Sleep is one of the most important parts of your life. The simple fact is: you spend about a third of your life sleeping. Considering what a big chunk of time that is, you should make sure you’re good at it.
Many people struggle with their quality of sleep on a daily basis. They also have issues maintaining good sleep habits. They have trouble going to sleep, staying asleep, and even maintaining a proper sleep schedule.
Since sleep is such a huge part of your life, you should take strides to improve your sleep quality. Thankfully, there are many things that you can do to get more restful nights. This is where sleep hygiene comes into play.
What is sleep hygiene?
Your rituals and behaviors before you go to bed are known as sleep hygiene. When you are younger, your parents make sure that you have a consistent bedtime routine.
The problem is, as we get older we often stay up later and forget to maintain consistency and often develop bad habits that we didn’t have as children. Our sleep quality starts to become compromised as we forgo our bedtime rituals.
But fear not! You can repair your sleep schedule by focusing on your sleep hygiene. In fact, if you’re having sleep problems, your sleep hygiene is often the most effective way to improve your sleep. Most sleep problems are temporary and tweaking your sleep hygiene can fix them.
What is good sleep hygiene?
Since sleep is vital to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, good sleep hygiene is your key to unlocking restful sleep. Having a fulfilling and consistent sleep schedule will promote your physical, emotional, and mental health. You will also feel more focused and productive throughout your day.
Good sleep hygiene centers around bedtime routines and controlling your sleep environment. You might need to update your bedding, curtains, or get a sound machine. Your bedroom needs to be a sleep conducive environment that enables healthy sleep rather than detracting from it.
What is poor sleep hygiene?
Generally, poor sleep hygiene is doing the opposite of any of the following bedtime routine tips.
You can tell if you have bad sleep hygiene because your body will feel unrested the next day. If you find that you are waking up in the middle of the night, or you feel exhausted upon waking up, you have an issue with your sleep hygiene. It can take a little bit of work, but with practice you can improve your sleep schedule.
To turn around poor sleep hygiene, don’t try to tackle all 20 of these tips at once. Try incorporating one at a time over a series of weeks to give yourself time to naturally adopt each tip into your evening routine.
20 Tips to Improve Your Sleep Hygiene: Our Sleep Hygiene Checklist!
1. Make your bedroom cozy and dark
It can be hard to fall asleep, especially if you have light coming in through your windows. There are also different stages of sleep, and it is easy to wake up during the lighter sleep stages. Your bedroom should be dark, cool, and free of distractions.
Some people complain that even the lights of their cell phones can wake them up. Be mindful of your bedroom and make sure you have the appropriate blackout curtains. If your eyes see blue light in particular they could get confused and think that it is daytime.
If you do have to get up in the middle of the night, make sure you use nightlights to get around your house. Turning on bright lights can make it more difficult for you to get back to sleep.
Turning your thermostat down a few degrees can also help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. Studies show that most people fall asleep better when their thermostat is set on the mid to low 60’s.
2. Start exercising
Exercising is a good way to stay physically fit and get better sleep. If you work out in the morning, you start your day off on the right foot. You are more exhausted at the end of the day. So, it can be easier for you to fall asleep in the evening. You should exercise in the morning, because if you exercise in the evening you can heighten your cortisol and body temperature, making it more difficult to get a good night’s sleep.
Typically, you want to do relaxing activities before bed, instead of getting your body amped up. Make sure that you exercise in the morning and consider this part of your sleep hygiene. Experts say that just 10 minutes of exercise a day can improve your quality of sleep.
3. Go to bed at the same time every day
A common problem that troubled sleepers have, is that they do not have any consistency to their sleep times.
First, you need to know how much sleep your body needs. Then, you need to create a regular sleep schedule that promotes consistency.
If you know that you need eight hours of sleep, you should allow yourself enough time to get ready for bed and fall asleep. So, you should be getting ready for bed 10 hours before the time that you need to get up.
Our bodies operate on routines, and our sleep-wake cycle is no exception. You get hungry around the same time every day, because that’s when you eat. So, you will get tired around the same time every day because that is when you usually sleep. How about that for science?
It can take weeks to flip around your sleep schedule, but you shouldn’t give up. After 7-10 days, you should notice a difference in your quality of sleep.
