What Is Sleep Hygiene?

Sleep hygiene refers to the habits, behaviours, and environmental factors that promote a good night’s sleep. By incorporating these practices into our daily lives, we can enhance sleep quality, duration, and efficiency, which ultimately leads to better physical and mental health.

Poor sleep hygiene can lead to sleep disturbances and difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, which negatively impact our daily functioning. Recognizing the factors that contribute to poor sleep hygiene and taking steps to address them is the first step towards achieving better sleep and overall health.

Importance Of Sleep

Sleep is a vital physiological process that plays a crucial role in maintaining physical, mental, and emotional health. It affects our mood, memory, cognitive function, immunity, and overall well-being. Numerous studies have shown that getting adequate sleep is essential for learning, memory consolidation, and maintaining peak performance throughout the day.

Lack of sleep or poor-quality sleep has been linked to a myriad of health issues, including obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and mental health disorders like depression and anxiety. Therefore, understanding the importance of sleep and finding ways to improve its quality is essential for leading a healthy and productive life.

This blog post aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of sleep hygiene, its importance, and practical steps that can be taken to improve it. Throughout the post, we will discuss the elements of good sleep hygiene, explore common sleep disorders, and provide tips for managing stress and anxiety, which can interfere with sleep.

Furthermore, we will also address sleep hygiene for specific populations, such as children, adolescents, and older adults, as their sleep needs and challenges may differ from those of the general population. Finally, we will discuss when it might be necessary to seek professional help for sleep-related issues.
By the end of this post, readers should have a solid understanding of what sleep hygiene is and how to implement strategies for better sleep in their daily lives.

Understanding Sleep

Stages of Sleep

To better understand sleep hygiene, it is essential to know about the different stages of sleep and how they affect our overall sleep quality. Sleep can be divided into two main types: Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) sleep and Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep.

NREM Sleep

NREM sleep is further divided into three stages, N1, N2, and N3. N1 is the lightest stage, characterized by a transition between wakefulness and sleep. During this stage, muscle activity decreases, and the eyes may move slowly. N2 is the second stage of NREM sleep, marked by a decrease in heart rate and body temperature. It represents the largest portion of our sleep time. N3, also known as slow-wave or deep sleep, is the most restorative stage. It is during this stage that the body repairs and grows tissues, strengthens the immune system, and builds bone and muscle.

REM Sleep

REM sleep is characterized by rapid eye movements, increased brain activity, and vivid dreams. During this stage, the body experiences temporary muscle paralysis to prevent us from acting out our dreams. REM sleep is essential for cognitive functions such as memory consolidation, learning, and emotional regulation.

sleep hygiene

Sleep Cycles

A sleep cycle consists of progressing through the different stages of NREM sleep, followed by a period of REM sleep. Each sleep cycle lasts approximately 90-120 minutes, and most individuals experience 4-6 cycles per night. As the night progresses, the proportion of REM sleep increases while the amount of deep sleep (N3) decreases. Ideally, a person should complete multiple sleep cycles to feel well-rested and refreshed upon waking.

Factors Affecting Sleep Quality

Several factors can influence the quality of our sleep, including:

  • Sleep environment: The conditions in which we sleep, such as room temperature, noise, and light levels, can significantly impact sleep quality.
  • Sleep schedule: An inconsistent sleep schedule can disrupt our natural circadian rhythm, making it difficult to fall asleep and wake up at desired times.
  • Stress and anxiety: High levels of stress and anxiety can hinder our ability to fall asleep or stay asleep throughout the night.
  • Diet and exercise: Consuming certain foods or engaging in exercise too close to bedtime can interfere with sleep quality.
  • Medical conditions: Some medical conditions, such as sleep apnea or chronic pain, can disrupt sleep and reduce its overall quality.
    Understanding these factors can help us make necessary adjustments to our habits and routines to improve sleep hygiene and promote better sleep quality.

What is Sleep Hygiene?

