25 Ways to Improve Your Sleep Hygiene

Updated: Dec 2, 2020

Americas Sleep Crisis

Sleep… it’s one of the few things that affect every one of us, yet we spend so little time and energy trying to improve it. This is surprising, as with how much we focus on implementing the latest diets or exercise routines, it makes no sense that we ignore something that has such a profound effect on our overall health.

You need to look no further than the National Sleep Foundations' most recent 2020 Q1 Sleep Health Index to see just how bad this problem has become, which ranked our average sleep quality at a 64 out of 100, well below that of prior indexes. This deterioration has its consequences, with the average American reporting that their daily mood, mental activity and overall production is negatively impacted by the "exhaustion" they experience 3x per week (per Sleep in America’s 2020 Poll). On top of these daily consequences, routinely neglecting your sleep can also lead to some pretty significant long term health problems such as increased risk of obesity by 89% in children and 55% in adults (Study), and increased risk of developing heart diseases and type 2 diabetes (Study).

So we know our sleep needs to improve, but is it the quality or quantity that’s lacking? The answer is a likely little bit of both, as it all starts with getting the doctor recommended 7-9 hours per night. However this just comes down to actually setting aside those hours, which is all about how your prioritize your time.

Instead let’s focus on getting the most out of those hours through improving sleep hygiene, which includes the actions taken throughout the day that set us up for a great night of sleep.

We’ve searched the internet to put together a comprehensive list of the best sleep hygiene tips out there, broken up into the following 5 categories;

  1. Actions taken during the during the day

  2. Your evening routine

  3. Preparing with your pre-bed power (down) hour

  4. Improving your general sleep environment

  5. And finally, tips for when you actually go to sleep:

Schitts Creek sleeping in bed

It All Starts with the Daytime Routine:

1) Start your day with some bright light exposure (going for a walk, opening windows, etc.)

  • This helps keep your internal clock (aka your circadian rhythm) in check, which signals to your body when to be active and when it’s time to fall asleep

  • Light exposure will spur your energy and focus, leading to improved sleep quality and duration

  • Studies found this helped people with insomnia fall asleep 83% faster, and improved adult sleep quality by 80%, providing an additional 2 hours of sleep per night.

2) Exercise regularly (but not within 3 hours of going to bed)

  • Exercise helps stimulate your body during the day by increasing the production of hormones such as epinephrine and adrenaline. By stimulating them during the day they are reduced at night, making it easier to fall asleep

  • It was reported that exercising during the day cut the time it took the average adult to fall asleep in half, as well as provided 41 more minutes of sleep at night

  • In people with severe insomnia, it further reduced time to fall asleep by 55%, total night wakefulness by 30%, and anxiety by 15%, while also increasing total sleep time by 18%

3) Stick to early afternoon power naps

  • Naps longer than 30 mins or after 2pm will confuse your internal clock, throwing off your sleep cycle

  • The best time to nap is just after lunch, as this is when your body tends to be at a natural lull.

4) Don’t smoke

  • Besides the countless other reasons that this is terrible for your health, nicotine acts as a stimulant, making you more alert and disrupting your sleep schedule

  • Smokers were reported to be 3x as likely to develop sleep apnea, due to the increase of inflammation and fluid retention it causes in the upper airway.

Parks and Rec sleeping on floor

Keep those Good Habits Going into the Evening:

5) Don’t consume caffeine after 3pm

  • An estimated 90% of Americans consume caffeine because it stimulates our nervous system, making us alert and awake. Therefore consuming caffeine after 3pm can prevent you from feeling tired and therefore falling asleep

  • The 3pm cutoff is recommended as caffeine stays elevated in your blood for 6–8 hours after consumption, therefore it’s important to work it out of your system before you try to go to sleep

6) Reduce bright light exposure late in the evening (especially Blue Light)

