Scientists have studied the sleep process to discover what makes for a good night of rest. The tactics they recommend are sometimes called sleep hygiene. Healthy sleep, or sleep hygiene, improves both physical and mental health. A good night’s sleep can also improve productivity and quality of life.
The Sleep Foundation and the American Sleep Association say sleep needs vary across ages and are especially impacted by lifestyle and health. However, there are recommendations that can provide general guidance on how much sleep you need.
- Limit daytime naps to 30 minutes. Napping does not make up for inadequate nighttime sleep, but a short nap of 20-30 minutes can help to improve mood, alertness, and performance.
- Avoid stimulants like caffeine and nicotine close to bedtime.
- Exercise. As little as 10 minutes of aerobic exercise, such as walking or cycling, can drastically improve nighttime sleep quality. But don’t exercise close to bedtime.
- Don’t eat foods that can disrupt sleep. Heavy or rich foods, fatty or fried meals, spicy dishes, citrus fruits, and carbonated drinks can trigger indigestion for some people. Eaten too close to bedtime, these foods can lead to heartburn and disrupt sleep.
- Get sunlight. Exposure to sunlight during the day, as well as darkness at night, helps maintain a healthy sleep-wake cycle.
- Practice a relaxing bedtime routine. A nightly routine helps the body recognize that it is bedtime. This could include taking warm shower or bath, reading, or light stretches.
- Create a comfortable, pleasant sleep environment. Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillow. Keep the bedroom cool – between 60 and 67 degrees. Turn off any source of bright light (lamps, cell phones, TVs, etc.). Consider using blackout curtains, eye shades, ear plugs, “white noise” machines, and other devices that can make the bedroom more relaxing.
- Don’t stay in bed awake for more than 5-10 minutes. When your mind races or you worry, it’s best to get out of bed and sit in a chair in the dark until sleepiness comes. Then return to bed.
National Sleep Foundation, Sleep Hygiene, Retrieved December 18, 2018, https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/sleep-hygiene
American Sleep Association, Sleep Hygiene Tips, Retrieved December 18, 2018, https://www.sleepassociation.org/about-sleep/sleep-hygiene-tips/