If you routinely have trouble falling asleep, experience frequently disrupted sleep, or feel groggy and tired after a full eight hours of rest, you may be one of the millions of Americans who isn’t getting sufficient shuteye.
Sleep quality can significantly impact overall wellness and quality of life, and various factors can cause or exacerbate sleep disorders and difficulties, one of which is poor sleep hygiene.
This guide provides some simple tips to help you audit your daily routine and improve your sleep hygiene for a better night’s rest.
What Is Sleep Hygiene?
Sleep hygiene refers to habits and environmental factors that affect sleep quality. This includes lifestyle and dietary practices that impact the body’s circadian rhythm, an internal clock dictating the sleep-wake cycle.
Sometimes, even minor adjustments can make a significant difference, so try the following sleep hygiene tips to get more rejuvenating rest!
Sleep Hygiene Checklist
1. Prioritize Sleep.
Your health is one of your most valuable assets, so it should take precedence. After all, you can’t be the best version of yourself if you aren’t feeling well. Make sleep your top priority each evening, choosing quality rest over other activities, including scrolling social media or staying out late.
2. Avoid Caffeine After 2 PM.
Many people who struggle with sleep deficiencies rely on caffeine to get through the day, but your daily habit may be doing more harm than good.
Research shows that six hours after consuming caffeine, half of it remains in the body, and it takes about 10 hours for all it to be expelled. Caffeine is a stimulant designed to keep you awake, so drinking it later in the day could hinder your efforts to fall asleep.
3. Exercise No Later Than 3 Hours Before Bed.
Regular exercise is essential for good physical and mental health, and research indicates active individuals tend to be less stressed and sleep better, but timing is crucial.
Vigorous exercise can temporarily cause a spike in cortisol, a hormone responsible for keeping you awake and alert. Avoid intense exercise within three hours of bedtime to ensure you’re relaxed when it’s time to hit the hay.
4. Avoid Exciting, Stimulating Activity Before Bed.
Like vigorous exercise, exciting, stimulating activities may promote wakefulness, which is not ideal when you’re trying to wind down for the night. Avoid watching horror movies or thrillers, playing action-packed video games, or watching the news late at night.
Clock off of work at a reasonable hour, as well. While it might not be exhilarating, being in a work mindset may increase stress and anxiety and impair sleep latency (how long it takes to fall asleep). Burning the midnight oil may also impair productivity and creativity.
5. Turn Off the TV, Phone, and Computer at Least One Hour Before Bed.
Light is the primary factor affecting circadian rhythms and the sleep-wake cycle. This includes daylight and blue light, the high-energy visible (HEV) light emitted by electronic devices such as TVs, phones, tablets, and computers.
Late-night exposure to blue light can trick the brain into thinking it’s still daytime (i.e. time to be awake) thus making it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep immediately after interacting with blue light devices. Turn off all electronics at least one hour before bed to improve sleep latency and quality.
6. Limit Alcohol and Avoid Large Meals Before Bed.
Alcohol and heavy meals may make you feel sleepy, but that doesn’t mean they’re conducive to a good night’s rest. A nightcap or “food coma” can induce sleep, but the sedative effect is short-lived. Research shows that people who drink alcohol before bed are less likely to achieve sufficient deep sleep.
Likewise, those who eat late—especially spicy, starchy, high-sugar, or high-fat meals—may have difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep.
7. Avoid Daytime Naps.
If you’re not sleeping well at night, daytime naps may feel like a necessary solution. However, long naps, like caffeine, may inhibit your ability to sleep well at night, especially if you’re already experiencing difficulties. If you’re struggling to stay awake during the day, stick to early afternoon naps of no more than one hour.
8. Create a Cozy Sleep Environment.
Consider your bedroom your personal sanctuary. Keep it comfortable, cool, quiet, and dark, and leave all outside stressors at the door. Reserve the bed for sleep, sex, and relaxing activities like reading. Never work, pay your bills, or do other potentially stressful activities from bed.
If you live near a train, street, or another noisy area, consider using a white noise machine or listening to a white noise YouTube video or podcast to drown out disruptive sounds. Blackout curtains, a dehumidifier, and cool, breathable bedding can help as well.
9. Do Something Relaxing Before Bed.
Establish a routine that helps you wind down from your day. This might include taking a warm bath, praying or meditating, doing light stretches, reading a book in low lighting, listening to soothing music, journaling, or knitting.
10. Stick to a Consistent Sleep Schedule.
Consistency is key to maintaining healthy circadian rhythms. Going to sleep when it’s dark and waking shortly after dawn is ideal for most people. However, this schedule is not for everyone. For those who work rotating or night shifts, it may not even be possible. Fortunately, consistency is what matters most. Regardless of when you go to bed and get up, just try to ensure it’s the same time every day, including on weekends.
Consider keeping a sleep journal as well to record your sleep and wake-up times, how often you were disrupted in the night, how long it took you to fall asleep, and how well you followed your sleep hygiene checklist the day before. This will help you keep track of your sleep habits and make small, sustainable adjustments for better sleep.
Practice Good Sleep Hygiene for Restful Nights & Better Days
Good sleep hygiene is essential for everyone, and the above tips are universal. That said, individual needs can vary from one person to another. It’s important to develop a sustainable routine that works for you and your lifestyle. Also, if you have tried the above sleep hygiene tips and still struggle to get quality shuteye, talk to your doctor to determine the underlying cause of your sleeping problems.