Do you ever struggle with low energy and motivation levels?
The problem could be that you’re not getting the recommended 7-8 hours of quality sleep each night.
In our modern-day, tech-filled society, good sleep hygiene has gone out the window and been replaced with habits that lead to sleep deprivation and decreased performance.
In fact, people often wear their sleep deprivation like a badge of honor. Professional athletes and rappers can often be heard boastfully saying “no time for sleep” or “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.”
And the CEOs of huge multi-million and billion dollar companies talk about how the key to their success was only sleeping 4 hours a night for the last 20 years.
Have you ever felt pressured to “hustle” and be productive 24/7/365?
This sort of attitude seems to have become pervasive in our capitalistic culture over the last few decades.
When time is money, suddenly there’s no time for sleep.
With this shift in mindset, lack of sleep has become the norm rather than the exception.
In this post, I’ll discuss some of the bad habits surrounding sleep hygiene that can lead to sleep deprivation, poor health, and decreased performance.
Then I’ll give you some ideas about how you can work towards improving your sleep hygiene to feel more energized, motivated, and function at your best.
Table of Contents
What Is Sleep Hygiene?
Sleep hygiene is simply a set of habits that affect sleep quality either in a positive or negative way.
Good sleep hygiene results in getting enough sleep so you feel rested and can function at your best.
Poor sleep hygiene on the other hand, is a set of negative sleep habits that result in either not getting enough sleep, or getting poor quality sleep.
What Does Poor Sleep Hygiene Look Like?
You likely already have a pretty good idea of what poor sleep hygiene looks like, so I’ll just hop right into the list.
Examples of poor sleep hygiene include:
- Staying up waaaaaaaay too late binging on whatever is trending on Netflix this week (let’s be honest, we’ve all been there).
- Not having a regular bedtime and wake up time.
- Napping too much during the day.
- Using electronics with blue light too close to bed time.
- Working, eating, or watching TV in bed.
- Not giving yourself time to unwind before bed etc.
This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but it should give you a good idea of things to avoid for a good night’s sleep.
Now let’s take a look at how & why poor sleep hygiene affects your health.
How Poor Sleep Hygiene Negatively Affects Health
Poor sleep hygiene that is not addressed will turn into long-term sleep deprivation.
This lack of sleep has many, MAJOR negative health consequences, some of which are listed below.
Poor sleep hygiene & sleep deprivation can lead to increased risk of:
- Work accidents.
- Car accidents.
- Trouble with memory, decision making, and focus.
- Alzheimer’s Disease.
- Weight gain & obesity.
- Chronic stress, irritability & moodiness.
- Clinical depression.
- Decreased immune system function.
- Cardiovascular disease.
- Insulin resistance & diabetes.
Pretty scary right?!
Even just one bad night of sleep can cause problems like an increase in blood pressure and stress hormones.
Poor sleep hygiene can even sabotage your health, fitness, and weight loss goals!
For all of these reasons it is absolutely critical to prioritize getting enough sleep.
How To Gradually Improve Your Sleep Hygiene
There are many different factors that can prevent people from getting the recommended 7-8 hours of quality sleep each night.
Stress, anxiety, distractions around bedtime, and disruptions of circadian rhythms can all play a role in poor sleep quality.
In the next section I am going to provide a list of healthy sleep habits. When you are reading these, keep in mind that everyone is different.
Not all of these will work well for you. And you definitely do not have to do each and every single one of these things to get a great night’s sleep.
Treat this list like a menu. Find one or a few items that look good to you, and give those a try first. If the method you chose worked well for you, awesome, build it into your bedtime routine!
If you try something and it isn’t a great fit for you, no big deal. Toss it out and try something else.
Remember, building healthy habits requires some experimentation and trial and error.
The point is not to change everything overnight but to gradually improve your sleep hygiene over time so that you can function at your best.
20 Sleep Hygiene Tips To Improve Energy & Motivation Levels
In the following sections I lay out my best tips for improving sleep hygiene in 4 major categories: environment, habits and routines, circadian rhythms, and stress management.
Optimize Your Environment For Sleep
When it comes to getting quality shut eye, your sleep environment (aka bedroom) matters! Follow these next 4 tips to optimize your room for sleep.
