What is sleep hygiene?
Sleep hygiene essentially is the habits and environment that make up your sleep routine. Basically, having good sleep hygiene means having healthy habits that allow for restful sleep and an environment optimal for sleeping. That may sound technical but it’s really just being mindful about your sleep routine and making sure your bedroom is a comfortable place to sleep where you won’t have many disturbances.
Later in this blog we’ll give tips on sleep hygiene for both adults as well as kids & adolescents, but remember nothing is one size fits all. These are things to keep in mind or try out, and if your needs are different that’s okay! Personalize your sleep hygiene routine and your environment to what suits you best. The important part is that you are being intentional about your sleep routine and making it a priority.
Why is sleep hygiene important?
Sleep matters more than you may think!
The amount and quality of sleep you get can impact your mood, your problem solving skills, your cognitive abilities, your patience, your memory, as well as a whole host of physical impacts, such as:
- Digestive issues
It’s actually one of the most important functions of our bodies. Establishing good sleep behaviors as a routine makes maintaining that health easier over time, basically making them automatic for us
However, that means that if you have poor sleep hygiene or bad sleep habits that you’ve been reinforcing, those are what have become automatic for you. Don’t worry! You can rewrite it, it just may feel a little forced as you start.
Do you have poor sleep hygiene?
If you consistently sleep poorly, you may have poor sleep hygiene and addressing some of your habits or elements of your sleep environment could help improve the quality of your sleep.
Some other signs of poor sleep hygiene include:
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Frequently waking up
- Feeling as though you could fall asleep throughout the day
- Unpredictable length or quality of sleep in general
So how do you improve your sleep hygiene?
Address Your Routine:
While it doesn’t need to be at the exact same time every night, get in the habit of going to bed around the same time from night to night. This will help train your body that it is time to get ready to sleep and you (hopefully) won’t have to flop around waiting for your body to get tired before you fall asleep.
If your target “go to sleep” time is much earlier than when you currently go to sleep, adjust gradually! Shift up by 15-30 minutes every week until you’re at your target “bed time.”
It can also be helpful to get into the routine of doing something that tires you out before getting into bed. Nothing too intense–you don’t want to wake yourself up with vigorous exercise! But something easy like stretching or gentle yoga can allow you to move your body a bit to tire you out while getting you relaxed and ready for bed.
Give yourself wind down time
Your nightly routine will likely have some sort of combination of personal hygiene, gentle movement, and easy hobbies such as reading or journaling. Once you’re done with brushing your teeth and whatever is in your personal hygiene routine, take that wind down time for that gentle movement or relaxing hobbies. Do something that you enjoy, but that doesn’t take too much focus or concentration so that you can ease yourself into sleep.
Set a time to be done with electronics
It’s best to steer clear of your phone or computer screen about 30 minutes before you go to sleep. Thinking about what time you go to sleep, when should that be for you?
Address Your Environment
Look at your bed first, is it comfortable? Does your pillow leave you with a sore neck in the morning? Are you constantly waking up sweating? You might need to look at the practical tools you use while sleeping (pillows, bedding, etc.) to make sure that they’re actually providing you the comfort and functions you need to sleep well.
What’s the temperature of your room? Most people sleep better in slightly cooler temperatures. If your room gets hot at night, can you get bedding meant to keep you cool? Can you get a fan to sit next to your bed?
What are the light & noises like? While a bit of white noise may help you sleep, excessive noises or noises that are loud and stand out against the white noise can be disruptive to your sleep. Consider:
- Are you by a noisy window? Can you change where your bed is in your room?
- Do you have lots of lights on when you fall asleep? Decorative lights are pretty, but even if they’re low lights it can stop you from fully falling into a deep restful sleep
Sleep hygiene for kids:
It’s important for kids to cultivate good sleep hygiene habits too! They may already have a bedtime, but you can help them develop a more intentional bedtime routine where they have:
- Set no-electronics time
- Set “wind down” time
- A set “be in bed by” time
Remember, it’s not just loud noises that can disturb sleep. Take a look around your child’s room, do their toys light up or make noise on their own? Can those be stored somewhere else?
Remember to take time every now and then to check in with your and your child’s sleep environment to make sure you’re doing what you can to ensure quality sleep for yourself. If you need some guidance when creating your sleep routine, our counselors can help you come up with a routine that’s specific to you and your needs.