Sleep hygiene refers to the habits, behaviors, and environmental factors that contribute to a good night’s sleep (Irish, Kline, Gunn, Buysse, & Hall, 2015). These practices aim to optimize sleep quality, duration, and efficiency by addressing various aspects of our daily lives, such as sleep environment, sleep schedule, bedtime routine, diet, and exercise.

Significance of Sleep Hygiene

Sleep hygiene is vital for maintaining good physical, mental, and emotional health. Research has demonstrated that individuals with good sleep hygiene experience better sleep quality, improved daytime functioning, and reduced sleep disturbances (Mastin, Bryson, & Corwyn, 2006).

Furthermore, practicing good sleep hygiene has been associated with a lower risk of developing sleep disorders, such as insomnia and sleep apnea (Stepanski & Wyatt, 2003). It has also been shown to improve overall well-being and life satisfaction, with significant benefits in cognitive functioning, mood regulation, and immune system function (Hirotsu, Tufik, & Andersen, 2015).

Impact of Poor Sleep Hygiene

Poor sleep hygiene can lead to a range of negative consequences for both physical and mental health. Studies have shown that individuals with poor sleep hygiene have a higher risk of developing insomnia, excessive daytime sleepiness, and impaired cognitive functioning (Irish et al., 2015).

Additionally, poor sleep hygiene has been linked to an increased risk of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety (Cappuccio, D’Elia, Strazzullo, & Miller, 2010; Baglioni et al., 2011). It can also exacerbate the symptoms of existing medical conditions, leading to a decline in overall health and quality of life.

In summary, sleep hygiene plays a crucial role in maintaining good health and well-being. By adopting healthy sleep habits and addressing factors that contribute to poor sleep hygiene, individuals can improve their sleep quality, reduce the risk of sleep disorders, and enjoy better physical and mental health.

Elements of Good Sleep Hygiene

Creating a Sleep-Friendly Environment

  • Bedroom design: The bedroom should be reserved primarily for sleep and relaxation. Remove distractions such as televisions, computers, and work-related materials. Opt for calming colors and decorations that promote a soothing atmosphere.
  • Temperature: Research suggests that a cooler bedroom temperature, typically around 60-67°F (15-19°C), is optimal for sleep (Okamoto-Mizuno & Mizuno, 2012). Experiment with different temperatures to find what works best for you.
  • Noise and light control: Eliminate noise by using earplugs, white noise machines, or fans. Block out light with blackout curtains or a sleep mask. Reducing exposure to blue light from electronic devices before bedtime can also improve sleep quality (Chang et al., 2015).

Establishing a Consistent Sleep Schedule

  • Importance of routine: A consistent sleep schedule helps regulate the body’s circadian rhythm, making it easier to fall asleep and wake up at the desired times (Crowley et al., 2003).
  • Tips for setting a sleep schedule: Determine your ideal bedtime and wake-up time based on your sleep needs and daily commitments. Stick to this schedule even on weekends and holidays. If you need to adjust your sleep schedule, do so gradually, in 15-30 minute increments.

Developing a Bedtime Routine

  • Relaxation techniques: Engage in calming activities before bedtime, such as reading, taking a warm bath, or practicing deep breathing exercises. These activities can help signal to your body that it’s time for sleep (Harvard Medical School, 2020).
  • Activities to avoid before bedtime: Limit exposure to screens, as the blue light emitted by electronic devices can disrupt sleep (Chang et al., 2015). Avoid stimulating activities, such as intense exercise, engaging discussions, or emotionally charged content.

