What is sleep hygiene?

Sleep hygiene includes all of the things that we do, to take good care of our sleep.

Good sleep hygiene includes not only our habits during the hours and moments right before bedtime, but also involves the many things that we do (and think!) throughout each day.


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Why is good sleep hygiene important?

Getting a good night’s sleep each night is important for physical and mental health. Good sleep hygiene helps us to fall asleep easily each night (short sleep onset).

Everyone, from babies, to children & adolescents, to younger & older adults, can benefit from practicing good sleep hygiene.


How do I know if my sleep hygiene is poor?

These are some of the signs of poor sleep hygiene:

  • Taking too long to fall asleep (more than 10-20 minutes after getting into bed).
  • Waking up many times, throughout the night
  • Not being able to fall back asleep quickly & easily
  • Waking up too soon (well before needed or wanted)
  • Not feeling refreshed or restored upon wakening
  • Feeling sleepy throughout the next day
  • Feeling generally irritable or cranky the next day “for no reason”

Some other signs of poor sleep hygiene are:

  • problems with attention & concentration
  • feeling hungry all of the time
  • unexplained weight gain, or difficulty with managing weight
  • decreased productivity & performance
  • feeling depressed and/or anxious
  • frequent infections

Wow, right?

Good sleep hygiene helps us to fall asleep easily each night (short sleep onset), so that we can fall asleep like this cutie (may need to reload page to see this gif):

How can I improve my sleep hygiene?

Click on the Slideshow below, to learn ways to improve sleep hygiene.

Set up your bedroom to be cool, dark and quiet
sleep hygiene
The bedroom should be cool – between 60 and 67 degrees – to help fall and stay asleep. In order to make melatonin at night, the room needs to be completely dark — that means no lights — from exterior street lights (consider blackout curtains and/or eye shades), inside lamps, cell phones, tablets, computer, or television screens! Quiet can be helped with ear plugs, “white noise” machines, humidifiers, fans or other small appliances that can make the bedroom more relaxing.
Bedtime routines are not just for babies and small children
A regular bedtime routine helps to tell the mind and the body that it is time to go to sleep. Taking warm shower or bath, turning down the lights and the bed, soft music, lavender sprays or oils.
No caffeine or nicotine close to bedtime
sleep hygiene
Beverages (and foods that contain caffeine) and nicotine are stimulants. Even if you are able to fall asleep, caffeine and nicotine interfere with deep sleep.
For alcohol, moderation is key
While alcohol is well-known to help you fall asleep faster, too much close to bedtime can disrupt sleep in the second half of the night as the body begins to process the alcohol. Also, too much alcohol disrupts deep sleep, so that you may feel like you napped all night, instead of getting a good night’s sleep.
What about bedtime snacks?
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This is another “it depends.” Avoiding all food close to bedtime is preferred (see the previous post on intermittent fasting). Make sure to avoid heavy or rich foods; fatty or fried, or spicy foods, as well as citrus fruits or carbonated beverages — all of which can trigger indigestion (even painful heartburn!) for some people.

RELATED: Is breakfast really the most important meal of the day?

Make sure to exercise
Daily exercise has been shown to dramatically improve nighttime sleep quality. Of course, it is generally a good idea to avoid strenuous workouts close to bedtime, if you are someone who needs more time to unwind before bedtime.

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What about naps?
sleep hygiene
Most research has shown that daytime naps should be limited to 20-30 minutes; and before 4:00 PM (16:00). Naps can improve mood, alertness, and performance. However, studies have shown that napping does not make up for poor quality or lack of nighttime sleep.
We all need adequate exposure to natural daytime light.
This is especially important for folks that work indoors. We all need daytime exposure to sunlight, as well as complete darkness at night, to maintain a healthy sleep-wake cycle. This is especially true during the winter months.

RELATED: What are the winter blues, and how do I know if I have it?

sleep hygiene

Good sleep hygiene leads to good sleep!
Denise Dixon, PhD @suffolkhealthpsy.com


Please click here for links to references for this blog post, and here to access additional links and resources.


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What do you think about this post? Do you think that your sleep hygiene is good, or poor? Really looking forward to reading and responding to your comments! Thank you so much!

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Please do not discuss clinical concerns here! Remember, this blog is for informational purposes only. It does not represent a professional relationship between the reader and the author. If you have any clinical concerns, please schedule an appointment, or see your own health care provider. As always if you are experiencing an emergency, please call 911 or proceed directly to your closest emergency room.
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