Is better sleep hygiene the answer to your sleeping problems?

A good night’s sleep is important for physical and mental health, however many people have difficulties achieving good quality sleep. Be it insomnia, sleep apnea, anxiety, or other factors that keep a person awake at night, it is imperative to make adjustments in either your environment or behavior to see if it can help. This is where practicing good sleep hygiene plays a crucial role in optimizing your ability to sleep more effectively. 

There are various changes you can make to your sleeping habits to prioritize sleep. Having a set bedtime and wake-up time that you follow daily is important to create a routine. Deviating from your set time, especially on the weekends, is discouraged as even two days in the week can throw off your circadian rhythm. Limiting nap times will also help ensure you receive proper sleep at night. Cutting down on late afternoon or night caffeinated drinks is recommended. Reducing alcohol consumption is advised because it can cause disturbed sleep when the effects of the initial drowsiness wear off. It is also best to avoid late-night meals, especially heavy, caffeinated or sugary ones. Being physically active during the day and receiving sufficient light, especially sunlight will greatly aid in better sleep at night.    

If changing your nightly routine isn’t helping, try making the bedroom environment as ideal as you can.  

  • Having a comfortable bed and pillow can help with a pain-free night especially with people prone to body aches.  
  • Lowering the thermostat in the room to a cooler temperature has been shown to create a comfy atmosphere for sleep.  
  • Try using an eye mask, blackout curtains, or earplugs to prevent light and sounds from disturbing your sleep.  
  • It is encouraged to use your bedroom for only sleep as it builds a subconscious association in your mind that the bed is for sleeping.  

If despite all these changes you find yourself lying awake unable to turn off your thoughts, it is best to leave the bedroom and try to ease your mind before attempting to sleep again. Sleep hygiene takes practice and a daily commitment to prioritize your sleep over other things. Making these changes can be tough at first but ultimately can lead to a restful night’s sleep. 


Author: Sarah Ahmad, MS4 

Approved by: Sabina Ahmad, MD (Sleep Specialist)