Diet and Exercise

  • Foods that promote sleep: Foods rich in tryptophan, magnesium, and melatonin can support sleep. Examples include turkey, almonds, cherries, and kiwi fruit (St-Onge et al., 2016).
  • Foods to avoid: Limit caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol intake, particularly in the hours leading up to bedtime, as they can interfere with sleep quality (Drake et al., 2013).
  • Timing of meals: Avoid large meals or heavy, spicy, or fatty foods close to bedtime, as they can cause discomfort or indigestion, making it difficult to fall asleep (Crispim et al., 2011).
  • Role of exercise in sleep quality: Regular exercise has been shown to improve sleep quality and reduce the risk of sleep disorders (Kline, 2014). Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week, but avoid intense workouts close to bedtime.

Proper Sleep Posture

  • Importance of sleep posture: A comfortable sleep posture can prevent pain and discomfort, ensuring a restful night’s sleep.
  • Best sleeping positions: Sleeping on your back with a pillow to support the natural curve of your neck or on your side with a pillow between your knees can help maintain proper spinal alignment (Gordon & Grimmer-Somers, 2011).
  • Pillows and mattresses: Invest in a supportive mattress and pillows that suit your preferred sleep position. Replace pillows every 1-2 years and mattresses every 7-10 years for optimal comfort and support.

Common Sleep Disorders


Insomnia is a sleep disorder characterized by difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up too early, resulting in daytime impairment. It can be acute (short-term) or chronic (long-term). Causes of insomnia can include stress, anxiety, depression, medical conditions, medications, and poor sleep hygiene (Riemann & Perlis, 2009).

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep. It can be obstructive, where the airway becomes blocked due to the relaxation of throat muscles, or central, where the brain fails to send appropriate signals to the muscles that control breathing. Symptoms include loud snoring, gasping for air during sleep, and excessive daytime sleepiness. Risk factors include obesity, age, and smoking (Punjabi, 2008).

Restless Legs Syndrome

Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) is a neurological disorder characterized by an uncontrollable urge to move the legs, usually due to uncomfortable sensations. Symptoms are typically worse at night and can interfere with sleep. RLS may be caused by genetics, low iron levels, or certain medications, and is often associated with other conditions like diabetes and kidney disease (Trenkwalder et al., 2016).


Narcolepsy is a chronic sleep disorder that causes excessive daytime sleepiness, sudden loss of muscle tone (cataplexy), sleep paralysis, and hallucinations. It is believed to be caused by a deficiency in the neurotransmitter hypocretin, which regulates arousal, wakefulness, and appetite (Scammell, 2003).

How Sleep Hygiene Can Help

Practicing good sleep hygiene can be beneficial in managing and preventing sleep disorders. For example, establishing a consistent sleep schedule and bedtime routine can help regulate the body’s circadian rhythm, improving sleep quality for those with insomnia (Crowley et al., 2003). Additionally, maintaining a sleep-friendly environment and avoiding stimulating activities before bedtime can reduce the symptoms of RLS (Trenkwalder et al., 2016).

In some cases, lifestyle modifications and sleep hygiene practices may not be sufficient to manage sleep disorders. In such instances, it is essential to consult a healthcare professional for further evaluation and appropriate treatment options.

Tips for Managing Stress and Anxiety

  • Meditation and Mindfulness

    Meditation and mindfulness practices, such as mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) and loving-kindness meditation, can help reduce stress, anxiety, and improve sleep quality. These practices involve focusing your attention on the present moment, accepting it without judgment, and gently bringing your attention back whenever it wanders (Greeson et al., 2014).

  • Deep Breathing Exercises

    Deep breathing exercises, such as diaphragmatic breathing and the 4-7-8 technique, can help activate the body’s relaxation response by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system. Practicing deep breathing exercises before bedtime or during moments of stress can help calm the mind and promote relaxation (Ma et al., 2017).

  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation

    Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) is a technique that involves tensing and relaxing different muscle groups in a systematic manner. By focusing on the contrast between tension and relaxation, PMR can help reduce muscle tension, anxiety, and promote a sense of calmness that can improve sleep quality (Morin et al., 1999).

