Sleep Hygiene: 7 Guidelines for Better Sleep

Sleep hygiene is based on a series of behaviors that allow you to have a deep and adequate rest.
Sleep Hygiene: 7 Guidelines for Better Sleep
Sara Clemente

Written and verified by psychologist and journalist Sara Clemente.

Last update: 29 May, 2024

Many factors influence how we sleep, from the room’s ambient temperature to what we had for dinner. Sleep hygiene studies these factors and how they influence sleep. It encompasses a series of recommendations that advocate a healthy lifestyle and promote habits that favor better sleep.

Sleeping is one of the most important activities we do in life. It’s important to wake up with renewed, rested energies and not have a lot of trouble falling asleep. Do you want to know how to achieve this? Follow these 7 basic guidelines for better sleep.

Maintain a schedule

Sleep is a routine activity that benefits from stability. Therefore, your body will benefit when you get up and go to bed at the same time every day, including weekends. It’s useless to sleep only five hours Monday through Friday and sleep eight hours on Saturday and Sunday.

While it’s true that we sleep more during childhood and adolescence and less in old age, every adult needs a different amount of sleep. Most people require between 6 and 8 hours of sleep each night, but this varies according to personal and work conditions. Therefore, it’s beneficial to observe your sleep pattern for a few weeks to better understand how much sleep you need to feel energized.

woman turning off her alarm clock

It’s better to wake up early than going to bed later

Quality of sleep is just as important as quantity. Even if you sleep for 7 hours, it’s not the same if you go to bed at 6 in the morning versus 11 at night. The body is programmed to know that it’s time to wake up when the sun rises.

The body releases melatonin during the evening, which is why we begin to feel tired and sleepy at this time. But if you’re constantly forced to alter your circadian rhythm, you can pay for it dearly. In fact, it has been shown that people who work at night can develop serious cardiovascular problems, which could lead to a heart attack.

Watch what you eat after the late afternoon

When you think of energizing foods and drinks, coffee comes to mind. But this isn’t the only drink that activates us: teas and sodas can also prevent us from falling asleep. You must be careful about what you eat and drink, especially near dinner time.

In the same way, chocolate is an activating substance that can make it hard for you to fall asleep or make you wake up early. In addition, it’s best to reduce or avoid alcohol consumption.

Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a beggar.

In general, carbohydrates lull us and proteins wake us up. Therefore, in addition to being more easily digestible, it’s preferable to have a salad for dinner rather than a sirloin steak.

Exercise regularly

Sport and exercise help improve fitness and avoid a sedentary lifestyle, and they also help relax you and relieve tension. Therefore, another way to promote sleep hygiene is to exercise regularly at moderate intensity. Sports and exercise not only keep us in shape, but also make it easier for us to let go of worries that may interfere with our sleep.

However, it’s essential to make sure two hours pass after exercising before going to bed. Exercise generates endorphins that make your body stay alert, and going to bed with such a high heart rate isn’t recommended. It’s better to let your body relax before going to bed.

woman jogging along the shore

Avoid stimulating activities before bed

In addition to waiting a couple of hours before going to bed after exercise, follow the same guideline after watching an action movie or an exciting television program. These activities stimulate your level of mental activation. Numerous experts have shown that audiovisual activities increase the likelihood of insomnia, mostly among young people between the ages of 18 and 32.

Therefore, it’s best to do just the opposite: choose relaxing activities before bed in order to promote sleep hygiene. Examples include background music, a hot bath, light reading, or doing breathing exercises. Your body will appreciate it the next day.

The pillow isn’t a good counselor

Sleep hygiene guidelines say that if you have anxious thoughts or worries that are keeping you awake, it’s best to get up and talk to your partner rather than mulling these thoughts in your head for hours.

If you’re worried about tasks you need to remember to do the next day, write them down in a notebook to “release” your mind from the responsibilities.

A room in perfect condition

The condition of your bedroom can determine the quality of your sleep. The most appropriate conditions for a room include:

  • A calm and relaxed atmosphere: it’s convenient that all the members of the household to go to bed at the same time. If you’re in bed and ready to fall asleep but can hear the fan of your child’s computer or the football game playing on the television in the living room, your tranquility will be interrupted.
  • Not too cold, not too hot: It’s good to keep the temperature at about 70 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s better to go a few degrees lower than a few degrees higher. Turning on a dehumidifier a few hours before going to sleep can be a good solution for humid environments.
  • It’s ideal to sleep in total darkness: electrical appliances can make this difficult, because the brightness of a screen or LED light can harm your REM phase or the melatonin release.
man trying to fall asleep

All of these habits to promote sleep hygiene exert very positive effects on both the quality and quantity of sleep. However, they won’t solve chronic insomnia on their own. Therefore, you should follow these recommendations along with therapeutic interventions.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.