  • For the same reasons bright light during the day is good for your circadian rhythm, it’s equally as bad late into the evening, tricking your brain into thinking it’s still daytime

  • Blue light is particularly harmful as your body interprets it the same way as sunlight, which signals to your body to cut melatonin production, a natural hormone that helps you relax and fall asleep

  • It’s recommended that you turn off all electronic devices no later than an hour before bedtime, and if feel you must check your phone at night or watch some TV in bed, use things such as blue light blocking glasses and blue light reduction apps

  • For those night owls that enjoy their late-night activities, swap out the tablet or device for an old fashioned book to do some reading in bed, particularly under your Night Nook

7) Skip the nightcap

  • Though once prescribed by doctors to help you fall asleep faster, alcohol can be extremely detrimental to your sleep quality, reducing your body’s natural production of melatonin and HGH.

  • Alcohol will reduce the amount of REM sleep you get (which directly impacts your sleep quality), therefore even if you get the right amount of sleep you’re still likely to wake up feeling groggy and exhausted

  • Alcohol is also known to increase symptoms of sleep apnea, snoring, and disrupted sleep patterns

8) Evening diet – skip that late night meal

  • It's recommended not to eat anything within 3 hours of bed, as your body will be focusing on digesting the food in your system, which impedes the natural release of melatonin and HGH

  • If you feel the need to eat something, have a light, healthy snack and avoid fatty or spicy foods

9) Don’t drink liquids right before bed

  • This may lead to excessive urination, which may wake you up during the night

  • It’s recommended not to drink fluids within 1-2 hours of going to bed, and to go to the bathroom right before going to bed

Silicon Valley sleeping on floor

The Pre-Bed Power (Down) Hour:

10) Take a relaxing bath or shower

  • This helps you mentally and physically calm down as prepare your body for sleep

  • If you don’t want to take a full bath/shower, just putting your feet in hot water is a great substitute as warming your feet is one of the best ways to relax your body

  • It's also recommended to wear socks to bed (or put a warm water bottle near your toes), as cold feet can delay you from falling asleep)

11) Use yoga/palates or meditation to get into a calm mindset

  • This will help your mind and body relax and prepare for bed without stimulating you the same way that a full workout would

  • Per the American Psychological Association, meditation can be an immediate stress reliever, helping you release negative emotions which is important for falling asleep

12) Clear your mind of anxious or worrying thoughts

  • Using a journal, write down all your anxious and troubling thoughts from the day to help get them out of your head

  • Transferring these negative thoughts from your brain to paper will help you let go of your anxiety and fall asleep with a calm and clear mind

13) Take the last 20 minutes of your wind-down” hour for pure relaxation

  • This includes doing things like listening to soothing music, reading in bed or engaging in deep breathing/visualization exercises to get in the right frame of mind for sleep

  • If opting for a book, make sure it’s an old fashioned paper one, as an e-reader's blue light will have harmful effects

Big Lebowski sleeping on floor

Creating a Comfortable, Sleep Inducing Bedroom

14) Set your bedroom to a cool temperature

15) Cultivate peace & quiet

  • Eliminate/drown out disruptive noise by using any combination of a fan, white noise machine (or app), earplugs, etc. to help you stay relaxed

16) Block out External Lights

  • Use things such as blackout curtains to keep out external light, which will help keep your circadian rhythm in check, as the darkness is a signal to your body it’s time for bed

17) Keep Pets off of Bed

  • Though it’s tough to say no to those adorable faces, it’s important to keep your pets out of the bed, as their movement during the night is likely to wake you up

  • 53% of people who sleep with their pets on the bed reported being disturbed in their sleep by them

18) Introduce pleasant aromas

  • Essential oils with natural aromas (lavender is a personal favorite) will help you relax and drift off to sleep

19) Don’t skimp on the Bed/Pillow/Sheets/etc.