  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I)

    CBT-I is a specialized form of cognitive-behavioral therapy that targets the thoughts, behaviors, and emotions related to sleep problems. It has been shown to be highly effective in treating insomnia, especially when combined with good sleep hygiene practices. CBT-I techniques include stimulus control, sleep restriction, cognitive restructuring, and sleep hygiene education (Manber et al., 2011).

Sleep Hygiene for Children and Adolescents

  • Importance of Sleep for Young People
    Adequate sleep is crucial for the healthy growth and development of children and adolescents. It plays a significant role in cognitive functioning, memory consolidation, emotional regulation, and physical health. Insufficient sleep in young people can result in attention difficulties, poor academic performance, mood disturbances, and increased risk of obesity (Paruthi et al., 2016).

Challenges to Good Sleep Hygiene
Several factors can contribute to poor sleep hygiene in children and adolescents, including irregular sleep schedules, excessive screen time, overstimulation, and busy extracurricular schedules. Additionally, the natural shift in circadian rhythms during adolescence can make it more challenging for teenagers to fall asleep early and wake up on time (Carskadon, 2011).

sleeping baby

Tips for Improving Sleep Hygiene in Children and Teens

Consistent sleep schedule: Encourage children and adolescents to maintain a regular sleep schedule, even on weekends and during school breaks. This helps regulate their circadian rhythms, making it easier to fall asleep and wake up at the desired times (Crowley et al., 2003).

  • Limit screen time: Reduce exposure to screens, especially before bedtime, as the blue light emitted by electronic devices can disrupt sleep quality (Chang et al., 2015). Establish device-free zones and designate screen-free times, particularly during the hour before bedtime.
  • Create a sleep-friendly environment: Ensure that the child’s bedroom is conducive to sleep by maintaining a comfortable temperature, minimizing noise and light, and keeping it free of distractions such as televisions, computers, and mobile devices.
  • Encourage relaxation techniques: Teach children and adolescents relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, or mindfulness practices, to help them unwind and prepare for sleep.
  • Promote physical activity: Encourage regular physical activity during the day, as it has been shown to improve sleep quality and reduce the risk of sleep disorders (Kline, 2014). However, avoid intense workouts close to bedtime.
  • Establish a bedtime routine: Help children and adolescents develop a consistent bedtime routine that includes calming activities such as reading, taking a warm bath, or listening to soft music. This routine can signal to their bodies that it’s time for sleep (Harvard Medical School, 2020).

Sleep Hygiene for Older Adults

Age-related Changes in Sleep Patterns

As we age, changes in sleep patterns are common and can affect the quality and duration of sleep. Older adults tend to experience a decrease in the amount of deep sleep, which is essential for physical recovery and mental restoration. They also tend to have more fragmented sleep, waking up more frequently during the night, and may have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep (Ancoli-Israel, 2009).

Common Sleep Problems in Older Adults

Several sleep problems are more prevalent among older adults, including:

  • Insomnia: Difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up too early. Insomnia in older adults can be due to medical conditions, medications, or lifestyle factors (Vitiello, 2006).
  • Sleep apnea: Older adults have an increased risk of developing sleep apnea due to age-related changes in muscle tone and weight gain. Sleep apnea can lead to fragmented sleep and excessive daytime sleepiness (Young et al., 2002).
  • Restless legs syndrome: This condition is characterized by an uncomfortable urge to move the legs, especially at night. It is more common in older adults and can disrupt sleep (Trenkwalder et al., 2016).

Circadian rhythm disorders: Older adults may experience disruptions in their circadian rhythms, making it difficult to fall asleep or wake up at the desired times. This can be due to reduced exposure to natural light or age-related changes in the body’s internal clock (Ancoli-Israel, 2009).

