Whether your sleep hygiene is composed of positive, productive behaviors or detrimental, unproductive actions is entirely up to you! But if you dream of getting a good night’s sleep every time you rest your head on your pillow, then it’s worthwhile to learn good sleep hygiene while letting you explore your bedtime habits and make proper decisions.
The problem with poor sleep hygiene
Lousy bedtime habits lead to a reduced quality of sleep, and inadequate sleep leads to an inability to focus, irritability, and weaker physical health. How do you know if bad sleep hygiene is interfering with your ZZZs? Some clues are if you:
- Wake up often throughout the night
- Feel fatigued during the day
- Can’t fall asleep easily at night
9 Ways to improve your sleep hygiene
No matter your age or health, sleep is essential. To help you optimize your nighttime rest, our doctors at Sheba Medical Center in Israel share the following guidelines on how to upgrade your sleep hygiene:
1. Stick to the same schedule
Go to bed at the same time every night and set your alarm for the same time every morning. Keep your sleep and wake times consistent on a daily basis – including on weekends! Then, your body will automatically unwind every night, enabling you to slip into a restful sleep. To stay organized and track your sleep patterns precisely, use a sleep tracker app.
2. Create a quiet environment
A white noise machine or app on your smartphone will hum peacefully and drown out the noise from other family members and neighbors. Some people find that wearing earplugs is equally effective for creating quiet.
3. Cool & darken your room
The ideal temperature for falling asleep is in the mid-60s °F (about 17°C), and maintaining this temperature throughout the night will help keep you asleep. Darkness is also essential; an eye mask or blackout curtains can block any light entering through your windows.
4. Lighten your days
Exposure to natural light during the daytime is just as important for sleep quality as darkening your bedroom at night. It plays a key role in establishing a healthy sleep-wake cycle.
5. Reserve your bed for sleep
Your bedroom should be a sleep haven. Dedicate your bed exclusively to sleeping and sex. You need a comfy setting that isn’t associated with any other alert activities – such as talking on the phone or reading the news.
6. Avoid screen-time before bedtime
While many people furnish their bedrooms with TVs, watching television right before sleep isn’t the smartest idea. In general, gazing at any screen (smartphone, tablet, e-reader, computer…) within an hour before bedtime can send mixed cues to your brain. The blue light emitted from these devices fools the brain into thinking that it’s daytime. If you absolutely must use your phone or tablet in bed, be sure to use an app to filter the blue light.
7. No napping
Naps can be necessary for boosting productivity during the day, but they can also interfere with nighttime sleep. If you must nap, limit it to a power nap of about 20 minutes and not in the late afternoon.
8. Watch what you eat and drink at night
A small, nutritious snack before bed can curb your hunger. But a large meal can cause sleep-disruptive indigestion a few hours later. Certain foods promote sleep, such as milk, rice, bananas, yogurt, oats, nuts, and cherries. Other substances are stimulants that disrupt sleep, such as caffeinated beverages, alcohol, marijuana, and nicotine – and they should be avoided within four to six hours before your bedtime. Also, hydrate your body earlier in the day so your bladder doesn’t wake you up in the middle of the night.
9. Exercise during the day
Dramatically improve your night’s sleep by doing aerobic exercise during the day, even 10 minutes. A word of warning – don’t work out strenuously too close to bedtime, because intense activity can rev you up.
When all else fails – get up
When you can’t fall asleep or fall back asleep in the middle of the night, don’t panic! Close your eyes, relax your body, and breathe deeply for about 20 minutes. If that doesn’t work, get up and rest elsewhere in your home. Otherwise, you’ll begin to associate your bed with feelings of frustration. Meditate, read a book, or engage in any soothing activity that only requires dim lighting. And don’t turn on any electronic gadgets!
Keep a sleep diary
If you follow all of the above sleep hygiene tips and still aren’t successful at improving your sleep, Sheba’s doctors advise you to keep a detailed sleep diary and schedule an appointment with your primary physician. Together, you can analyze your bedtime habits and discuss alternate options, such as medication, to help you get the sleep you need.