What is Sleep Hygiene and Why is it Important?

If you’ve found yourself researching ways to fall asleep easier, you may have come across the phrase “Sleep Hygiene”. The word “hygiene” likely makes you think of personal cleanliness but how does it pertain to sleep?

What Is Sleep Hygiene?

Sleep hygiene is a broad term for your nightly and bedtime routines. The word “hygiene” is defined as conditions or practices conducive to maintaining health and preventing disease, especially through cleanliness. Maintaining good Sleep Hygiene means maintaining a set of practices that ensure good sleep.

Keeping up with these habits will help alleviate daily stress and eliminate behaviors associated with insomnia.

There are a number of relaxing activities that can prepare you for bed. For some it may be doing yoga, reading a good book or having a cup of herbal tea. Basically, anything that helps you unwind and prepare for sleep can be beneficial. Keeping sensible and consistent sleep habits contributes to daytime alertness and productivity.

Why Is Sleep Hygiene Important?

Better quality of sleep every night will help you lead a better quality of life. It will also keep your immune system healthy, and keep you more productive at work or school. Quality of sleep has a direct impact on your relationships with family and friends. Being sleep deprived affects your overall mood and ability to interact with others.

The key here is to maintain good quality of sleep consistently. The regularity of good sleep is what will make the difference. If you deprive your body of sleep on a regular basis, sleeping in late on the weekends won’t make up for what you’ve lost.

What Is Bad Sleep Hygiene?

Poor sleep hygiene is more common than you may realize. There are several things you can do wrong before going to bed that affect the quality of your sleep. The most common is using electronic devices like your cell phone later at night. Using your phone before bed can have a lasting impact on your sleep. The light emitting from the screen is known to promote wakefulness and curtail sleep. Other poor choices are going to bed at odd hours, or sleeping amidst too much light or noise.

If you wake up from a full night’s sleep still tired and irritable, you probably practice poor sleep hygiene. Given life’s many distractions, it’s easy to have bad sleep hygiene. It requires work and dedication to develop good habits and routine. The following section details a plan for better sleep.

Checklist for Maintaining Good Sleep Hygiene

There are several sleep hygiene tips you can follow to ensure you get a night of quality rest on a regular basis. The following are some examples:

Go to Bed at the Same Time Every Day

Going to bed at the same time every night allows your body to rely on a routine. It also keeps your circadian rhythm in check. Also known as your sleep/wake cycle, your circadian rhythm regulates periods of sleepiness and wakefulness. It’s quite normal to feel a mid day slump in your energy as part of this cycle. But, when you are better rested, you experience less of these afternoon crashes. Keeping your sleep and wake times consistent, even on weekends stabilizes your system. It may be difficult at first but the results are worth the effort. Allow yourself enough time to sleep and keep it consistent.

Limit Screen Time

Using your cell phone late at night can greatly diminish the quality of your sleep. Even if you are tired when you go to bed, the light emitting from the screen can keep you awake longer by increasing the sleep onset latency period. This refers to the time it takes to transition from full wakefulness to sleep.The longer this period takes, the greater the chance the quality of your sleep will be impacted.

Extended screen time also results in fragmented sleep and frequent arousals in the middle of the night when your sleep cycle should be running smoothly.

Keep Your Bedroom Clean & Orderly

Try not to bring work into your bedroom. Keep your sheets clean, your bed well made and your room free of distractions. A neat orderly bedroom creates a welcoming sleep environment.

Limit Daytime Naps

This is a vicious cycle. The fact that you’re feeling sleepy during the day means you probably didn’t sleep well during the night. But, too much daytime sleep may leave you lying awake at night again. Good sleep hygiene includes limiting your hours of sleep to nighttime only. This allows for a longer stretch of good quality sleep.

An occasional quick daytime snooze can be beneficial. A brief 20 – 30 minute nap during the day can be a restorative energy booster. The trick is to train your mind and body to wake up after a short period. Sleeping too long during the day can leave you feeling lethargic and make sleeping at night much more difficult.

Use Your Bedroom For Sleeping Only

This means no cell phones, tablets or TV. Also, don’t bring work into the bedroom. This creates unnecessary stress that can make you restless. Allowing your bed to only be a sanctuary for sleep helps train your mind to associate this time with sleep only. Put off these distractions until tomorrow for better sleep tonight!

Make Your Bedroom A Quiet Place to Sleep

Try to keep your surroundings as quiet as possible. Silence is golden when it comes to sleep. Sometimes, outside noise is unavoidable. Cars beeping or neighbors coming and going can be a major distraction. In this case, try using a white noise sound machine to block out unwanted noise.

Keep Your Bedroom Cool & Dark

Ensure your bedroom is devoid of distractions. Keep your bedroom cool and dark. Maintain a cool temperature in the room as it helps the body thermoregulate. This is the process by which your body maintains (or regulates) temperature. Because your system cools down naturally during the early stages of sleep, reducing your bedrooms temperature aids in the process.

Darkness sends signals to your body that it’s time to rest. Too much light in your room will prevent this. Outside lights can be a distraction but, can be blocked out with a set of light blocking shades.

Maintain A Balanced Diet

Maintaining a balanced diet requires you include all the healthy food groups in your meals. But, it also means you regulate the timing of your meals and keep appropriate gaps between them. Try not to eat at least for two hours before you go to bed. This will not only help you digest your food better, it aids the prevention of obesity. Late night night meals can also cause indigestion.

Fruits and Vegetables

There’s a lengthy list of foods you can include in your diet which promote sleep. These include yogurt, cherries, bananas, etc. Try to avoid foods that are high on energy and sugar right before you go to sleep. You should also check how much water you’re drinking before bed as you don’t want to keep waking up at night to use the bathroom.

Ensuring you are aware of the implications of what you put in your body is a step towards maintaining good sleep hygiene.

Get Adequate Exercise

Getting proper exercise during the day is a great way to oxygenate yourself by ensuring the blood in your body is being circulated all over. Some exercise every day will also tire you out sufficiently so you want to go to bed early. Other than improving your sleep hygiene, getting exercise will also improve your metabolism.

Limit Food & Alcohol Before Bedtime

Keeping with a fixed set of bedtime practices will keep you on track to a healthier lifestyle. You may need to make simple adjustments in your nightly routine. As mentioned above, you should avoid eating late meals. While a late meal may make you tired, they are a disruption to your sleep. The digestion process requires energy better used for restoring your body after you doze off. Reduce your intake of food, drink and alcohol consumption the last few hours before bed. Alcohol may induce sleep but also increases your heartbeat which can cause sleeplessness.

Some additional bedtime routines you can follow include:

  • Meditation
  • Using a scented candle
  • Listen to some calming music
  • Stretching before bed
  • Taking a warm bath

Final Thoughts

Following these practices are the first steps towards developing good sleep hygiene. There may be several other routines that are more suitable for you. Sleep is too valuable to your health to ignore the signs of sleep deprivation.