Your Guide to Improving Sleep Hygiene

December 5, 2023 · John Gallagher

Mastering Sleep Hygiene: Tips for a Restful Night

Here’s a fact most people don’t realize: tonight’s sleep is one of the most important factors in determining tomorrow’s health. Your sleep quality and duration help decide how well your body regulates emotional health, recovers after a workout, guards against common infections, and digests nutrients. Sleep can also impact heart health, reproductive health, skin health, and recollection.

Almost every bodily function relies on sleep hygienethe group of habits that contribute to regular sleep.

Sleep hygiene is a catchall term, one that features four important pillars:

  1. Regular wake and sleep times
  2. Creating a comfortable sleep environment
  3. Limiting intake of alcohol, caffeine, and other substances
  4. Physical exercise

A commitment to sleep hygiene is a commitment to whole-body health. It allows you to fall asleep — and stay asleep — as long as your body needs. Just as easily, poor sleep hygiene can compromise sleep and the bodily processes it influences.

How Can I Improve My Sleep Hygiene?

You can improve sleep hygiene by prioritizing five important principles: value, protect, personalize, trust, and prioritize your sleep. Create a sleep hygiene checklist that starts with morning preparation, outlines a consistent sleep schedule, and minimizes technology use before bed.

Sleep Hygiene Starts in the AM

Many people categorize sleep hygiene as an evening routine. While sleep hygiene has several important steps that take place in the evening, it should be an all-day process — one that starts in the morning. The choices you make during the first hours of day can impact bedtime in major ways.

First, find yourself some natural light. Exposure to natural light helps to reset your body’s internal clock and helps you shake off any residual drowsiness. Sunlight also helps tell your brain that it’s now time to begin your day. Take a short walk, open the blinds, or drink your coffee outside to gain quick natural light exposure in the minutes after you wake up.

Breakfast is the next item on your list, and we’ve got some advice: keep it light. A healthy breakfast helps kickstart your metabolism, but a heavy first meal can trigger indigestion and spike your blood sugar levels.

Make Time to Move

Physical exercise delivers too many health benefits to effectively list here. Among those benefits is a serious boost to your sleep quality and longevity. Even a light to moderate workout helps elevate your heart rate and introduce “happy” hormones like serotonin and dopamine into your system. Working out can also help reduce stress, manage overall weight, and regulate sleep disorders.

Several different types of workouts can help promote better sleep health. Here are a few popular options:

  • Cardio exercises: Aerobic exercises like biking, walking, running, or swimming all help quickly increase your heart rate. Even 30 minutes of these exercises can improve the quality of your sleep.
  • Strength training: Tone muscles with workouts like weightlifting and resistance band movements. Simple push-ups, sit-ups, and squats also count as strength training, and help you fortify core muscles in ways that also make you feel appropriately tired at the end of the day.
  • Yoga: Connect your mind and body through yoga exercises that promote better sleep. Sleep-oriented yoga poses combine breathing exercises, meditation, and deliberate movement to relax the body. Yoga is particularly effective in the evening as you wind down before sleep.
  • Stretching: An evening stretching routine can also help induce sleep. Focus on stretches that relax your back, arms, legs, and head - all parts of the body that contribute to your sleep posture.
  • Hiking: No one said exercise has to be an indoor activity. Explore local trails, landmarks, or interesting locations while bathing in natural sunlight. Along the way you’ll further strengthen your core, stretch leg and arm muscles, and increase your flexibility in ways that also increase sleep quality.

The best workout for you might look different than others’ preferences. Without running a full marathon or purchasing scuba gear, you can achieve healthy fitness levels while preparing your body for a well-deserved evening’s rest.

Put the Phone Down

Screens have become an integrated part of our lives. Despite their benefits, they can make it much more difficult to fall asleep at night. Limiting screen time is one of the most important steps in sleep hygiene, particularly during evening hours.

Screens on phones, tablets, computers, and televisions emit blue light — the portion of the light spectrum that traditionally comes from the sun. During the day, blue light keeps us alert, awake, and ready for action. During the evening, blue light has the capacity to throw off your Circadian rhythm, making your body believe it’s still daytime. This makes sleep more difficult to achieve.

There’s a simple solution: turn off all electronic devices that emit blue light at least 60 minutes before you fall asleep. This helps your body establish appropriate boundaries between sleep and wake periods. It also helps calm your body from any stimulation from the screen itself, whether that’s a movie, television show, video game, or other input.

 Here are a few more ways to limit screen time in the evening:

  • Create a technology-free bedtime routine: Instead of ending your day in front of a screen, establish a barrier between tech-free time and bedtime. Read a book, take a walk, meditate, or write in a sleep journal to clear your head before bed.
  • Turn off phone alerts and notifications: Phone notifications can cause curiosity after you’ve set your phone down for the evening. Consider pausing notifications after a certain time to prevent any new blue light after beginning your bedtime routine.
  • Use your device’s “night mode”: If you have to use a device in the evening, activate “night mode”. This setting reduces blue light emission and gives your screen a warmer hue.
  • Use screen time management tools: Many phones have built-in tools that set limits on total screen time. Use these tools to automatically disable specific apps during evening hours.
  • Prioritize quality over quantity: Use devices with clear goals in mind. Rather than endless scrolling social media, for example, use your screen time to deliberately consume high-quality content you know you’ll enjoy.

Creating healthier sleep hygiene habits isn’t about drastic change; it’s about sustainably shifting your behavior. Limiting screen time is a major step toward quality sleep and away from evening restlessness.

Other Tips to Improve Sleep Hygiene

Your morning routine, exercise priorities, and blue light exposure are far from the only factors that influence sleep hygiene. Other factors, including your eating habits and bedroom environment, can also go a long way in preserving — or damaging — sleep hygiene.

Mindful eating is a vastly underrated habit in preserving sleep hygiene. Stay aware of what you eat and drink each day, particularly in the hours before sleep. Avoid excessive caffeine, large meals, or substances that your body might struggle to digest. Instead, consume a thoughtful diet of vitamins, vegetables, and fresh foods that provide your body with the nutrition it needs.

Prioritize ingredients like magnesium, tryptophan, and melatonin that can help you fall asleep and stay asleep.

Make sure your bedroom is dark and quiet, perfect for sleep. Use room-darkening shades, earplugs, or a white noise machine to further create an environment that suits your sleep needs. Reserve your bed for sleep and intimacy, to make sure your body associates the bedroom with only these activities.

There’s one more way to improve your body’s sleep hygiene: use the right mattress. High-quality bedding will provide the right balance of comfort and support, no matter what your body needs.


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