Sleep Hygiene

Sleep hygiene refers to sleep habits and conditions which promote sleep as opposed to habits such as drinking alcohol or caffeine in the evening, which make it hard for you to unwind and get to sleep.

Sleep hygiene should be your first line of attack against insomnia, and it is often used in conjunction with stimulus control and cognitive behavior restructuring (see below). Review your habits and make some changes in your routine to see if behavioral and environmental changes improve your sleep. Here are some tips for effective sleep hygiene habits:

  • Establish a regular time for going to bed and getting up in the morning and stick to it even on weekends and during vacations.
  • Use the bed for sleep and sexual relations only, not for reading, watching television, or working; excessive time in bed seems to fragment sleep.
  • Avoid naps, especially in the evening.
  • Exercise before dinner. A low point in energy occurs a few hours after exercise; sleep will then come more easily. Exercising close to bedtime, however, may increase alertness.
  • Take a hot bath about an hour and a half to two hours before bedtime. This alters the body's core temperature rhythm and helps people fall asleep more easily and more continuously. (Taking a bath shortly before bed increases alertness.)
  • Do something relaxing in the half-hour before bedtime. Reading, meditation, and a leisurely walk are all appropriate activities.
  • Keep the bedroom relatively cool and well ventilated.
  • Do not look at the clock. Obsessing over time will just make it more difficult to sleep.
  • Eat light meals and schedule dinner four to five hours before bedtime. A light snack before bedtime can help sleep, but a large meal may have the opposite effect.
  • Spend a half hour in the sun each day. The best time is early in the day. (Take precautions against overexposure to sunlight by wearing protective clothing and sunscreen.)
  • Avoid fluids just before bedtime so that sleep is not disturbed by the need to urinate.
  • Avoid caffeine or other stimulants in the hours before sleep. A general recommendation is not to consume anything that might hinder your sleep 4-6 hours before your anticipated bedtime.
  • Don’t drink alcohol before going to bed.
  • If one is still awake after 15 or 20 minutes go into another room, read or do a quiet activity using dim lighting until feeling very sleepy. (Don't watch television or use bright lights.)
  • Give yourself a quiet time right before bed. One or two hours before you retire, take a few moments to spend quietly relaxing and meditating.
  • Your bedroom should be exclusively for sleeping. Well, maybe one other activity, but avoid eating, reading, smoking, drinking or watching television in bed. The bedroom should be a peaceful place and when it is,
  • If distracted by a sleeping bed partner, moving to the couch or a spare bed for a couple of nights might be helpful.
  • If you can't sleep -- don't stay in bed. Get out of bed, move to another room, and return to your bed when you are tired. Sleep hygiene is just one of the behavioral techniques you can use to help with your insomnia.