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What is sleep hygiene? 4 steps to improve your sleep quality

Fall asleep fast and wake up with a spring in your step.

Written by
Lucinda Starr
Medically reviewed by
Last updated
April 17, 2024
min read
What is sleep hygiene? 4 steps to improve your sleep quality
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If you haven't heard of sleep hygiene before, it's a way to adopt habits and patterns of behaviour to promote a better quality of sleep.

If you're looking to fall asleep fast and wake up with a spring in your step, sleep hygiene needs to be on your radar. Whether you've got a big presentation to power through or just need to be on your A-game, prioritising good quality sleep is non-negotiable.

We're diving into four simple ways you can improve your sleep quality by creating a regular sleep schedule, rethinking your bedtime environment, practicing daily healthy habits and implementing a relaxing nighttime routine (trust us on this one).

Ready to dive in? Let's start with the basics.

Why is sleep so important?

Think about the last time you had a good night's sleep. How did you feel the next day?

Chances are your mind was clearer, your stress levels were lower and you woke up feeling energised and ready to tackle your day. That's the power of sleep.

But, a bad night's sleep goes way beyond just feeling tired or off your game.

It's widely accepted that sleep is an essential biological function [1]. Healthy sleep helps your body recover and repair from the day and supports brain development, and cardiac function while also helping to improve memory and mood when you wake up.

What can happen if you don't get enough sleep?

We all have those nights where it feels impossible to fall asleep. But what happens when we're consistently not getting enough shut-eye? Here's what the research tells us.

If you aren't sleeping enough, you're more likely to experience lower levels of concentration, memory problems, slower reaction times and even a dip in your mood [1].

On top of that, regular poor sleep or sleep deficiencies can contribute to some pretty serious health problems including:

  • Coronary heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Stroke
  • Poor mental health
  • A harder time responding to insulin
  • Weaker immune system [2].

Not getting enough sleep or having a consistent sleep schedule can cause flow-on effects in all areas of your life. And poor sleep hygiene has a big role to play in how much rest you're getting each night.

How much sleep do people need?

The amount of sleep you need depends on your age. But, for adults aged between 18-65+, you should be getting anywhere between 7-9 hours of sleep each night [3].

Although the number of hours of sleep you're getting is important, your quality of sleep has an even bigger impact. Plus, everyone is different and determining how much sleep you personally need is based on a variety of factors.

For example, even if you're hitting the recommended 7+ hours per night, you might still notice you're waking up sluggish and lethargic. In that case, you might need to consider if you're getting good quality sleep or if an extra hour of sleep might do you some good.

You may also work in a labour-intensive job or be following a high-intensity workout routine, so extra sleep could be needed to help you feel well-rested.

It really all depends on the individual, but a minimum of 7 hours of sleep each night is recommended by the experts at the Sleep Foundation [3].

What is sleep hygiene?

If you're someone who struggles to get to sleep or can't stick to a consistent sleep schedule, sleep hygiene may be a great option for you. So, what actually is sleep hygiene?

Sleep hygiene basically involves creating healthy sleep habits and setting up your environment to aid you to have a good night's rest [4].

This can include going to bed at about the same time every night, avoiding blue and bright light before bed and not drinking coffee in the afternoon.

Why is sleep hygiene important?

What we do before bed often happens unconsciously. Over the years, you've probably picked up habits and routines that might not be setting you up for a restful sleep.

Whether that's doom-scrolling before bed, drinking caffeine late in the afternoon or eating dinner late, these habits can make it hard to fall asleep (and stay asleep).

So, establishing good sleep habits and sleep hygiene that works for you can make all the difference and actually get you a restful sleep.

For people with insomnia or other sleep disorders, medication can be used but this is often a short-term solution or could be used in combination with good sleep hygiene.

What are good sleep hygiene practices?

