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Discover the importance of sleep hygiene and how small changes can have a big impact on the quality of your sleep.
national bed month: the importance of *sleep hygiene*

This year, National Bed Month positions the bed as a miracle product (1). And to help celebrate this, we decided to explore the topic of sleep hygiene. As one of the best ways to achieve a consistently better sleep, sleep hygiene could be the key to a better life all-round.

But what is sleep hygiene? And how can we improve our sleep hygiene to reach our sleep goals?

In short, sleep hygiene relates to everything from your bedroom environment to daily morning and evening routines. All of these aspects work together to help promote consistent and uninterrupted sleep.

As with everything in life, you’ll need to tailor your sleep hygiene to your own personal needs. Let’s learn more.

why is sleep hygiene important anyway?

We are all well aware by now of the importance of sleep for both physical and mental health. Not only can a good night’s sleep boost productivity, but it’s also beneficial for our overall quality of life too (2).

But sleep hygiene is also about consistency. And so, it’s important to build achievable routines that you’ll be able to maintain on a daily basis. That way, those healthy behaviours will be so well ingrained that you’ll almost be able to enact them on autopilot.

Thankfully, simply by creating an optimised sleep environment and building a set of routines to help promote the goal of better sleep can really pay off.

Sleep hygiene centres around two key focus areas: our bedroom and our habitual behaviours. Next, let’s find out a little more about how to identify whether you have good or bad sleep hygiene.

how do I know if I have bad sleep hygiene?

If you find it difficult to fall asleep fast or suffer from regular sleep disturbances during the night and either of these result in you feeling tired or unable to focus during the day, you’ve probably got bad sleep hygiene.

Basically, bad sleep hygiene can be characterised as a lack of consistency in sleep quantity or quality. While this could be due to a sleep issue such as a parasomnia, it can also be a tell-tale sign that you need to improve your sleep hygiene.

what does good sleep hygiene look like?

Good sleep hygiene is all about setting yourself up to sleep well consistently.

It focuses on several different elements including:

  1. your sleep schedule (what time you go to bed and wake up each day)
  2. bedtime routine (what you do to wind down before getting into bed)
  3. daily routines (everything from your morning routine to regular exercise, what you eat, and beyond)

But optimising your bedroom environment to improve your sleep is important too. You want to create a space in which you can feel totally relaxed and drift off to sleep without the worries of the day hanging over your head.

Read on to unveil a handful of tips to help you improve each of these areas of sleep hygiene. Remember, these aren’t hard and fast fixes. Adapt these as required to better fit with your needs and create your very own personalised sleep hygiene checklist.

National Bed Month graphic image presenting the eve sloth covering its eyes with it's paws

start by setting your bedtime and wake up time

Having a scheduled bedtime and wake up time will help regulate sleep. To do this, follow the steps outlined below:

  1. Fix your wake-up time: Whether it’s a working day during the week or at the weekend, you’ll want to maintain a consistent wake-up time. Though you might feel like treating yourself to a lie in, switching up your sleep schedule will only further prevent you from establishing a rhythm for consistent sleep.
  2. Prioritise sleep: It almost goes without saying but prioritising time for sleep is essential when you’re trying to establish good sleep hygiene. Ignore the temptations to skip out on sleep in favour of working, studying, socialising, or even exercising! If it’s easier, you can workout a baseline for your target bedtime by working backways from your previously defined wake-up time. You’ll need to protect 7-9 hours each night for sleep (3) so try to set your bedtime accordingly.
  3. Make incremental changes: When switching up your sleep times, avoid trying to do too much too quickly. This can completely throw your schedule off kilter. Instead, make small adjustments by 1-2 hours at a time at the most. This will allow your brain and body to adjust gradually and eventually, you’ll be able to settle into your newly established sleep schedule.
  4. Nap sensibly: Naps are a great way to boost energy levels during the day, but they can lead to sleep disruptions at night. To prevent napping from interfering with your main sleep patterns, keep them short, occasional, and restricted to the early afternoon-time.

