itself for resting.
The routine should be relaxing so that it encourages your body to wind down. Consider doing things like drinking herbal tea, taking a warm bath, or practicing aromatherapy along with your other nighttime activities to support relaxation.
No sleeping should be done outside of your sleep routine. A single short nap of 30 or fewer minutes per day is acceptable, as such “power naps” can re-energize. Anything beyond that detracts from the night’s sleep of a healthy adult and represents poor sleep hygiene.
Get the correct amount of sleep per night. You can figure out the amount by experimentation to see how many hours make you feel completely rested. However, this number should lie somewhere between six and nine hours, and for most adults should be seven to seven and a half hours. Regularly averaging fewer than six or more than nine hours indicates a sleeping disorder.
Maintain a Sacred Sleeping Environment
For great sleep hygiene, your sleeping area should be kept sacred. It should not be cluttered with non-sleep-related activities and instruments, and it should have the optimal amount of lighting, noise, and warmth (or coolness) to keep you comfortable. The following is a guide:
- Cool — Temperatures should remain around 60ºF to 68ºF for the most comfortable sleep.
- Dark — Keep your sleep area as dark as you can make it; use blackout curtains or sleep masks to increase darkness if necessary.
- Quiet — Try to avoid noise; use white noise machines or apps if noise avoidance is impossible.
- Sacred — Keep your sleeping environment free from all other activities; no reading, eating, web browsing, or other computer/phone activity should take place on your bed. For great hygiene, you should be reminded of sleep only when you enter your sleeping area.
Filling your body with stimulants that can keep you awake during the hours prior to your established bedtime represents poor sleep hygiene. Substances such as caffeine can keep you awake. Even alcohol (which may aid sleep at first) can cause sleep disruption later when the body begins to metabolize it. The same is true with high-calorie foods, and acidic foods can cause heartburn and keep you awake.
Embrace Daytime Activities
It is good to expose yourself to natural light during the daytime. This supports your body’s responsiveness to its circadian rhythms and makes it susceptible to sleep during the dark nighttime hours. Exercising is also a good precursor to nighttime sleep, but it does support heightened alertness in some people, so it’s best not to do it too close to bedtime. Experiment with exercise to see how it works for you.