Sleep hygiene refers to habits and lifestyle choices that affect sleep quality. Poor sleep hygiene can lead to insomnia and leave people sleep deprived, and may also worsen existing sleep disorders.
Fortunately, people can improve sleep hygiene and develop habits that encourage, rather than hinder, a good night’s rest and ease the symptoms of sleep disorders.
Sleep Tips: Improving Sleep Environments
For most people, the bedroom is their primary sleep environment. The following sleep tips make the bedroom as conducive to sleep as possible:
- Bedding, pillows and mattresses should be comfortable. Some people prefer soft pillows; others prefer a pillow that offers more support. Experiment to find the bedding that makes you comfortable.
- Bedroom temperate should be cool, but not cold. Temperature extremes interfere with sleep. Once the light is out, the bedroom should be dark and quiet. Heavy curtains can block light and help muffle sounds from outside.
- The bedroom is a place for rest and intimacy, and should only be used for sleep and sex. Keep televisions and computers out of the bedroom. Both devices stimulate the brain and can leave people sleep deprived.
Sleep Tips and Lifestyle
A regular sleep schedule is one of the most important aspects of sleep hygiene, especially for people who are sleep deprived. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, including weekends. Over time, the body responds to a regular sleep schedule, making it easier to both sleep and wake up. However, it’s generally not a good idea to go to bed if you’re not sleepy. Instead, engage in a relaxing activity until you feel tired.
Other lifestyle sleep tips include:
- Avoid alcohol, caffeine and nicotine for four to six hours before bed.
- Avoid daytime napping if you have trouble sleeping at night.
- Avoid spicy, sugary or heavy foods for four to six hours before bed.
- Exercise daily, but avoid heavy exercise for in the hours before bed. However, relaxing exercise before bed, like yoga, may help promote sleep.
A light snack, such as warm milk and bananas, before bedtime helps some people sleep. Avoid stimulating activities just before bed, including watching television, playing video games or using computers.
Choose relaxing activities in the last hour before bed. Some people practice relaxation techniques prior to bedtime. Others listen to quiet music or take a warm bath.
Sleep Hygiene and Nighttime Waking
Insomnia refers to more than an inability to sleep. Frequent nighttime awakenings and difficulty returning to sleep are common symptoms of insomnia and other sleep disorders.
If you awaken at night and cannot get back to sleep within 20 minutes, consider the following sleep tips:
- Leave the bedroom and do something relaxing, such as drinking a glass of warm milk, listening to soft music or reading.
- When you feel sleepy, return to bed.
- Repeat the process if you still cannot sleep after 20 minutes, as lying awake worrying about sleeplessness only encourages insomnia.
American Academy of Sleep Medicine. (2010). Sleep hygiene: The healthy habits of good sleep. Retrieved October 17, 2010, from http://www.sleepeducation.com/Hygiene.aspx.
National Sleep Foundation. (2009). Sleep hygiene. Retrieved October 17, 2010, from http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/ask-the-expert/sleep-hygiene.
University of Maryland Medical Center. (2010). Sleep hygiene: Helpful hints to help you sleep. Retrieved October 17, 2010, from http://www.umm.edu/sleep/sleep_hyg.htm.