What is Sleep Hygiene?

Maybe you need to unwind with a book to switch on your sleep mode. Or perhaps you set a strict no-nap policy to stay on track. Whatever bedtime hacks work for you, these kinds of routines and habits contribute to what’s known as your sleep hygiene. 

In the same way that dental hygiene impacts the well-being of your teeth and gums, sleep hygiene can affect how well your body recharges each night. Although establishing positive habits and creating optimal sleeping conditions is essential for every individual, the stepping stones that lead to better sleep can be unique to each sleeper. 

So, what is sleep hygiene in the context of your day-to-day life? 

Whether you’re hoping to identify good and bad sleep practices or are curious to discover ways of revamping your bedtime rituals, we’ve filled this guide with tips and ideas to help set you on a path to better sleep quality. 

The Importance of Sleep Hygiene

Sleep is as vital as nourishment and exercise. It is essential to better mental health and overall well-being. Sleep deprivation, insomnia, and sleep issues disrupt how our brains work. According to one study, sleep deprivation “triggers changes in negative emotional processing, including irritability, emotional volatility, anxiety, and aggression.”1

Do you want to know how to stop tossing and turning at night? Do you want to get enough sleep and wake up refreshed? The answer is: Sleep hygiene.

Sleep hygiene isn’t just about getting to sleep; it’s also about staying asleep—completing a full sleep cycle. Sleep is an evolutionary survival mechanism that allows our body to reset and perform its vital, everyday functions. 

Beyond giving us the ability to tackle our daily to-do lists with a bit more gusto, a restful night’s sleep also gives our body time and space to: 

  • Repair – During sleep, your immune system releases proteins called cytokines.2 These proteins help reduce inflammation and attract invasive bacteria needed to combat injury and promote healing. Adequate sleep can also repair and strengthen neural pathways, allowing our brains to consolidate memories more efficiently.
  • Detox – As it turns out, trendy juice cleanses aren’t the only way to detoxify. In fact, studies suggest that during sleep, the brain directs energy to flush out harmful toxins that can build up during the day.4
  • Regulate – Hormone levels regulate and reset during sleep, influencing our emotions and stress levels. Obtaining adequate sleep allows these hormones to balance our mood upon waking and keeps many of our core systems functioning at their peak. 

Who Should Prioritize Good Sleep Hygiene? 

Good sleep hygiene is a necessary practice for sleepers of all ages and backgrounds. Sleep may be particularly important for younger age groups due to the magnitude of physical and cognitive development that occurs on a daily basis. But adults require sleep to maintain optimal physical and mental wellness too.  

That said, certain individuals may be at a higher risk for health complications and ailments in the absence of good sleep hygiene than others. Some of these at-risk groups may include: 

  • Athletes – Athletes and those who push their body to physical limits on a weekly or daily basis are constantly putting their body’s musculature to the test. Since many of our body’s natural repair processes are triggered when we sleep, sleep therefore becomes a critical period of regeneration for this group.  
  • Older individuals (50+) – It’s no secret that, as we age, our bodies and minds tend to be more prone to increased aches and pains or more frequent lapses in memory. As we mentioned above, sleep is a major player when it comes to ensuring proper cognitive functioning, such as maintaining a sharp memory as we grow older. 
  • Individuals with a chronic illness – If you suffer from chronic illness, chances are, your body is constantly at work fending off whatever threats come it’s way. Whether you’re living with diabetes or battling obesity, maintaining adequate sleep hygiene could be the key to managing your illness—from controlling blood sugar levels to regulating metabolism.5
  • Pregnant individuals – Beyond giving you the energy you need to carry around a growing human all day, keeping up with sleep hygiene while pregnant could help stave off pregnancy risks such as high blood pressure or the development of gestational diabetes.6

What Are Signs of Poor Sleep Hygiene? 

Whether you’ve spent years tossing and tossing are have only recently experienced the challenges of restless sleep, poor sleep hygiene could be at the core of the issue. If you’ve noticed any of the following signs, it could be your body’s way of requesting an update to your bedtime routine:

  • Inability to fall asleep
  • Restless sleep 
  • Sleepwalking 
  • Lack of energy
  • Impaired cognition
  • Memory loss
  • Mood swings

In short, sleep and sleep hygiene can affect almost every bodily system. Zoning in on at least one sleep hygiene tactic- such as establishing a more structured sleep schedule or putting your phone away before winding down- could positively impact your overall health. Let’s explore these strategies (and more) below. 

5 Simple Ways to Establish Healthier Sleep Hygiene Practices  

While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to healthy sleep habits, many best practices tend to boil down to setting reliable routines, sticking to a sleep pattern, and creating sleep-friendly environments. So, if you’ve already established your reliable morning routine, it may be time to put your nighttime rituals under the microscope. 

