What is good sleep hygiene? Most patients are very familiar with terms such as "dental hygiene," yet may have never heard of the term "sleep hygiene" which refers to behaviors or habits that can positively or negatively influence sleep (good versus inadequate sleep hygiene). Inadequate sleep hygiene includes anything under our control that may adversely affect sleep. Indeed, inadequate sleep hygiene is one of the most common causes of sleep disruption and insomnia. If you are experiencing difficulty falling or staying asleep, read the following recommendations. This will help you establish healthy sleep habits and good sleep hygiene.
- Keep a regular sleep schedule of 7-8 hours of sleep. Go to bed and arise at the same time every day, even on weekends. This will help your brain’s biological clock develop a consistent sleep-wake rhythm.
- Use your bedroom for sleeping only. Avoid distractions and use a room other than your bedroom to watch TV or use a computer.
- Make your sleep environment comfortable for sleeping. Keep your bedroom dark and quiet, preferably cool. Use a mattress that suits your comfort level.
- Establish a regular relaxing bedtime routine by taking a bath, listening to soothing music, or reading. Avoid activities that keep you alert.
- Make sure you are pleasantly tired before going to bed.
- Exercise regularly, preferably early in the day. Even moderate amounts such as stretching exercises or a brief walk around the block will promote a deeper, more refreshing sleep.
- Do not go to bed hungry. Have a light snack one or several hours before bedtime if necessary.
- Avoid alcohol within four to six hours of bedtime, and don’t use nicotine within two hours of going to bed.
- Do not go to bed after eating a big meal as this may cause acid reflux and heartburn. If you have a condition such as gastroesophageal reflux disease, which may cause coughing or chocking, avoid eating within 3 hours of bedtime.
- Stay away from any caffeine products in the evening (and preferably after noon). Coffee, tea, soft drinks, chocolate, and energy caffeinated drinks when ingested four to six hours or more of bedtime can interfere with sleep.
- Refrain from napping during the day. Napping during the day can leave you insufficiently sleepy in the evening, which may interfere with sleep at night. If daytime sleepiness becomes overwhelming, limit yourself to a single nap of 30 minutes or less, and no later than 3:00 p.m.
- Avoid strenuous exercise in the evening and complete any workout at least 3 hours before bedtime.
- Do not live with sleepiness or explain it away as stress. If you don’t sleep well, or if you feel tired in the morning, despite practicing good sleep habits, please see your doctor for a sleep evaluation.