Sleep Hygiene: The Ultimate Checklist for a Better Night’s Sleep

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✅ This article has been medically reviewed by: Dr. Kate Sołdaj, M.D. and Dr. Bartłomiej Orybkiewicz, M.D.

It’s no secret that part of good health is being able to maintain an evening routine that allows you to get some peaceful, consistent sleep. According to the Mayo Clinic, a lack of good sleep will have an effect on your immune system and can affect how fast you recover if you become sick.  This is where sleep hygiene comes into play. What is sleep hygiene, you ask? Sleep hygiene is the bedtime rituals and the habits that allow you to get to sleep.

The following article will help you to practice good sleep hygiene so that you have an easier time falling and staying asleep. Not only that, but it will ensure that you sleep better at night. If you’re plagued with not getting enough sleep and it’s affecting your health, keep reading for some sleep hygiene tips that will improve your nightly routine and see that you wake up refreshed each morning.

What is Sleep Hygiene?

The National Sleep Foundation defines sleep hygiene as a variety of practices, rituals, routines, and habits that one needs to have adequate nighttime sleep quality and to be fully alert during the daytime. These routines will vary from person to person, but could include using your favorite pillow, relaxing in bed before attempting to sleep, or having the room completely dark and/or quiet. While these rituals will vary, if you feel you are not getting the sleep you need, we’ve listed some good sleep hygiene tips that may be of help to you in the section below!

The Importance of Sleep Hygiene

Healthy sleep is the cornerstone of physical and mental health. If you’re unable to get the rest you need your body cannot fight off infection and mentally it will be impossible for you to have a productive, joyful existence. In order to sleep well, you need to practice good sleep hygiene. Luckily, if you feel that you may be suffering in this area, there are plenty of things you can do to better your sleep routines. Our tips to improve your sleep hygiene are towards the end of this guide and should help you to get a better night’s rest.

Signs and Symptoms of Poor Sleep Hygiene

We’ve already talked a lot about good sleep hygiene, but other than being tired all the time, how do you know if you’re practicing poor sleep hygiene? There are a number of signs and symptoms that you’ll notice that all point to poor sleep routines and rituals. Ask yourself these questions and if you answer yes to any of them, chances are that some of the problem has to do with your sleep hygiene.

  • Do you wake up feeling unrested in the mornings?
  • Do you wake up throughout the night?
  • Is it hard to go through the day without feeling tired all day long?
  • Is it hard to get to sleep at night?

If you answered yes to any of these it’s likely because you’re practicing poor sleep hygiene. Try out some of the tips below and hopefully you’ll be sleeping better in no time!

Tips for Good Sleep Hygiene

For most people, creating the perfect environment for sleep is the first step to better sleep hygiene. If you’re like most people that means you need a bedroom or sleep environment that offers the prime space for sleep. Some immediate suggestions that will create a good sleep space include:

  • Keep your room at a comfortable temperature. If your mattress gets too hot, consider a mattress with cooling support.
  • Make sure your room is dark, quiet, and free of distractions when it’s time to sleep
  • Make sure your mattress is suited for your health needs and overall comfort.

These are just some basics to good sleep hygiene. Now let’s consider using a sleep hygiene checklist and see if it can help improve your sleep even more!

Listen to your body’s sleep clock

Sleep deprivation is serious business. It not only makes you tired, but it ensures that your health is compromised and you’re in a worse mental state. The amount of sleep you need will vary, but the National Sleep Foundation recommends the following:

  • Newborns & Infants – From 12-17 hours a day
  • Toddlers – From 11-14 hours daily
  • Preschoolers – From 10-13 hours per day
  • Children 6-13 – These kids should get 9-11 hours
  • Teenagers – Daily amounts between 8-10 hours are suggested
  • Adults – A minimum suggestion of 7 hours, but up to 9 hours

You may find that you need less sleep and if that’s the case, that’s fine. However, if you feel like you’re not getting enough sleep you should consider making more time as it will improve your waking hours immensely. Focus on finding the amount of sleep that makes you feel rested and content throughout the day. That will be the amount that works for you!