Improving your sleep may take some time and could require gradual adjustments over a number of weeks. If you're someone who experiences disordered sleep or has a lot of unhealthy sleep habits some good places to start are:

1. Set up your sleep schedule

The first part of good sleep hygiene is to establish a consistent sleep schedule, where you're going to bed and waking up at relatively the same time each day. If your sleep cycle is constantly changing, it basically limits you from getting in a good rhythm to fall asleep.

A sleep schedule will help you to establish a body clock, where you get naturally tired at the same time each night.

If you have sleep problems, it's probably best to avoid napping too much throughout the day or keep your naps short as this can interrupt your sleep cycle and make you less tired at bedtime.

2. Improve your environment

Your sleep environment (a.k.a. your bedroom) plays a large role in getting a good night's sleep. If your environment is distraction-free and comfortable, you're more likely to fall asleep and actually get a good night's rest.

Some good places to start are:

  • Removing technology 30 minutes to 1 hour before bed.
  • Only use your bed for sleep (not for watching TV).
  • Make sure the room is dark and quiet.
  • Investing in a good quality mattress and pillow.

3. Improving daily healthy habits

Your daytime habits can be a major contributor to your restless nights and prevent you from getting a good night's sleep.

This includes reducing your alcohol consumption, avoiding drinking caffeine in the afternoon and avoiding smoking before bed as both these substances are stimulants that can keep your brain and mind active late at night [5].

Getting enough sunlight throughout the day is a big factor in improving your quality of sleep as it's a driver of our circadian rhythm — the 24-hour cycle that is part of the body's internal clock [6]. Plus, regular exercise can also improve your sleep as well as other health benefits.

4. Implement a relaxing bedtime routine

A big part of having good sleep habits is getting yourself ready for sleep by unwinding and relaxing.

Some sleep hygiene tips to follow are:

  • Reading 30 minutes before bed.
  • Having scents like lavender in your room promotes a calm mind [7].
  • Relaxation exercises such as meditation or mindfulness close to bedtime.
  • Putting on relaxing music before bed.
  • Avoiding blue and bright lights before bed.

Is sleep hygiene the same for everyone?

Everyone's sleep hygiene routine will look different — what works for one person won't work for another. But, the basic principles behind sleep hygiene like having the right environment and having a consistent sleep schedule do apply to everyone.

For example, some people will find reading before bed really helpful, whereas others might find it only stimulates their mind. So, it's important to use different sleep hygiene techniques as trial and error until you find what works for you and your schedule.

Does sleep hygiene work?

Practicing good sleep hygiene by having and sticking to a regular sleep schedule, improving your bedtime environment and unwinding before bed can help the average person improve sleep.

However, it's important to note that some people experience sleep disorders such as insomnia and sleep apnoea where sleep hygiene alone won't fix the problem and sleeping pills or other treatments are required.

If you're one of those people who still struggle to get to sleep, even after implementing sleep hygiene, Pilot's clinical sleep support can help sort out your sleep.

Pilot's sleep treatment contains tailored doses of your body's own hormone that is responsible for regulating sleep plus an all-natural relaxant to help you fall asleep faster and improve your sleep quality.

These work together to regular the sleep cycle so you find it easier to both fall asleep and stay asleep, while also helping to improve sleep quality so you wake up feeling energised rather than drowsy. And, because the formula is natural and non-habit forming, you can take it every night or as needed.

Simply take an online consult with an Aussie practitioner and they'll be able to create a treatment plan based on your experiences with sleep so you can say goodbye to counting sheep each night. Plus, your treatment will be delivered discreetly to your door and you'll receive automatic refills every 2 months so you never run out.

Ultimately, sleep hygiene is a great way to help you establish sleep habits and improve your quality of rest. There are many simple steps you can take to improve your sleep, starting with establishing a healthy sleep-wake cycle and setting yourself up for sleep with a relaxing bedtime routine.

But if you're struggling to establish healthy sleep habits, there are other tools you can try.

Photo credit: Getty Images

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