The Ultimate Sleep Hygiene Checklist

November 30, 2023 · Morgan Jackson

Rest, Recharge, Repeat: The Ultimate Sleep Hygiene Checklist

The average giraffe only needs 4.5 hours of sleep each night.

You are not the average giraffe.

Sleep is a critical biological process, one that’s far too important to ignore. Even seven hours of sleep per night, the recommended minimum, can transform your body. It heals damaged muscle and tissue cells, enhances brain function, supports emotional regulation, balances hormones, preserves cardiovascular health, protects your immune system, even improves your athletic performance.

Sleep isn’t simply a period of rest; it’s a period of mental clarity, emotional stability, and bodily recovery. To make sure you’re getting the most out of your evening routine, it’s important to practice healthy sleep hygiene — habits that promote healthy sleep patterns and protect sleep quality.

Daily Sleep Hygiene Checklist

Not all sleep is created equal. In the same way that high-quality sleep can leave you refreshed and energized, poor-quality sleep leads to irritability and daytime fatigue. To give yourself the best chance for a relaxing night’s sleep, create and stick to a daily sleep hygiene checklist…

…one that starts in the morning — not the evening.

Follow consistent wake and sleep times, focus on mental health, hydrate, limit blue light exposure, and create a calm environment to prioritize sleep hygiene throughout the day.

Morning Sleep Hygiene: Set the Stage for a Great Day

The morning sets the tone for the rest of your day, including that night’s sleep. A healthy morning routine should include a regular routine, natural light, and the right diet to start the day on a positive note.

In the morning: 

  • Wake up at a consistent time: Set and stick to a regular wake-up time. This helps regulate your body’s internal clock and prevents the dreaded “Snooze” button from controlling the day’s early hours.
  • Open the blinds: Take in natural light in the minutes after you get up. If possible, spend a few minutes outside for direct contact with sunlight. This helps place your body firmly in the “wake” side of the “sleep-wake cycle. It also stimulates Vitamin D production, enhances your mood, and boosts energy levels as you prepare for a productive morning.
  • Participate in light physical activity: Light stretching, yoga, or a quick morning walk help accelerate your heart rate and prepare your body for further activity. Even a couple trips up and down the stairs, or out to the mailbox and back, can do the trick.
  • Hydrate: Drink water before you’re thirsty. A post-sleep glass of water helps rehydrate the body and supports natural detoxification processes. It also jumpstarts your digestion and prepares your body to absorb nutrients from breakfast.
  • Make time for mental health: Spend a few minutes practicing stress management techniques. Consider breathing exercises, meditation, visualization, or sleep journaling to take full mental control of your morning.
  • Plan out your day: Take a minute or two to outline your day, either mentally or on paper. Organizing helps replace mental clutter with clarity and makes it easier to unwind as evening approaches.

Consistency is key in the morning. Following a consistent morning routine helps establish a strong sleep-wake cycle and launch your day in the right way.

Afternoon Sleep Hygiene: Maintain a Positive Trajectory

Sleep hygiene becomes even more important as the day progresses. The afternoon is your opportunity to make conscious decisions that affect sleep hygiene. These decisions should impact your work-life balance, mid-day meal, and energy use.

In the afternoon: 

    • Prioritize a light, nutritious lunch: Light meals prevent discomfort or indigestion issues that can ultimately keep you up at night. Balance your lunch to ensure the right combination of nutrients, vitamins, and fresh ingredients.
    • Take short breaks during work hours: Work-time breaks are important for productivity, especially if you work in front of a screen. Experiment with different periods of work and rest to find and protect your most productive work windows.
    • Get some exercise: Adding a light or moderate workout can help keep your body and mind engaged as morning becomes afternoon. It introduces fresh adrenaline, strengthens muscles, and ensures you expend the majority of your energy before evening hours.
    • Hydrate: There’s never a bad time to hydrate. Keep drinking water during afternoon hours to properly distribute nutrients from meals. Hydration provides further energy for your body, which is particularly important in fighting off late-afternoon drowsiness.

Persistence is key in the afternoons. Prioritize habits like hydration, exercise, and short breaks during the afternoon as you persist toward evening relaxation and wind-down.