1 – Get Cozy!
One of the simplest things you can do to improve your quality of sleep is to make sure your bed is comfortable. Otherwise you’re likely to be tossing and turning all night.
According to the Sleep Foundation, mattresses should be replaced every 6 – 8 years. Going any longer than that can cause back pain which makes it difficult to sleep well.
If you think about it, you spend one third of your life sleeping, so it’s worth the money to invest in a good bed.
And if you’re a person that loves comfort, fluffy pillows, blankets and nice sheets might actually make you excited about crawling into bed and getting the recommended amount of sleep, so go crazy!
2 – Stay Cool
Try to keep your bedroom nice and cool. If the room is too warm, it can be uncomfortable to sleep (as I’m sure you’ve experienced!).
According to research, the ideal temperature for sleeping is between 60 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit (15.5 – 20 degrees Celsius).
I know, it seems pretty chilly, right?
But just think how cozy you’ll be cuddled up under a nice, soft, fluffy comforter! It’ll be nearly impossible NOT to doze off.
3 – Set Boundaries For Your Bedroom
One maybe not so obvious tip about sleep hygiene is that you want to condition your body to automatically think of sleep when you climb into bed at night.
In order for this to work, you have to set some boundaries when it comes to your bedroom and bed.
For example, it is recommended to avoid eating, watching TV, and working in bed.
If you do these sorts of things in bed, your body gets confused, and does not get the message that it’s time for sleep.
4 – Minimize Distractions
Distractions are a big part of not getting enough sleep even when you are tired.
If you find yourself delaying bedtime to watch one more episode, play one more level or read one more chapter, then you know exactly what I’m talking about.
It can be easy to say “just one more” over and over again until you’ve talked yourself out of a good night’s sleep.
If this sounds like you, it can be helpful to set a limit or goal around the distraction.
For example, if the distraction is television, some ways to do this might be:
- I will turn off the TV by 8:30PM on work nights.
- Or, I will watch x episodes then turn off the TV.
By going in with a plan it can be much easier to turn off the lights and get to sleep when you should.
You can even set a timer on your phone to tell you when it’s time to turn off the distractions and start settling in for the night.
My phone even has a built in function for this!
Build Healthy Habits & Routines
The better your habits throughout the day and at bedtime, the easier it will be for you to get the 7-8 hours of sleep each night that your body has been begging for.
5 – Move Your Body!
It has long been known that higher levels of activity during the day make it easier to sleep when bedtime rolls around.
Any exercise is better than none, but the type of exercise that seems to work best for improving sleep is longer duration exercise.
So in terms of getting enough ZZZ’s, it’s better to jog, cycle, or walk briskly for 40 min, than to do 15-20 minutes of something more intense like sprinting.
One thing I should mention is that some people may have trouble sleeping if they exercise too close to bedtime.
If that does turn out to be the case for you, you can simply move your workout a little earlier in the day.
6 – Give Your Body Time To Digest Before Bed
When I was a little girl, my dad always told me that eating right before bed would give me terrible nightmares.
I don’t ever remember experiencing that, and now realize that it was probably just a scare tactic used by an exhausted parent to get a very persistent child to stay in bed after lights out.
But, research does show that it’s not the best idea to go to bed on a full stomach.
Doing so can make it more difficult to digest food and can lead to heartburn, bloating, and fitful, poor quality sleep.
To avoid these complications, try to avoid eating within 2-3 hours of bedtime.
7 – Take a Hot Shower
Scientists have found that a hot bath or shower 1-2 hours before bed can relax the body and prime you for an amazing night of sleep.
So try working a nice steamy shower or bubbly bath into your bedtime routine!
8 – Take Time To Unwind
Unfortunately, you can’t just flip a switch and go to sleep (wouldn’t that be amazing though?!).
Instead, you need a gradual wind down period where both your body and mind can relax after the tasks of the day.
It can be really helpful to have a regular relaxing bedtime routine to help unwind and destress.
Everyone is different, so there is no one-size-fits-all “best” routine. But here are some ideas that you might pick and choose from to create your own relaxing bedtime routine.
