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 Sleep Hygiene
Health

What is Sleep Hygiene and Why is It Important

Tara Youngblood · May 27, 2022
 Sleep Hygiene

There is an old Irish proverb that says:

“A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book.” [1]

It turns out that your grandmother and great-grandmother were right. Decades of research have confirmed their wise advice: the duration, as well as the quality of sleep, are foundational to human health, productivity, and happiness.

In this blog we'll cover the following:

The path to good sleep, especially now, can be long and winding. After all, we're constantly bombarded by the pressures of work, family, and global events. We're also so busy that we sadly put our sleep needs on the back burner.

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Unfortunately, many of us have been conditioned over the years to minimize the value of healthy sleep habits. We know now from definitive and well-executed research over time that sleep is not an optional activity. [2]

So, what helps us along that path to high-quality sleep that rejuvenates our mind, body, and spirit?

The answer lies in optimal sleep hygiene.

What is Sleep Hygiene?

Sleep hygiene is the combination of influences of your daily habits that create opportunities for uninterrupted, restorative sleep. It includes a sleep-supportive bedroom environment, relaxing pre-bed routines [3], and regular bedtime and wake-up schedules. All of these steps work together to give you optimal sleep hygiene. [4]

The ideal sleep hygiene strategy is different for everyone. Many factors come into play, including the following:

  • Do you travel?
  • Does your job require shift work?
  • Do you have a medical condition or take medication that interferes with sleep?

Also, we're all unique, with different backgrounds, cultures, and genetic histories. Thus, it takes time to explore and establish your own sleep hygiene design.

The Value of Sleep Rituals

Social scientists and psychologists dedicate tremendous clinical inquiry into the benefits of ritual behaviors. Often, the term “ritual” invokes big events, such as weddings and graduations.

There are numerous smaller but no less important habits that calm or give us confidence. Think of when you high-five your child before a big test. We also listen to our favorite music or wear a lucky shirt before important meetings.

As humans, we naturally take comfort in engaging in preparatory activities because it reduces anxiety and uncertainty. Performing rituals with the intention of certain results increases chances of success. [5]

Our sleep hygiene or “sleep rituals” needn't be particularly complex, flashy, or expensive. Study findings indicate regularity of daytime activities could improve sleep. Bedtime routines can be as simple as gazing at favorite photos or playing music that reminds us of a cherished vacation.

Even the act of tidying your sleep space or fluffing up pillows can signal to mind and body that it’s time to settle down for the night.

Healthy Habit Formation

The benefits of sleep rituals are closely tied with the concept of habit formation. Thought leaders at the Health Behaviour Research Centre at University College, London, strongly emphasize the value of habit formation for numerous health behaviors. The development of healthy habits begins simply with goals that can be easily reached. These little changes add up to big achievements in sleep hygiene.

Dr. Roy Baumeister, a psychologist at Florida State University, has done multiple studies on human decision-making and willpower. His research reveals that we are excellent at changing our behavior to achieve long-term goals and benefits. This is done by avoiding tempting situations and replacing unhealthy behaviors with healthy ones. [6]

Complete goals

How to Improve Sleep Hygiene

In the world of improving sleep, healthy habit formation encompasses many strategies. A bedroom environment that's conducive to sleep is well-supported by research.

Room Temperature

This includes keeping the temperature on the cool side, banning TVs from the bedroom, and making sure the bed is comfortable.

Limit the Use of Electronics

Free yourself from electronic devices 30-60 minutes prior to bedtime. This decreases mental stimulation and minimizes blue light, which can keep us awake. [7]

Meditation Exercises

Many meditation and breathing routines can effectively clear your mind and slow your metabolism. [8,9]

White Noise

“White noise,” or sound-masking equipment, such as from a fan, has been shown to induce sleep. [10]

Finding What Works for You

The beauty of an individualized sleep hygiene strategy is that you create something that works best for you. Thus, if you travel, your sleep recipe and special toolbox can travel with you.

Sure, you won’t be able to sleep in your own cozy bed while staying at a hotel. But still, you can certainly pack your comfy slippers and lower the room temperature. Every little bit helps when trying to maintain your bedtime ritual! [11]

Tara Youngblood: How A Sleep Recipe Changed My Life

Whether at home or on the road, many people can relate to the stress that’s created during the holidays or family gatherings. Even though we love our families, the tensions created can be similar to those of many high-stress professions.

Why should you practice good sleep hygiene? It’s important to create good sleep hygiene, it can help people cope with these stressors.

Admittedly, it can be difficult to find that "sweet spot" of the perfect sleep hygiene strategy. When it comes to caffeine intake (which includes other substances in addition to coffee), empirical research has reported a variety of findings.

The discrepancy might be due to the concept of half-life. Half-life can be described as the amount of time it takes for the body to metabolize approximately half of the drug it has consumed. In the case of caffeine, half-life is used as an approximation of when effectiveness begins to decrease. [12,13]

The way that caffeine affects us depends then, on our tolerance level, genetic make-up, total daily caffeine intake, and our individual body metabolism. For some people, caffeine has no effect at all. [14-15]

Sleep Hygiene Checklist

The below checklist can help you find new ways to improve your sleep and bedtime rituals. Applying minor changes or adjustments can improve the quality of your sleep, resulting in more energy and improved mood. Give one or two a try, but be patient; keep in mind that it will take a few days (or weeks) to see changes.