As you embark on your journey towards healthy sleep habits, consider adding the following strategies to your bedtime checklist:  

  1. Ensure adequate sleep – You’ve heard it before, but we’re here to give another gentle reminder: The average adult requires 7-9 hours of sleep per night. If you’ve been trying to cut corners at bedtime, start by going back to the basics to ensure you’re allowing your body the time it needs to recharge. What’s important is that your body reaches the deep sleep cycle, the third and last stage of a sleep cycle.
  1. Set a regular sleep schedule – Once you’ve committed to getting the right amount of sleep each night, the next step is to stay consistent. Sticking to specific sleeping hours and waking hours can train your brain to anticipate bedtimes. Having a regular sleep schedule sets your circadian rhythm or “internal clock.” That way, you avoid daytime sleepiness and get adequate, quality sleep at night. Consider keeping a sleep journal to  track your body’s natural sleep patterns for a week. That way, you can determine what routine may be best for you.
  1. Prioritize self-care – Establishing pre-sleep, body-conscious habits can trigger your body’s shutdown process. Adhering to simple routines like brushing your teeth, stretching, washing, or writing in a journal before hitting the pillow could beckon sleep with greater ease.
  1. Remove stimuli – While scrolling your social media feed before bed may be your preferred way to wind down, it’s not doing your sleep hygiene any favors. That’s because the LED and fluorescent lights that glow from many of our handheld devices can reduce melatonin production. Therefore, limiting screen time pre-sleep could be a key factor in achieving restful sleep.7
  1. Make time for exercise – Several studies have concluded that regular exercise contributed to “increased sleep efficiency,” particularly in middle-aged to older adults.8 Other studies also suggest that limited exercise at any time of day—even right before sleep—can have positive, rest-inducing benefits.9 

The Link Between Sleep Hygiene and Your Sleep Environment

Can a fluffy, white-walled space whisk you off to dreamland? Does a particular mattress type help you relax all the right muscles? While we may not know the exact bedroom architecture that suits your sleep style, one thing’s for certain: Your ability to perform many of the sleep hygiene steps listed above could be more connected to your sleep environment than you might realize.

When prioritizing your sleep hygiene, make sure your sleep environment is setting you for success by: 

  • Opting for a neutral palate – Researchers label greens, blues, grays, and light yellows as calming colors. In fact, one particular study connects green to reduced heart rates and positive moods, both of which are conducive to sound sleep.10 
  • Investing in your bedding – All body types have different needs when it comes to sleep comfort. Investing in adjustable pillows or customized mattress pads could build a sleep space that’s as unique as you. 
  • Adjusting lighting – As you now know, blue light has been linked to increased brain activity and reduced melatonin production. As such, experts recommend dimming lights at least 30-60 minutes before bedtime. Sleepers who live in brightly-lit cities or have a particular sensitivity to light might consider spending a bit extra on blackout curtains in the name of sound sleep. 
  • Controlling temperature – Your core temperature typically hovers at 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. In sleep, our bodies often drop about 2 degrees. If you don’t have customizable climate controls (or tend to sleep hot), try using a fan, opening windows, or investing in bedding that offers temperature-control technology. 

Of course, matching your space to your needs is not always possible. Travel, work conditions, or inconsistent living situations can disrupt the event’s best-laid sleep hygiene plans. Consider mobile, adaptable elements like a travel pillow or an eye mask to trigger those familiar sleepy pathways. 

Take Control of Your Sleep Hygiene with Coop

If sleep debt denies you a good night’s rest and you’re dreaming of the perfect sleep solution, the answer might already exist in the waking state. Here at Coop, we’re putting your rest needs first with thoughtful sleep technology designed to complement and enhance any sleep sanctuary. 

Whether you’re searching for a pillow that supports proper spinal alignment or bedding that regulates your body temperature, our mindfully-crafted collections are here to facilitate all of your sleep hygiene goals. Plus, our free-return policy allows you the flexibility to find the products that are best tailored to your individual sleep needs. 

When life gets busy, trust Coop to keep your sleep routines simple and seamless. 

Sources: 

  1. NIH. The sleep-deprived human brain. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6143346/ 
  2. Queensland Government. 7 amazing things that happen to your body while you sleephttps://www.health.qld.gov.au/news-events/news/7-amazing-things-that-happen-to-your-body-while-you-sleep
  3. Harvard Medical School. Sleep, Learning, and Memory. http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/matters/benefits-of-sleep/learning-memory 
  4. NIH. Brain may flush out toxins during sleephttps://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/brain-may-flush-out-toxins-during-sleep
  5. CDC. Sleep and Chronic Disease. https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/chronic_disease.html
  6. The Sleep Foundation. Sleep and Pregnancy.  https://www.sleepfoundation.org/pregnancy
  7. CDC. The Color of the Light Affects the Circadian Rhythms. https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/emres/longhourstraining/color.html
  8. NIH. Interrelationship between Sleep and Exercise: A Systematic Review. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5385214/
  9. Harvard Health Publishing. Does exercising at night affect sleep?https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/does-exercising-at-night-affect-sleep
  10. NIH. Adaptive Effects of Seeing Green Environment on Psychophysiological Parameters When Walking or Runninghttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6379348/
  11. The Sleep Foundation. What is Sleep Hygiene?  https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-hygiene 
  12. The Sleep Foundation. Exercise and Insomnia: Can Physical Activity Combat Insomnia? https://www.sleepfoundation.org/insomnia/exercise-and-insomnia#:~:text=Studies%20have%20shown%20that%20in,hypnotic%20drugs%20in%20relieving%20insomnia
  13. British Journal of General Practice. Making health habitual: the psychology of ‘habit-formation’ and general practice. https://bjgp.org/content/62/605/664 
  14. Sleep Medicine Reviews. The role of sleep hygiene in promoting public health: A review of empirical evidence. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1087079214001002?via%3Dihub 
  15. CDC. Sleep Hygiene Tips. https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/sleep_hygiene.html 
  16. AASM Sleep Education. Healthy Sleep Habits. https://sleepeducation.org/healthy-sleep/healthy-sleep-habits/ 
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