create a bedtime routine

Bedtime routines aren’t just for children! How you prep for bedtime can make a difference to how easily you fall asleep too. Here are some of the key elements (and a few suggestions) to work into your daily pre-bed doings:

  • Routine consistency: Whatever steps you choose to add to your bedtime routine, be sure to make sure you do them each and every night. A couple of obvious ones to get you started are donning your pjs and brushing your teeth. These standard nightly practices help to send signals to your brain that bedtime is approaching.
  • Preserve time to wind down: Set aside at least 30 minutes before bedtime to relax your mind and body. Whether it’s listening to music, practicing some light bedtime yoga, reading a book, or practicing mindful exercises, these types of activities will help you wind down before getting into bed.
  • Dim the lights: Bright lights impact our production of melatonin (the sleep hormone) (4). So, while enjoying your wind-down activity, it’s important to lower the levels of light you’re being exposed to. If you have dimmer switches – great! If not, switch ceiling lights off in favour of lamps or candlelight. This will also help to tell your mind and body that bedtime is approaching.
  • Dodge the screens: It’s well documented that blue light has a negative impact on our ability to fall asleep. Experts recommend avoiding screens for at least an hour before bedtime (5). Screen-free time includes avoiding using smartphones, tablets, and laptops as all of these stimulate our brains making it harder to switch off at bedtime.
  • Don’t lie in bed for too long if you can’t fall asleep: If you haven’t fallen asleep after 20 minutes of lying in bed, get up. Read, do a jigsaw, or anything other calming activity that is possible in low light. And when you start to feel tired, you can try again. Lying there tossing and turning is likely to lead to anxiety that will only make it harder to fall asleep in future (6).

thinking about daily habits that can help with sleep

It’s not just our bedtime routines that help to create good sleep hygiene. Positive routines during the day will also help to support our circadian rhythms. Here are some top tips on what to do during the day to help you get a better quality sleep at night:

  • Get outdoors: Sunlight is essential for regulating our circadian rhythms. Getting out for a quick stroll in the mornings doesn’t just help you wake up on a positive note, but it helps to encourage quality sleep too (7).
  • Exercise: Regular exercise has been linked to being able to fall asleep faster (8).
  • Reduce the amount of alcohol: Alcohol may seem as though it makes falling asleep easier, but those effect wear off and can lead to sleep disruptions later in the night. As a result, it’s best to avoid alcohol for at least 4 hours before getting into bed (9).
  • Minimise caffeine consumption in the afternoon/evening: Caffeine is a stimulant that can interrupt with your ability to fall asleep. With that in mind, it’s best to try and avoid it later in the day (10).
  • Try to eat your evening meal earlier: Eating dinner (or tea – if you’re from the North) late in the evening can your body still trying to digest that meal come bedtime. Try to avoid eating up for three hours before bed to minimise chances of sleep disruption (11).

optimising your bedroom for sleep

Another key cog in the sleep hygiene wheel is your bedroom. If you want to fall asleep more easily, your bedroom needs to be a sleep haven that is free from distractions.

First of all, choose yourself a comfortable mattress and pillow that aligns with your primary sleep position to promote better spinal alignment and improved comfort during the night. A comfortable surface to sleep on is integral for sleep.

Next, you’ll want to keep your bedroom slightly cooler than the rest of the house. A slight drop in temperature helps to indicate to your brain that it’s time for sleep. Experts suggests that the optimal temperature for sleep is somewhere between 15.6 and 20 degrees Celsius (12).

Now that we’ve addressed our sleep surface and bedroom temperature, it’s time to think about other ways in which we can promote sleep. Blocking out the light with a sleep mask, heavy curtains, or a back out blind with help to stop light disrupting your sleep. And ear plugs or a white noise machine could be handy if you regularly find that noise keeps you from sleeping.

Calming fragrances created by scented candles or diffusers are helpful for some. Choose scents like lavender or chamomile may also be helpful in promoting a relaxing space that is conducive to better sleep (13).


In conclusion, there are lots of little changes you can make to help promote better sleep hygiene. As the quest for a better night’s sleep continues to remain a priority for many of us, focus on the different areas that contribute to sleep to make your goals more achievable.