4. Don’t push your bedtime off to the last minute
You need to consider the amount of time it is going to take you to go to sleep when you set your bedtime. As mentioned earlier, you should factor in your pre-sleep routine when you are setting your bedtime. It’s better to relax before bed because getting your heart rate up right before bed can make it difficult to sleep and you might end up feeling anxious.
Many people like to take a warm bath, read a book, or even write before bed. You should have enough time to enjoy a relaxing activity and then fall asleep, before your bedtime. Don’t allot too little time for your routine in the beginning. You can always trim down the amount of time you need, based off the time requirements of your new bedtime routine.
5. Don’t go to bed unless you are tired
Laying around in your bed can be relaxing, but it can also be confusing to your brain. If you are awake and lounging in bed, your body can associate your bed with being awake. So, when you lay down in your bed, your body won’t feel sleepy.
It can make it harder for you to fall asleep and stay asleep. If you lay down and don’t feel tired, get up and move around. Go do a relaxing activity until you feel yourself getting tired, and then you can take yourself back to bed.
If you have trouble sleeping throughout the night, getting up can also help your body refocus. Once you have tossed and turned for a while, you should try moving to a comfortable chair and reading a book. Don’t turn on full lights and try to relax while you read.
Eventually, you will find sleepiness setting in. Don’t focus on the amount of time you are awake, instead just pay attention to how your body feels.
6. Start a relaxing bedtime routine
Selecting a sleep time isn’t enough, you need a routine to get you ready for bed. When you were a child you would brush your teeth, have a book read to you, and then you would be tucked into bed. Why not establish a similar routine as an adult?
Sleep quality is important, and sleep routines are shown to help. You don’t have to get tucked in before bed, but reading is a nice way to relax your mind before you go to sleep. Other people enjoy doing yoga, meditation, stretching, and other activities before they go to bed.
Essential oils are also a great way for you to destress and relax. You can use essential oil burners or rub a few drops on your wrists and behind your ears.
7. Use your bed only for sleep activities
Your body needs to have a dedicated space just to sleep — and your bed is that place. Some experts say you shouldn’t even read while you are in bed. But, it’s up to you to see what works for you. If you find that reading in bed is distracting, you can read in the living room before bed.
Nobody can tell you what is perfect for your sleep schedule, and some of this can be trial and error. What’s important is that you focus on what your body needs and how things in your bedroom routine are affecting your sleep.
So, try a few new things before you go to bed. For a week, try reading in bed before you go to sleep. If you find that your sleep is getting worse, focus on something else before bed. What works for everyone else might not work for you, but you shouldn’t lose hope. It can take a while before you establish a proper sleep routine that works for you.
8. Stay out of the moonlight in the evenings
Many people enjoy an evening stroll before bed, but experts recommend that you avoid this activity. One, you shouldn’t be doing any type of cardio before bed. Two, your body can actually confuse moonlight with sunlight.
It’s important that your body knows that it is night time, so it is easier for you to fall asleep. If you need to go for a walk, try to do it during the day.
Experts also recommend that you go outside to expose your body to daylight during the afternoon. People that work inside during the day, can also find their bodies confused. Especially in the winter when they go to work in the dark and come home when it’s dark in the evening.
Having your lunch outside or in natural light can also help reset your body’s internal clock.
9. Turn off your screens
Most of us have an electronic screen in front of us from the minute we wake up until the minute that we go to bed. Smartphones, computers, tablets, and televisions have taken over our lives. So, it’s no surprise that staring at a screen before bed can negatively affect your sleep.
Watching a television requires you to focus on the show, versus relaxing and trying to go to sleep. Plus, your brain has been shown to misinterpret the light from the television is daylight. This, in turn, can disrupt the body’s natural production of melatonin, the hormone that makes us feel sleepy at bedtime. So, watching television before bed is a bad idea. Most experts recommend turning the screens off at least 30 minutes to an hour before your bedtime.
10. Remove electronics from your bedroom
The easiest way to break a habit is to remove the temptation. Having a television, smartphone, or tablet in your bedroom can be a distraction.
Experts recommend taking anything out of your bedroom that can compromise your quality of sleep.
11. Don’t eat before bed
Eating a large meal before bed can cause you to have difficulty falling asleep. You could also wake up in the middle of the night because you are gassy or bloated.
If you are hungry before bed, you can eat a light snack. However, it is better if you don’t eat or drink anything before bed.