- Spend quality time with a loved one
- Watch a favorite show
- Cuddle a pet
- Read a good book
- Drink some calming tea
- Do a skin care routine
- Try meditation or breathing exercises
- Listen to some relaxing music
- Do some gentle stretching or yoga
- Write in your journal
- Light a smelly-good candle
This is far from an exhaustive list, but I hope it gives you some ideas!
9 – Make A Sleep Schedule
If you’re anything like me, the word “bedtime” might make you outwardly cringe.
Although, probably not as much as the ear-splitting shriek of your alarm clock the next morning after having stayed up too late the night before.
As uncool as it may sound to have a “bedtime” after the age of 12… going to sleep and waking up around the same time each day can make a world of difference in how you feel and perform throughout the day.
I typically recommend thinking about what time you have to wake up in the morning and working backwards from there to set a bedtime that allows you to get the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep.
Once you’ve set an official bedtime for yourself, figure out when you need to start your bedtime routine to be relaxed and ready for sleep by your new bedtime.
Once you’ve got it set up, try to be as consistent with your new sleep schedule as possible.
This is not to say you can NEVER sleep in or stay up late (especially on the weekends). Just use your best judgement. Remember, all things in moderation.
10 – Limit Napping
When you haven’t been sleeping well at night, napping during the day can feel like a siren call that’s totally worth crashing your ship for (I mean messing up your sleep schedule for…).
But as I’m sure you’ve heard, napping can turn sleeping problems into a vicious cycle.
If you do need a nap during the day, try to limit it to no longer than 30 minutes so that you can get to sleep at a reasonable time when it’s bedtime.
11 – Limit Water Intake Before Bed
While it’s extremely important to stay hydrated, avoid chugging your whole HydroFlask right before hitting the sack.
Especially if you have a tiny bladder like me!
To prevent excessive nighttime trips to the bathroom, avoid drinking (more than a sip or two of) water within 2 hours of bedtime.
12 – Watch Your Caffeine Intake
Everyone knows that caffeine is a stimulant and that too much, too close to bed makes it hard to sleep.
Whether your caffeine of choice is coffee, energy drinks, or even caffeinated tea, drinking too much can create a vicious cycle.
When people drink too much caffeine in the day they often have to self-medicate with sleep aids to get to sleep at night.
Then, because of this, they feel groggy in the morning and consume even more caffeine. And around and around they go, feeling no more rested, only dizzy from running in circles.
If you are going to drink caffeinated beverages (I love my coffee in the morning!) try to do so in moderation, and give yourself a cut-off time – say 2:00PM for example.
Again, everyone is different, so experiment with the cut off time and amount of caffeine you can tolerate and still get to sleep.
Also try out different methods of improving sleep hygiene from this list to try and see if you can gradually decrease your dependence on caffeine over time.
13 – Don’t Use Alcohol As A Sleep Aid
When people get in the habit of passing their nighttime hours staring at the ceiling, it can be tempting to turn to alcohol to get some sleep.
While it is true that alcohol can usually help you fall asleep, research has repeatedly shown that the quality of sleep after alcohol use is extremely poor.
As a result of this fitful sleep, people often wake up as exhausted as if they hadn’t slept at all.
Reset Your Internal Clock
When it comes to the world of sleep, circadian rhythm is king.
The circadian rhythm is basically your body’s internal clock. It helps your brain know when it’s time to sleep, and when it’s time to be awake.
This internal clock gets a lot of it’s information about what time it is from the amount of light there is outside.
Once the sun goes down, your body starts releasing a number of hormones that make those eyelids start to feel unbearably heavy…
Then, when the sun comes up (hopefully after a good night’s sleep) your circadian rhythm tells you it’s time to wake up.
Unfortunately, many of us are now out of touch with our circadian rhythms.
The main reason this has happened is due to increased urbanization and advancing technology. Both of these things come with unnatural light which confuses your circadian rhythms, making it hard to fall asleep.
14 – Avoid Blue Light
Blue light is a particular wave length of light that the sun naturally emits. However, many electronic devices also let off a lot of blue light which can confuse our internal clock.
For these reasons, doctors recommend getting away from the blue light of our devices at least an hour before bed for optimal sleep.
So what devices produce blue light? Bad news… pretty much all of them, including cell phones, tablets, computer screens, most TVs, hand held video games, and even many types of e-readers.