Tips for Maintaining Good Sleep Hygiene as We Age

  • Establish a consistent sleep schedule: Maintaining a regular sleep-wake schedule can help regulate circadian rhythms and improve sleep quality in older adults (Crowley et al., 2003).
  • Create a sleep-friendly environment: Ensure that the bedroom is conducive to sleep by maintaining a comfortable temperature, minimizing noise and light, and keeping it free of distractions such as televisions and mobile devices.
  • Limit napping: While napping can be beneficial for some older adults, excessive daytime napping can disrupt nighttime sleep. Aim to limit naps to 20-30 minutes and avoid napping too close to bedtime.
  • Manage medical conditions: Consult with healthcare professionals to address medical conditions or medications that may be contributing to sleep problems. Proper management of chronic conditions can help improve sleep quality.
  • Stay active: Engaging in regular physical activity can help improve sleep quality, reduce the risk of sleep disorders, and promote overall health. Choose age-appropriate activities and avoid intense workouts close to bedtime (Kline, 2014).
  • Seek natural light exposure: Exposure to natural light during the day can help regulate circadian rhythms and improve sleep quality. Spend time outdoors or near windows, especially in the morning.
  • Develop a bedtime routine: Establish a consistent bedtime routine that includes calming activities such as reading, listening to soft music, or practicing relaxation techniques. This routine can signal to the body that it’s time for sleep (Harvard Medical School, 2020).

sleeping posture

When to Seek Professional Help

Signs that Sleep Hygiene Isn’t Enough

While practicing good sleep hygiene can help improve sleep quality for many people, there may be instances when professional help is necessary. Some signs that sleep hygiene alone isn’t enough include:

  • Persistent insomnia or other sleep disorders despite consistent sleep hygiene practices.
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness or fatigue that interferes with daily functioning.
  • Frequent or loud snoring, accompanied by gasping or pauses in breathing.
  • Unusual nighttime behaviors, such as sleepwalking or night terrors.
  • Restless legs syndrome that doesn’t improve with lifestyle changes.

Types of Sleep Specialists

If you suspect that you have a sleep disorder or are struggling with sleep despite your best efforts, consider consulting a sleep specialist. There are different types of sleep specialists, including:

  • Sleep medicine physicians: Doctors who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders. They may come from various backgrounds, such as pulmonology, neurology, or psychiatry.
  • Sleep psychologists: Mental health professionals who specialize in treating sleep disorders using psychological and behavioral therapies, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I).
  • Sleep dentists: Dentists who specialize in the treatment of sleep-related breathing disorders, such as sleep apnea, using oral appliances.

Sleep Study: What to Expect

A sleep study, also known as polysomnography, is a diagnostic test that monitors various physiological functions during sleep. It is often used to diagnose sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, narcolepsy, or periodic limb movement disorder. During a sleep study, you can expect the following:

  • Preparation: You will be asked to arrive at the sleep center in the evening, with comfortable clothing and any items you need for your nighttime routine. The staff will help you prepare for the study and answer any questions you have.
  • Monitoring: Sensors will be attached to your body to measure brain activity, eye movements, heart rate, breathing, oxygen levels, and muscle movements. The test is non-invasive and painless.
  • Sleep: You will be asked to sleep in a comfortable, private room. A technician will monitor your sleep throughout the night, ensuring the sensors remain in place and collecting data for analysis.
  • Results: After the study, a sleep specialist will analyze the data and provide a diagnosis, if applicable. They will discuss the results with you and recommend appropriate treatments or further evaluation, if necessary.
    Remember, it is essential to consult with a healthcare professional if you are concerned about your sleep or suspect a sleep disorder. Early diagnosis and treatment can improve your sleep quality and overall health.

Recap of Sleep Hygiene

Sleep hygiene refers to the habits and practices that promote restorative sleep and overall well-being. By understanding the importance of sleep and the factors that affect its quality, individuals can take steps to create a sleep-friendly environment, establish consistent sleep schedules, develop healthy bedtime routines, manage their diet and exercise, and address stress and anxiety.

