An Overview of Sleep Hygiene

Sleep hygiene refers to the various habits, environmental factors, and practices that may influence the length and quality of one's sleep.

Woman laying in bed

What Is Sleep Hygiene?

Sleep hygiene is anything that affects that overall quality of sleep. An individual who gets ample sleep and is well-rested is considered to have good sleep hygiene, while an individual who struggles to sleep and suffers from insomnia may have poor sleep hygiene.

Potential sleep hygiene factors include bedtime, nighttime rituals, and disruptions to one's sleep. These are typically represented by simple guidelines meant to effectively promote a good night's rest.

Ways to Improve Sleep Hygiene

There are several ways to improve your overall sleep hygiene. One way to improve your sleep hygiene is to maintain a regular sleep routine. This includes going to bed and waking up at the same time each day. This gets your body used to a certain time schedule and it will then be ready to sleep when it is time.

It is also a good idea to avoid naps, if possible. Naps decrease the overall amount of sleep debt that an individual has, and thus often makes it more difficult to fall asleep again at night at the proper time. This can potentially lead to insomnia. Bright lights should be cut off during sleep. The room should be dark, cool, and comfortable, with minimal distractions. Such an environment should promote good sleep hygiene.

You should also avoid spending extra time in your bed. Do not lay awake for more than ten minutes in your bed. You should also avoid participating in activities other than sleeping, like reading or watching television in bed. Such activities cause you to associate your bed with wakefulness, which is the opposite of what you want. Time spent in the bed should be reserved for sleep.

Of course, ideal sleep conditions vary based on the individual. What works for you may not work as well for someone else. The most important thing is that you do whatever works for you that promotes positive sleep hygiene.

The Effects of Sleep Hygiene on the Sleep Cycle

Good sleep hygiene can have extremely positive effects on the overall sleep cycle, which occurs in two basic states throughout the night. The two stages of sleep are rapid eye movement sleep (REM) and non rapid eye movement sleep (NREM).

Good sleep hygiene can promote REM sleep, which is a deep stage of sleep known for intense brain activity in the forebrain and midbrain. REM sleep is characterized by the presence of dreams as well as the absence of motor function, except for the eye muscles and the diaphragm. REM sleep occurs cyclically several times during sleep, and it is when the deepest sleep occurs. Despite being the deepest state of sleep, it comprises the smallest portion of the total sleep cycle.

Good sleep hygiene has a positive effect on the other basic state of sleep, which is non rapid eye movement sleep, or NREM sleep. This is the state of sleep that a person is in right after falling asleep. Good sleep hygiene allows an individual to fall asleep quicker, and progress through the stages of sleep with less arousal.

Examples: Before I became really strict about my sleep hygiene, I had terrible insomnia.

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