  • Create a regular bedtime routine
  • Start winding down 1-hour before bedtime, limiting access to TV, smartphone, and computer.
  • The bedroom should be cool and dark.
  • Exercise daily. Try to avoid strenuous exercise 2 hrs before bed.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol before bedtime.
  • Create a relaxing routine, including relaxing music, Yoga Nidra for sleep, meditation, or reading before bed.
  • Write down last-minute thoughts.
  • Create a sleep diary - track what is affecting your sleep.
  • Evaluate your bedroom temperature.

Signs of Poor Sleep Hygiene

How do you know if you There are common signs of poor sleep hygiene, including:

  • Experiencing frequent sleep disturbances
  • Suffering from daytime sleepiness
  • Difficulty or inability to fall asleep
  • Lack of sleep quality and quantity
  • Frequent trips to the bathroom
  • Often waking up gasping

Final Thoughts

There are many benefits of good sleep hygiene, including preventing and developing sleep disorders and other related concerns. Sleep hygiene is essential for everyone, from early childhood to adulthood.

Scientific research continues to untangle the magic and mystery of this critical part of human self-care and development. One of the conclusions is that various sleep hygiene strategies work differently depending on genetics, personality, body metabolism, and a host of other factors. If you are still having trouble sleeping, it's recommended you speak with your doctor.

At Chilisleep, we encourage the exploration of your ultimate sleep hygiene design.

As Dr. William Dement, founder of the Sleep Research Center at Stanford University, once said, “You’re not healthy unless your sleep is healthy.” [16] In addition to his groundbreaking research, we wouldn’t be surprised if he also listened to his grandmother.

Citations:

1. (Author) (n.d.). Sleep: In Words Smart, Strange, and Funny Quotes About Sleep. End Your Sleep Deprivation: Through Science and Sleep Education. (Eds. & Contributors, students of Dr. William C. Dement, Stanford Sleep and Dreams Course.

2. Worley, S.L. (2018) The extraordinary importance of sleep: The detrimental effects of inadequate sleep on health and public safety drive an explosion of sleep research. P&T. 43(12): 758–763. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6281147/

3. Gino, F., Norton, M.I. (2013, May 14). Why rituals work. Scientific American. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-rituals-work/.

4. Suni, E. (2021, November 29). Sleep Hygiene: What it is, why it matters, and how to revamp your habits to get better nightly sleep. Sleep Foundation. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-hygiene.

5. Gardner, B., Lally, P., Wardle, J. (2012). Making health habitual: the psychology of ‘habit-formation’ and general practice. British Journal of General Practice. 62 (605): 664-666. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3399/bjgp12X659466. https://bjgp.org/content/62/605/664.

6. (Author). (January, 2012). Breaking bad habits: Why it’s so hard to change. NIH News in Health. https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2012/01/breaking-bad-habits.

7. Suni, E. (2021, November 29). Sleep Hygiene: What it is, why it matters, and how to revamp your habits to get better nightly sleep. Sleep Foundation. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-hygiene.

8. Westbrook, T. (2020, December 23) Meditation, Music, and Breathwork for Sober Living with Jason Campbell [Transcript of Podcast]. https://www.camelbackrecovery.com/meditation-music-and-breathwork-for-sober-living-with-jason-campbell/.

9. Irish, L.A., Kline, C.E., Gunn, H.E., Buyesse, D.J., Hall, M.H. (2015) The role of sleep hygiene in promoting public health: A review of empirical evidence. Sleep Med Rev. 2015 August ; 22: 23–36. doi:10.1016/j.smrv.2014.10.001. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4400203/pdf/nihms-635936.pdf.

10. Pacheco, D. (2021, January 22). Caffeine and sleep. The Sleep Foundation. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/nutrition/caffeine-and-sleep

11. Breus, M. (2018). How to create an effective bedtime ritual for better sleep. https://thesleepdoctor.com/2018/09/23/how-to-create-an-effective-bedtime-ritual-for-better-sleep/

12. Hallare J, Gerriets V. [Updated 2021 Aug 23]. Half life. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK554498/.

13. Irish, L. A., Kline, C. E., Gunn, H. E., Buysse, D. J., & Hall, M. H. (2015). The role of sleep hygiene in promoting public health: A review of empirical evidence. Sleep medicine reviews, 22, 23–36. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.smrv.2014.10.001

14. (Author). (2022, February 1). Caffeine use and athletic performance. https://www.drugs.com/cg/caffeine-use-and-athletic-performance.html

15. Drake, C., Roehrs, T., Shambroom, J., & Roth, T. (2013). Caffeine effects on sleep taken 0, 3, or 6 hours before going to bed. Journal of clinical sleep medicine : JCSM : official publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 9(11), 1195–1200. https://doi.org/10.5664/jcsm.3170

16. (Author) (n.d.). Sleep: In Words Smart, Strange, and Funny Quotes About Sleep. End Your Sleep Deprivation: Through Science and Sleep Education. (Eds. & Contributors, students of Dr. William C. Dement, Stanford Sleep and Dreams Course.

About the Author

Tara Youngblood

Tara Youngblood

Tara Youngblood is ChiliSleep’s co-founder and CEO. An accomplished scientist, author, and speaker, Tara’s unique ideas are revolutionizing the future of sleep health by making sleep easy, approachable, and drug-free.
Learn more about Tara.

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