The Importance of Prioritizing Sleep

Sleep is essential for physical and mental health, and it plays a crucial role in memory consolidation, learning, emotional regulation, and immune system functioning (Walker, 2017). Prioritizing sleep and implementing good sleep hygiene practices can help reduce the risk of chronic health issues, improve mood and cognitive performance, and enhance overall quality of life. Investing in quality sleep is an investment in one’s health and well-being.


Sleep hygiene practices can be tailored to individual needs and preferences, and it may take some trial and error to determine what works best for each person. We encourage readers to assess their current sleep habits, identify areas for improvement, and take actionable steps to promote better sleep. Remember, professional help is available for those struggling with sleep issues or sleep disorders, and seeking assistance when necessary is essential for achieving restorative sleep and optimal health.

Walker, M. (2017). Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams. Scribner.

Baglioni, C., Battagliese, G., Feige, B., Spiegelhalder, K., Nissen, C., Voderholzer, U., … & Riemann, D. (2011). Insomnia as a predictor of depression: a meta-analytic evaluation of longitudinal epidemiological studies. Journal of affective disorders, 135(1-3), 10-19.

Cappuccio, F. P., D’Elia, L., Strazzullo, P., & Miller, M. A. (2010). Sleep duration and all-cause mortality: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective studies. Sleep, 33(5), 585-592.

Hirotsu, C., Tufik, S., & Andersen, M. L. (2015). Interactions between sleep, stress, and metabolism: From physiological to pathological conditions. Sleep Science, 8(3), 143-152.

Irish, L. A., Kline, C. E., Gunn, H. E., Buysse, D. J., & Hall, M. H. (2015). The role of sleep hygiene in promoting public health: A review of empirical evidence. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 22, 23-36.

Mastin, D. F., Bryson, J., & Corwyn, R. (2006). Assessment of sleep hygiene using the Sleep Hygiene Index. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 29(3), 223-227.

Chang, A. M., Aeschbach, D., Duffy, J. F., & Czeisler, C. A. (2015). Evening use of light-emitting eReaders negatively

Crowley, S. J., Acebo, C., & Carskadon, M. A. (2003). Sleep, circadian rhythms, and delayed phase in adolescence. Sleep Medicine, 8(6), 602-612.

Punjabi, N. M. (2008). The epidemiology of adult obstructive sleep apnea. Proceedings of the American Thoracic Society, 5(2), 136-143.

Riemann, D., & Perlis, M. L. (2009). The treatments of chronic insomnia: A review of benzodiazepine receptor agonists and psychological and behavioral therapies. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 13(3), 205-214.

Scammell, T. E. (2003). The neurobiology, diagnosis, and treatment of narcolepsy. Annals of Neurology, 53(2), 154-166.

Trenkwalder, C., Allen, R., Högl, B., Paulus, W., & Winkelmann, J. (2016). Restless legs syndrome associated with major diseases. Neurology, 86(14), 1336-1343.

Greeson, J. M., Webber, D. M., Smoski, M. J., Brantley, J. G., Ekblad, A. G., Suarez, E. C., & Wolever, R. Q. (2014). Changes in spirituality partly explain health-related quality of life outcomes after Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 37(6), 956-969.

Ma, X., Yue, Z. Q., Gong, Z. Q., Zhang, H., Duan, N. Y., Shi, Y. T., … & Li, Y. F. (2017). The effect of diaphragmatic breathing on attention, negative affect and stress in healthy adults. Frontiers in Psychology, 8, 874.

Manber, R., Edinger, J. D., Gress, J. L., San Pedro-Salcedo, M. G., Kuo, T. F., & Kalista, T. (2011). Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia enhances depression outcome in patients with comorbid major depressive disorder and insomnia. Sleep, 34(4), 491-500.

Morin, C. M., Hauri, P. J., Espie, C. A., Spielman, A. J., Buysse, D. J., & Bootzin, R. R. (1999). Nonpharmacologic treatment of chronic insomnia. Sleep, 22(8), 1134-1156.

Feel free to contact us for any queries.

Leave a Comment