Adults between the ages of 18 and 60 should get at least seven hours of sleep a night, but a 2020 study found that about 35% of adults reported sleeping less than that. Nearly 80% of teens say she needs 8 hours to 10 hours of sleep, but less, reports the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Sleep is important at any age. If you’re looking to improve your nighttime habits and get enough rest, here’s everything you need to know about managing your sleep hygiene.
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What is sleep hygiene?
Sleep hygiene is a set of recommendations for forming healthy habits for sleep. When you say you have good sleep hygiene, you are following those guidelines and avoiding behaviors that interfere with a good night’s rest.
Why is sleep hygiene important?
It’s not only important to get seven to eight hours of sleep per night, but it’s also important to get quality sleep, says Hal Alpert, Ph.D., a board-certified sleep medicine expert.
Developing healthy sleep habits is an important step towards ensuring this quality snooze time.
“The most common reason people feel tired and sleepy is not getting enough sleep,” says Alpert. “They didn’t schedule it.”
For night owls, especially those who stay up late studying and socializing, it may seem logical to just sleep in on the weekends. Alpert says you’re disrupting the healthy habits necessary for proper sleep hygiene.
“It takes almost two weeks to really make up for that kind of sleep deprivation,” says Alpert.
How to improve your sleep hygiene
Improving your sleep hygiene doesn’t stop at bedtime. Your bedtime habits and routines can greatly affect your sleep.
1. Be consistent
Regular bedtimes and wake-up times help set your internal clock to fall asleep at the same time every day.
Alongside this, Alpert recommends limiting daytime naps to a total of 30 minutes. Long naps can cause your body to feel less tired when you go to bed.
Feeling tired at work? Ditch the caffeine and take a power nap.
“Relax” periods are another step in ensuring quality sleep. Alpert recommends relaxing meditation, a warm bath or shower, and reading or listening to calming music.
Alpert advises that if you’re counting sheep and you can’t sleep for more than 30 minutes, get out of your bedroom completely and repeat the relaxation process.
3. Reserve a sleeping space
This relaxation process should be done outside your bedroom.
“Use the bedroom only for sleep and sex,” says Alpert. “If you don’t get any sleep and do a lot of activity in your bedroom, your brain doesn’t associate sleep with your bedroom.”
Your bedroom should be cool, dark, quiet and comfortable to ensure the best possible sleeping experience. You can achieve this with dark shades and earplugs.
Alpert recommends making tomorrow’s to-do list tonight if you’re ruminating on thoughts.
“Keeping a pen and pad by your bedside to jot down any last-minute tasks that come to mind can prevent you from having to remember and think about them all night,” says Alpert.
4. Avoid alcohol, food, caffeine, and electronic devices before bed
If you live with poor sleep hygiene, activities before bed may be to blame.
Avoid alcohol, food, and caffeine before bed, says Alpert. Eating before bedtime is known to cause acid reflux, and caffeinated beverages (soda, coffee, tea, chocolate, etc.) can keep you awake at night. You may be tempted to end the night with a glass of wine, but alcohol can affect your sleep.
“It’s a sedative, but it wears off when you wake up in the middle of the night and has a rebound effect,” says Alpert.
You should also avoid using electronic devices before bed and keep them outside your bedroom. Alpert says the blue light emitted by iPhones and tablets interferes with the brain’s release of the sleep signal melatonin.
5. Exercise regularly
You can improve your sleep regimen by exercising regularly during the week. Several studies have associated increased aerobic exercise with improved sleep quality in insomniacs.
When it comes to insomnia, the tips and tricks for the average sleeper may not be effective. If so, Alpert recommends seeing a doctor as it could be due to some other underlying condition.
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Improving children’s sleep hygiene
Children have different daily routines and sleep needs than adults. According to the CDC, a school-age child should get 9 to 12 hours of sleep each day, and a 3-year-old to her 5-year-old should get 10 to 13 hours of sleep.
Alpert recommends setting up routines for your child to develop healthy sleep habits as they get older.
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