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What is Sleep Hygiene?

written by Skye Kalil Written by Skye Kalil
Skye Kalil

Skye Kalil

Skye likes writing about mental health, nutrition, and wellness. She is passionate about sharing information that will educate, and positively affect people's lives.

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reviewed by LaRita Mullins Reviewed by LaRita Mullins
LaRita Mullins

LaRita Mullins

LaRita Mullins is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English and a Master’s Degree in Social Work, both earned at Howard University. She has over 21 years of experience working with adults dealing with issues such as anxiety, stress, anger, relationship/marriage challenges, and family issues.

October 27, 2021 Read Time - 7 minutes

Good Sleep Hygiene

According to the American Sleep Association, “sleep hygiene is defined as behaviors that one can do to help promote good sleep using behavioral interventions.” Good sleep hygiene involves preparing for sleep in a way that will benefit your quality of sleep, and help you fall asleep faster.

Getting enough sleep is crucial for physical and mental health, and can improve your productivity and quality of life. A vast amount of research has been conducted on sleep, and how forming good habits is critical for healthy sleep. The Sleep Foundation states, “crafting sustainable and beneficial routines makes healthy behaviors feel almost automatic, creating an ongoing process of positive reinforcement. On the flip side, bad habits can become engrained even as they cause negative consequences.”

Keep reading to learn more about sleep hygiene, as well as how therapy may help to improve sleep hygiene and sleep quality.

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What Are Signs of Poor Sleep Hygiene?

Poor sleep hygiene starts with not being aware of sleep hygiene at all. The first thing to do is become familiar with the intentionality of getting ready for bed. The most common signs of poor sleep hygiene are: 

  • Having a hard time falling asleep
  • Experiencing frequent sleep disturbances
  • Suffering daytime sleepiness 
  • Overall lack of consistency in sleep quantity or quality

How Do I Improve My Quality of Sleep?

The key to improving your quality of sleep is developing sustainable routines. According to research done by The Health Behaviour Research Center, they conclude that “psychological theory and evidence around habit-formation generates recommendations for simple and sustainable behavior change advice.”

Learning how to improve sleep hygiene starts with intentionally setting daily practices. Sleep hygiene will not look the same for every single person, but trying each of the following techniques will be helpful in creating a routine that works for you. You do not have to change everything you do at once; instead, you can make gradual adjustments to your schedule over time to lead to better sleep hygiene.

How to Improve Sleep Hygiene

Here are our sleep hygiene tips for helping to improve sleep quality. 

Follow a Nightly Routine

  • Create a sleep schedule: Go to bed at the same time every night, and wake up at the same time every morning. 
  • Keep your routine consistent: Following the same steps each night, including things like putting on your pajamas and brushing your teeth, can reinforce in your mind that it is bedtime.
  • Budget 30 minutes for winding down: Try to calm yourself by playing soft music, light stretching, reading, or relaxation exercises.
  • Dim your lights: Keep away from bright lights as they can hinder the production of melatonin, a hormone that the body creates to facilitate sleep.
  • Unplug from electronics: Build in a 30-60 minute pre-bed buffer time that is device-free. 
  • Test methods of relaxation: Instead of making falling asleep your goal, it is often easier to focus on relaxation. Meditation, mindfulness, paced breathing, and other relaxation techniques can put you in the right mindset for bed.
  • Don’t toss and turn: It helps to have a healthy mental connection between being in bed and actually being asleep. If after 20 minutes you have not gotten to sleep, get up and, or do something else calming in low light before trying to fall asleep again. You could try to stretch, read, take a warm bath, shower, meditate, or some find ASMR helpful. 
  • Manage worries: Try to resolve your worries or concerns before bedtime. You could try journaling, or jot down what is on your mind and then set it aside for tomorrow. Stress management also might help. Start with the basics, such as getting organized, setting priorities, and delegating tasks. Meditation also can ease anxiety.