If you’re struggling to sleep at night, you may consider unplugging for an hour or two before bed.
If this is more than you’re ready to commit to right now, I get it.
Here are a few other options to help you work up to it:
- Wear blue light glasses when using devices. They are a bit geeky with their purplish tint… but they help.
- Turn down the brightness on your devices.
- Consider adding blue light stick ons to electronics. You can find these easily on Google!
- Or you could listen to an audio book or podcast, or just go old school and read a paper book.
Whatever you decide, try to give those peepers a rest before bed!
15 – Keep Your Room Dark
When it’s time to settle in for the night, the more your room is like a cave the better!
Try to keep your room as dark as possible so your internal clock doesn’t even have a chance to get confused.
If you live in a city that has a lot of light pollution, consider getting blackout curtains.
Or if you have a lot of electronics with lights on them in your bedroom, try to cover the lights with tape or simply remove them from the room if you can.
This is a simple change, but it can make a big difference!
16 – Get Some Natural Light In The Morning
Hello sunshine! Throw open those curtains and expose yourself to some natural light in the AM.
This will cue to your circadian rhythm that it’s time to get moving (and it doesn’t cost a thing)!
17 – Get Outside During The Day
If you can, make an effort to get outside each day.
In my opinion, time in nature is the single most effective way to reset your internal clock.
Even a little bit of fresh air can help your sleep and mood quite a bit. But a lot can work wonders!
If you’ve ever gone camping out in the wilderness, way away from the city lights, then you know what I’m talking about.
Up Your Stress Management Game
When you’re constantly stressing out over work, relationships, and whatever else it is that you worry about, it will affect your sleep.
While you can’t always avoid stressing, you can learn to recognize your triggers and find coping strategies that work well for you.
18 – Try Free Writing To Wrangle Racing Thoughts
If you have a lot of racing thoughts before bed bouncing around inside your skull like a pinball, you might want to try free writing. I absolutely LOVE this technique which has worked wonders for me.
To practice free writing, grab a piece of paper and a pen, and set a timer for how long you want to write. I typically go for 10-15 minutes at a time, but it’s up to you.
Once you’re ready to go, write whatever comes to mind as fast as you can think of it, until the timer goes off.
Don’t worry about spelling, full sentences, formatting, or anything else. Just jot down all those worries and negative thoughts, and get them off your chest so you can sleep.
Pretty simple right?
It doesn’t need to be pretty. No one will see it but you, and if you want you can throw it away just as soon as you’re done.
I think you’ll find that just getting those racing thoughts or of your head and onto a sheet of paper will feel like a huge weight lifted from your shoulders!
19 – Write Tomorrow’s To-Do List
If you’re worried about all the things you have to do tomorrow, I find that writing a to-do list the night before is very helpful.
This prevents you worrying about forgetting something important all night long.
20 – Manage Stress Levels Throughout The Day
Finally, managing your stress levels throughout the day can make it easier to sleep at night.
Keep in mind that everyone deals with stress differently. But here is a list of common stress reduction strategies you can try on for size:
- Make time for things you are passionate about.
- Spend time with people you care about.
- Set boundaries with work.
- Relax and take breaks every now and again. You don’t need to be productive 24/7/365.
- Get some fresh air.
- Try meditation, yoga, or exercise.
What other things have you found that help you to manage your stress?
So they’re you have it, 20 different tips to improve your sleep hygiene so that you can function at your best!
As a review, these sleep hygiene tips fall into 4 main categories:
- Optimizing your sleep environment.
- Building healthy habits & routines.
- Resetting your internal clock.
- Managing stress.
Again, you do NOT have to do all 20 of these things to get a good night’s sleep!
If you are struggling with sleep deprivation, I would encourage you to peruse the 20 sleep hygiene tips I have presented here, and choose 1-3 to work into your life right now.
They could all be from the same category as seen above, or you can mix and match whatever seems right for you.
Then, once you’ve mastered those, try to add a few more until you’re hitting your sleep goals on a regular basis.
Now I’d love to hear your thoughts!
- Have any of these sleep hygiene tips worked for you in the past?
- Which would you like to try to add in the future?
- Do you have any go-to sleep tips to add to this list?
Let me know in the comments!
Until next time, happy sleeping!