12. Watch what you eat
In some ways, your body is kind of like a machine and how you fuel it will affect how it runs. Make sure that you eat several nutritious meals a day.
If you eat properly throughout the day, you won’t be hungry late at night. You also won’t wake up hungry in the middle of the night.
13. Watch your caffeine intake
Caffeine is a stimulant that most of us depend on to get through our days. Although we feel the effects of caffeine almost immediately, this stimulant can stay in our bodies for hours.
Experts recommend not consuming caffeine late in the day. Also, you should avoid any caffeine within six hours of your bedtime.
14. Don’t drink alcohol before bed
Some people think that a glass of alcohol can help you sleep better, but this isn’t the case. You might fall asleep more easily but alcohol causes you to sleep in a lighter sleep cycle and not get as much slow wave sleep or REM sleep as you would otherwise get without alcohol.
So, it is easier for you to be roused from your sleep in the middle of the night. Alcohol also dehydrates you and makes you have to pee. So, you will need to drink water in the middle of the night, as well as taking trips to the bathroom.
15. Avoid nicotine and marijuana
Don’t take any substances before you go to sleep. If you must take nicotine or marijuana, don’t do it within four hours of your bedtime.
There are some sleepers that use cannabis or CBD products as sleep aids but research for CBD’s effect is still limited and cannabis, while good for making you feel tired, has been shown to suppress REM sleep. Learn more…
16. Don’t drink liquids in general before bed
Drinking anything for bed can make you have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. So, don’t take chances by drinking too much before bed.
Many people sleep with a glass of water beside their beds but it’s best to cut down on any liquids at least 2 hours before bed.
17. Get out in the morning sun
Your body has an internal clock, that can easily be reset with sunshine. Sitting out in the morning sun, for at least 30 minutes, can help your body wake up.
You need to sit in full sun though, wearing sunglasses won’t help you. Also, 30 minutes of sunshine a day can help with your mental health.
18. Limit your naps
Napping is never good for your sleep routine. However, there are times that our bodies do need a little bit of extra rest, especially if we’re feeling the effects of sleep deprivation. If you need a nap, try to take it in the morning or early afternoon. Taking a nap too close to your bedtime will throw off your sleep schedule.
If you do take a nap, make sure that your naps aren’t longer than 30 minutes. Remember, experts recommend that you don’t take naps at all. It’s better to just stick with your sleep schedule and go to bed at your regular bedtime.
19. Stay calm
Having problems with your sleep schedule can be frustrating. Especially if you have insomnia. You might find yourself feeling irritable because you can’t sleep, and then you can’t sleep because you are upset. It can become a vicious cycle.
But, getting worked up will only make the situation worse. You need to take some deep breaths and try to relax. Meditation can be a good way to quiet your mind and calm feelings of stress and anxiety.
If you’re struggling to get back to sleep, try getting out of bed and doing a simple activity in low light until you start to feel sleepy. Tossing and turning is only going to make you more agitated. Breathing exercises can also help you focus and get back to sleep. Try out some guided breathing exercises on the Remwise app.
20. Start a sleep diary
When you’re in the process of updating your sleep routine, writing down your actions can help. Start a sleep diary that shows:
- When you went to bed.
- The time you fell asleep.
- When you woke up.
- If you took any naps.
- Did you exercise?
- Did you drink alcohol?
- Did you drink caffeine?
You can look back on this sleep log to determine what is affecting your sleep schedule. You can even write an entry about your day, so that you can see if there are any trends.
Typically, when someone has a sudden interruption in their sleep schedule, it can be from stresses in life. Having a sleep diary to look back on, can help you see what stressful situations are affecting your sleep schedule.
You are your key to better sleep hygiene
Just as exercising and eating right will help you achieve a healthy lifestyle, sleep hygiene gives you more restful sleep.
Everyone deserves to be able to fall asleep and stay asleep without any issues. If you follow our sleep hygiene tips, you are days away from having higher quality sleep.
The best way to get started is one tip at a time. Don’t go changing everything all at once. Little by little is the easiest way to create a meaningful and lasting change for your sleep. Try one of these sleep hygiene tips tonight and for the rest of the week and make sure to track how you feel so you can see if you’re on the right track. Try out the Remrise sleep diary to help you track your success.