Cultivate Healthy Daily Habits

  • Get daylight exposure: Light, especially sunlight, is one of the critical drivers of circadian rhythms that can encourage quality sleep.
  • Be physically active: Regular exercise can make it easier to sleep at night. Exercise before 2 pm every day. Avoid vigorous exercise before bedtime. Rigorous exercise circulates endorphins into the body, which may cause difficulty initiating sleep.
  • Don’t smoke at night: Nicotine stimulates the body in ways that disrupt sleep, which helps explain why smoking is correlated with numerous sleeping problems.
  • Reduce alcohol consumption: Alcohol may make it easier to fall asleep, but the effect wears off, disrupting sleep later in the night. As a result, it’s best to moderate alcohol consumption and avoid it later in the evening.
  • Cut down on caffeine in the afternoon and evening: Because it’s a stimulant, caffeine can keep you wired even when you want to rest, so try to avoid it later in the day. Also be aware if you’re consuming lots of caffeine to try to make up for lack of sleep.
  • Don’t dine late: Eating dinner late, especially if it’s a large, heavy, or spicy meal, can mean you’re still digesting when it’s time for bed. In general, any food or snacks before bed should be on the lighter side.
  • Restrict in-bed activity: To build a link in your mind between sleep and being in bed, it’s best to only use your bed only for sleep. Don’t watch TV, use the computer, or read in bed.
  • Limit daytime naps: When we take naps, it decreases the amount of sleep that we need the next night – which may cause sleep fragmentation and difficulty initiating sleep, and may lead to insomnia and sleep deprivation.

Create a restful environment

  • Have a comfortable mattress and pillow: Your sleeping surface is critical to comfort and pain-free sleep, so wisely choose your mattress and pillow.
  • Set a cool yet comfortable temperature: Set your bedroom thermostat at a comfortable temperature. Generally, a little cooler is better than a little warmer.
  • Block out light: Use heavy curtains or an eye mask to prevent light from interrupting your sleep.
  • Drown out noise: Earplugs can stop noise from keeping you awake, and if you do not find them comfortable, you can try a white noise machine or even a fan to drown out sounds. If your pets awaken you, keep them outside the bedroom.
  • Try calming scents: Light smells, such as lavender, may induce a calmer state of mind and help cultivate a positive space for sleep.

How Therapy Can Help Improve Sleep Hygiene

Therapy can help improve sleep hygiene by giving you personalized recommendations from a therapist. The list above is extensive and broad, so some sleep hygiene tips will work for some, while others might not apply to certain people’s lives. 

If you are struggling with insomnia, your therapist can help. There are many therapists who specialize in insomnia in particular, and are well versed in treating it. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia

Insomnia is a widespread sleep disorder that makes falling asleep or staying asleep difficult. Cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia, sometimes called CBT-I, is typically the first step  that doctors recommend for treating insomnia, and is often very effective. 

The Mayo Clinic states that “cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia is a structured program that helps you identify and replace thoughts and behaviors that cause or worsen sleep problems with habits that promote sound sleep.”

CBT-I helps you identify and overcome the underlying cause or causes of your sleep problems. Cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia can benefit nearly anyone with sleep problems. CBT-I is also very helpful for people who not only have primary insomnia, but people with physical problems, such as chronic pain, or mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety as well.

  • Browse our network of top therapist to find one that matches your needs.

  • Get private and secure emotional support weekly from your dedicated therapist.

  • Experience comprehensive care with unlimited access to your care team and primary care physician.

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Insomnia Treatment Online

The Online Therapy program at PlushCare connects you with our licensed and skilled mental health professionals who can help you with insomnia. PlushCare employs many therapists who can help provide insomnia treatment via cognitive behavioral therapy and other therapeutic modalities.

PlushCare provides top-quality mental health care. You can talk to our therapists online; click here to make an appointment with an online therapist. 


Read More About Sleep Hygiene


Sources:

PlushCare is dedicated to providing you with accurate and trustworthy health information.

Sleep Foundation. Sleep Hygiene. Accessed October 11, 2021. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-hygiene

Gardner B, Lally P, Wardle J. Making health habitual: the psychology of ‘habit-formation’ and general practice. British Journal of General Practice. 2012; 62 (605): 664-666. Accessed October 11, 2021 at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3505409/

Mayo Clinic. Insomnia treatment: Cognitive behavioral therapy instead of sleeping pills. Accessed October 11, 2021 at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/insomnia/in-depth/insomnia-treatment/art-20046677

Most PlushCare articles are reviewed by M.D.s, Ph.Ds, N.P.s, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. Click here to learn more and meet some of the professionals behind our blog. The PlushCare blog, or any linked materials are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. For more information click here.

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