Evening Sleep Hygiene: Turn off the Technology

The evening is your chance to benefit from a day of preparatory sleep hygiene. As your day winds down, it’s time to turn off the technology and embrace a slower pace.

In the evening:

  • Dim the lights: Reduce the light, especially artificial light, in your home in the hours before sleep. Domming the lights can encourage the production of melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleep.
  • Limit phone and television use: Avoid using smartphones, tablets, or computers for at least 60 minutes before you sleep, This reduces your exposure to blue light, which disrupts sleep patterns and prevents a transition in your sleep-wake cycle.
  • Follow a bedtime routine: Consistency is also important in the evenings. Keep a consistent bedtime schedule, with appointed times for activities like brushing your teeth, closing the blinds, and putting on pajamas.
  • Avoid stimulating activities: Intense workouts and exciting movies are invigorating, but they can also compromise your bedtime routine. Make sure the entertainment you consume before bed can calm your body and mind.
  • Create a calm environment: Noise and temperature are key in setting a calm environment. Consider a sleep machine or white noise if distracting sounds are preventing sleep. Set a temperature that makes sleep easy.
  • Hydrate: Make sure to drink a sufficient amount of water before bed. Water helps you avoid dehydration, regulate your body temperature, and release toxins through sweat. It also helps rinse your mouth of any remaining food particles.

Comfort is key in the evenings. Trade computer and phone screens for a relaxing book or other bedtime habit. If helpful, perform stress-relieving activities that help establish a clear mind and pave the way for uninterrupted sleep. These habits should include a mattress that fits your body’s needs in comfort and quality. Everyone’s ideal sleep is different — make sure your mattress fits your needs.

What Sleep Hygiene Habits Should I Avoid?

Certain activities can come between you and a good night’s sleep. When these activities become habits, they can consistently compromise sleep and begin affecting your digestion, immune system, heart health, and other important processes.

Here are some of the most important sleep hygiene habits to avoid:

  • Irregular sleep schedules: Inconsistent sleep patterns create inconsistent sleep. Avoid unnecessary changes to your bedtime and wake times, which can disrupt your body’s circadian rhythm.
  • Long naps: Naps that are too long, or too close to your bedtime, can interfere with your sleep schedule. Try limiting naps to 20 or 30 minutes and schedule them during morning or early afternoon hours.
  • Heavy caffeine intake: Stimulants like caffeine can make sleep difficult. Instead, drink water, consume light snacks, or exercise for more natural energy.
  • Heavy alcohol intake: Excessive alcohol intake can also impair your sleep schedule. Be mindful about the amount of alcohol you consume, particularly during evening hours.
  • Artificial ingredients: Synthetic ingredients, flavors, colors, and preservatives can quickly cause gastrointestinal issues. Others can cause inflammation and chemical balances, further impairing sleep quality.
  • Sugary and fatty foods: Food items that are high in sugar and fat can lead to spikes in your blood sugar levels. They can also lead to weight gain and increase your risk for sleep apnea and other conditions.
  • Non-sleep activities in bed: Avoid performing daytime activities in bed. This can confuse your brain and weaken the association between your bed and sleep. Instead, perform work and other activities in another location to make sleep the main priority in bed.
  • Intense evening workouts: Late-night workouts increase your heart rate, raise your core body temperature, and make sleep afterward more difficult. Schedule workouts for earlier hours that give your body time to wind down in the evening.

There’s one final element to an award-winning sleep hygiene checklist: the right mattress.

How Does My Mattress Affect Sleep Hygiene?

Your mattress plays a surprisingly important role in maintaining sleep hygiene. It helps preserve comfort, relieve pain, and isolate your motion to prevent disturbances when sleeping alongside a partner. It represents the final ingredient in the recipe for better sleep hygiene, and it’s an ingredient that’s unique to your sleep needs.

The perfect answer to your sleep needs is only minutes away at Mattress Warehouse. Our patented bedMATCH diagnostic sleep system goes further than the competition, connecting you with mattress suggestions for your body type. It incorporates 18 statistical measurements — and thousands of different scientific calculations — to determine the best mattress for your sleep needs.

Take the bedMATCH quiz today for better sleep solutions in less than three minutes.