Establishing healthy bedtime habits, also known as good sleep hygiene, is often the 1st step to creating restful, healthy sleep or in treating sleep disorders, such as obstructive sleep apnea and insomnia.
Healthy restorative sleep helps not only improve your immune system, but plays a crucial role in your physical, mental and emotional health.
Healthy sleep also leads to increased productivity in the work or school environments. In addition to good nutrition and exercise, adequate sleep architecture is an important component in weight loss efforts.
So whether you just need a little sleep tune-up, or have a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea or insomnia, reexamining and implementing good sleep patterns is often the best place to start.
The habits that lead to healthier sleep, which can in return improve daytime alertness, are also called sleep hygiene.
Here’s a list of sleep hygiene tips to review. The key in not perfection, but to become aware and experiment with what can help you improve your quality of sleep.
1. Plan on a regular bedtime and rise time, even on non-workdays.
Although the amount of sleep per adult can vary, planning a schedule to accommodate 7 to 7.5 hours of sleep is a great place to start. At the start of bedtime, all lights and electronics should be turned off.
Keeping a consistent sleep schedule, including on non-work or vacation days, strengthens efforts in establishing a solid sleep routine.
If you need help in creating a new routine, consider a health promoting smart phone app or an alarm that can help you improve the regularity of bedtimes by sending you notifications when it’s time to wind down.
2. Create a bedroom environment conducive to good sleep:
- Keep the bedroom cool and dark
- Move work-related equipment out of room if possible
- Remove clutter
- Choose bedding and mattresses keeping sleep comfort in mind
- Create sound buffers
- For some individuals white noise apps or machines may help promote sounder sleep
- Ear plugs can help as well
- Decide if pets will be allowed to sleep in your room
- Having pets in your bedroom is dissuaded if they often awaken you during sleep
- Others may find comfort and sleep better with having their pets nearby
- Consider incorporating eye masks or light blocking curtains to create a darker sleep environment
3. Limit the use of your bedroom to sleep and intimate activity.
It is best to keep television, computers and other electronic devices out of the bedroom. If at all possible, move work related items and desks to another room.
4. If possible children should be sleeping in other rooms.
Having children sleep in your bed is strongly discouraged.
5. Limit caffeine intake after 2 PM.
Caffeine can strongly counteract your sleep hygiene efforts.
6. Avoid or limit naps if possible.
If you do nap, limit times of napping to 30 minutes. The timing of the nap can also inhibit establishing a regular bedtime.
7. About 30-60 minutes prior to bedtime limit screen time.
Prior to bedtime: stop activities like watching televisions, looking at computers, smart phones and tablets which can disrupt sleep.
The blue light emitted from computer screens and tablets tricks your brain into thinking it’s daylight and can counteract your attempts to getting in the “sleepy mood”.
8. Do some “downer” activity that signals your body that it is time to go to sleep. This may include:
- Reading a book with soft lighting
- Taking a bath or shower
- Eating a light snack that promotes sleep
- Listening to music
- Relaxation exercises
- Bedtime yoga
9. If after 20-30 minutes you cannot fall asleep or awaken with difficulty of returning to sleep, get up and repeat a “downer activity”.
10. Reexamine your food and beverage choices during the day and before bedtime.
Often It’s hard to sleep well if you are too hungry or too full before bedtime. Additionally, some food choices worsen acid reflux increasing discomfort and making sleep more difficult.
In some individuals, heavy or rich foods, spicy dishes and citrus drinks can cause indigestion disrupting sleep.
Staying hydrated is important for overall health, but drinking too much water close to bedtime may add to sleep disruption with night time bathroom breaks.
11. Know your medications / other substances and their effects on sleep.
Certain medication can affect your sleep and counteract your bedtime rituals. Talk to your doctor about the best time to take your medications that will promote healthier sleep patterns or limit difficulties falling asleep.
Alcohol, marijuana and nicotine can all impact your sleep cycles negatively. Try to stop using them 4 to 6 hours before you plan on falling asleep.
12. Exercise regularly, but avoid late night exercise.
Regular exercise can help promote better sleep in many ways.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, physical activity improves sleep quality and sleep duration. It helps to decrease stress and helps to tire you out promoting better sleep. Exercising outdoors adds additional benefits of natural light exposure
As little as 10-30 minutes of aerobic exercise, such as walking or cycling, can drastically improve nighttime sleep quality.
13. Understand the importance of sunshine. And darkness.
Getting sunshine during the day alerts our brains it’s time to be awake.
On the flipside, lack of sunshine and natural light can help your brain to learn that it’s time for rest and sleep. During wind down time avoid bright lights. Consider using light dimmers or lighting candles.
The sleep-wake cycle is connected to our circadian rhythms, and individuals may benefit from working through incorporating some habits that re-adjust and improve their sleep-wake cycle. Walking outside and incorporating light therapy can help your sleep.
14. Is it time to treat other medical ailments that lead to poor sleep?
Many individuals experience pain from medical issues. The pain and discomfort often contributes to sleep disruptions. If possible, seeking medical attention to lessen discomfort or to resolve these medical issues can help promote better sleep.
Establishing good sleep hygiene helps promote better sleep quality and quantity, which in turn helps improve your overall well-being.
Review the list above and start tackling a couple items at a time slowly incorporating more, and find what works best for you.
If you are already following these tips and still have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or feel unrested upon awakening, it would be wise to get an evaluation with a physician knowledgeable in sleep medicine. You may have insomnia, sleep apnea, or another sleep disorder that would need further treatment.
Other articles that may be of interest:
What Kind of Physician Should I Seek to Find Out if I Have Apnea?
What Should You Know BEFORE Getting Medically Evaluated or Scheduled for a Sleep Test?
If I am Just Snoring, Why do I need a Medical Evaluation?