  • Part of the reason you sleep so well in hotels is due to the high-quality materials you are sleeping on, which has a huge impact on your quality of sleep

  • It’s recommended that you upgrade your bedding at least every 5–8 years

  • One study determined that over a 28 day period, a new mattress helped improve sleep quality by 60%

Selena Meyers sleeping in bed gif

Finally Time for that Beauty Sleep:

20) Keep a consistent sleep schedule with an appropriate amount of time budgeted for sleep

  • Your body’s circadian rhythm functions on a set loop, which aligns with your daily schedule. By keeping a regular sleep schedule (including on weekends & vacation), you’re helping your body stick to its natural internal “alarm clock”

  • Make sleep a priority for both yourself and your family/roommates, as getting everyone on similar schedules will increase encouragement and accountability to stay on schedule

  • If you must alter your sleep schedule, do so gradually (max change of 1 hour per night)

21) Keep a daily “sleep journal” to record how you sleep each night

  • This will help you determine which changes have the biggest impact on your sleep

  • Keeping a journal will also hold you accountable for sticking with sleep improvements

22) Only go to bed when tired & don’t spend more than 20 minutes trying to fall sleep

  • Your “power-down" hour should put you in a calm and tired mindset, ready for sleep when it's finally time to go to bed

  • If you’re unable to fall asleep after 20 minutes, engage in a relaxing activity (such as reading in bed with your Night Nook!) to help you calm down and get your mind off being unable to sleep.

  • Continuing to try to unsuccessfully fall asleep can lead to severe sleep stress, one of the leading causes of chronic insomnia

23) Find a workspace that isn’t your bedroom

  • This can be particularly difficult during COVID, but your goal should be to try to keep work and other stress-related things out of the bedroom

  • This will help you stay more focused while working during the day, and help you associate your bedroom with sleep and relaxation at night

24) Supplements & Sleep Enhancers:

  • Should you need some extra help in addition to the tips listed above, there are some safe and effective sleep supplements and enhancers. These can also be useful when traveling and trying to adjust to new time zones

  • With so many suggestions above focusing on melatonin production, increasing your body’s melatonin levels is a good place to start. Experts recommend taking 1-5mg of a melatonin supplement 30-60 minutes before bed, with studies showing little to no withdrawal effects from this supplement

  • Experts also recommend other natural supplements to help improve relaxation, stress reduction & increased sleep, including:

- Ginkgbo Biloba: natural herb aiding sleep, relaxation & stress reduction

- Glycine: amino acid helping improve sleep quality

- Valerian Root: natural herb helping improve sleep quality

- Magnesium: chemical element with over 600 benefits (including relaxation)

- L-theanine: an amino acid improving sleep and relaxation

- Lavender: herb with benefits including calming and sedentary effects

  • If you want to avoid purchasing a supplement, banana tea is an easy to make and well-regarded sleep aid, as bananas contain potassium, magnesium, and tryptophan. Simply boil a chopped banana (including the peel, the most element rich part of the banana) in water for 10 minutes and consume before bed to help you get a great night sleep

25) If sleep problems continue to occur, consult your doctor regarding a possible sleep disorder

  • Sleep apnea is one of the common sleep disorders, with an estimated 25% of men and 9% of women suffering from it. This causes inconsistent & interrupted breathing, impacting the quality of your sleep.

  • Sleep movement disorders and circadian rhythm sleep/wake disorders are also extremely common, especially in people who work irregular hours

Anchorman sleeping in bed

So there you have it, our definitive list of the best ways to improve your sleep hygiene. It’s important not to lose sight of the fact that this is not an all or nothing approach, as even just working a few tips into your daily routine can mean all the difference between some sound beauty sleep and a restless night. And while budgeting the proper amount of time for sleep is essential, the quantity of sleep won’t matter much if the quality is subpar. If there are any tips we missed, we would definitely love to hear from you!

Night Nook for reading at night in bed

This list was developed using research from a number of different sources, but primarily using tips from the following articles and studies:

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