Hit the sheets at the same time every night

Once you find out the amount of sleep you need, you should attempt to follow a regular sleep schedule. The best way to get good sleep is to go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time every morning. The same goes for weekends. While the compulsion to sleep in on the weekends might be overwhelming, you may come to find that on Monday’s that’s the cause of a sleepy start to your week.

Keep your room as quiet as you prefer

Some people cannot sleep with any sound in their room. For others, sound doesn’t bother them one way or another. Others might need the lull of a fan or another ambient sound to help them get to sleep. Whatever works for you, should be used to help you sleep. If you find sound to be a distraction do whatever you can to make your bedroom a quiet haven where sleep awaits you. If you like sound you can play music on a lower volume or use white noise or nature sounds depending on what works for you.

Create the most comfortable sleep space possible

Think of your mattress as an investment. You need to find the best mattress for you because one of the biggest reasons why people don’t get good sleep is because they are sleeping on the wrong mattress. If you think you are one of those people you need to consider your health and sleep position when choosing a mattress. Start by determining what kind of mattress you want. For example you could choose a memory foam mattress or a hybrid bed.

Now consider your sleep position. Are you a side sleeper? Do you sleep on your back? Maybe you’re a combination sleeper or you sleep on your stomach? This should begin to help you determine what mattress is going to bring you the best sleep. You should also consider things like if you’re overweight, if you have back pain, or if you’re part of a couple, and how these things will play into your decision for a new mattress.

Once you have the best mattress, you can find the perfect pillow for you and top things off with some cool, comfortable sheets for the bedding ensemble that makes you crave sleep when it’s time to get into bed.

Make your bed a place for sleeping

If your bed is ridiculously comfortable you might think you’ll crawl under the sheets and play some Candy Crush before bed or read your favorite novel on your Kindle. The problem with this is that this can keep you up, as opposed to putting you to sleep. Devices like this make your brain think that it’s daytime and therefore you should be awake, not going to sleep.

If you normally read, watch TV, or play games in bed try giving that up for a few days. If it helps, and it likely will, you’ll know that improving your sleep hygiene means giving that up. The only thing your bed should be used for, other than sleeping, is for sex. Anything more and you might be setting yourself up for some sleepless nights.

For best results, shut off the TV and put your devices away an hour before it’s sleepy time. You may just find it makes all the difference in the world where your sleep routine is concerned.

Keep a nighttime sleep routine

By keeping the same routine every night before bed, your body comes to recognize that you’re getting ready for bed and that it’s time to go to sleep soon. Your specific routine will depend on you, of course. The goal is to begin calming yourself for eventual sleep. For some this means:

  • Turning off the TV
  • Shutting off the phone, tablet, and computer
  • Taking a hot shower or bath
  • Meditating
  • Reading a Book
  • Doing something you find relaxing

You can also have a light snack before bed. While eating a large meal is never a good idea before bedtime, there are a number of great foods that will make you sleepy and keep you from going to bed on a truly empty stomach. Some options include:

  • Nuts
  • Cherries
  • Yogurt
  • Bananas
  • Almond butter
  • Rice
  • Cheese & Crackers

Of course, these are just some options that will make good before bed snacks. If you like caffeine you should make sure to limit your intake a few hours before bed, as well.

If at first you don’t succeed, try again

Sometimes you’ll go through your routine and feel like you’ve done everything right only to still not be able to sleep when the time comes. If that’s the case, don’t give up immediately. Stay in your bedroom and continue to try and close your eyes. If you find you’re just not sleeping and you’ve tried for 20-30 minutes, consider leaving your room and doing something relaxing. Sometimes it takes longer for sleep to find you some nights and that’s not anything to worry about. If you’re comfortable in bed, you should stay in bed. Only get out of bed if you’re frustrated because you don’t want that to ruin your chances for sleep.

If you find that you’ve done as much as you can, and sleep still evades you on a consistent basis, you should speak to your physician. They may be able to help you in other ways or help calm the issues that are causing you to be unable to sleep. If you have any questions about sleep hygiene, remember we’re here to help!

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