February 1, 2023

Did you know your behaviors during the day and before bedtime, can have a major impact on your sleep? They can improve your sleep or contribute to sleeplessness.

“Daily habits, such as what you eat and drink, the medications you take, and how you spend your days and evenings can significantly impact your quality of sleep,” said Dr. Beth Malow, director of the Vanderbilt Sleep Disorders Center. “Just a few minor adjustments, in some cases, can mean the difference between a sound night’s sleep and a night of tossing and turning.”

How many hours should you be sleeping and what happens if you don’t get that amount?

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends that adults should sleep seven hours or more per night on a regular basis to promote optimal health. Sleeping fewer than seven hours per night on a regular basis is associated with adverse health outcomes.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention insufficient sleep has been linked to the development and management of a number of chronic diseases and conditions, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity and depression, so striving to get a full night’s sleep is about more than just feeling good.

What is “sleep hygiene” and how can it improve your sleep health?

The term “sleep hygiene” refers to a series of healthy habits that can improve your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. These habits can help improve your sleep as well as your health, and help you to wake feeling more rested and ready to face the challenges of the day.

Dr. Malow recommends these practices that can help improve your sleep health:

  1. Make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark and relaxing, and that the temperature is at a comfortable level. Consider using room-darkening shades, earplugs, a fan or other devices to create an environment that suits your needs.
  2. Turn off electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
  3. Remove electronic devices, such as TVs, computers and smart phones, from the bedroom.
  4. Avoid consuming caffeine in the afternoon or evening, and avoid large meals and alcohol before bedtime. If you are hungry at night, eat a light, healthy snack.
  5. Get some daily exercise. Being physically active during the day can help you fall asleep more easily at night. However, exercising close to bedtime can impact sleep quality. Aim to get your activity in the morning, afternoon or earlier in the evening.
  6. Keep a consistent sleep schedule. Get up at the same time every day, even on weekends or during vacations. Set a bedtime routine that allows you to get seven to eight hours of rest each night. Being consistent reinforces your body’s sleep-wake cycle.
  7. If you don’t fall asleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed. Go do a quiet activity without a lot of light exposure. It is especially important to not get on electronics.
  8. Establish a relaxing bedtime routine, such as taking a bath, listening to soothing music or reading a book.
  9. Use your bed only for sleeping and sex. Avoid “hanging out” in bed.
  10. If you tend to wake during the night to use the bathroom, reduce your fluid intake before bedtime.

Use a sleep diary

A sleep diary may be able to help you understand your sleep pattern and how much rest you’re getting. It also will show how often you have disrupted sleep. It allows you to record when you went to bed, woke during the night and woke in the morning. With the downloadable sleep diary from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, you can track the time of day when you exercise, nap or take a medication. You also will record the time when you have caffeine or alcohol.

This information will give your health-care provider an overview of your sleep schedule and may also help you identify factors that are causing a problem.

Read more about Sleep Hygiene and Healthy Sleep Habits at the links provided.

Woman asleep in a bed with puffy white comforter

Persistent problem with sleep?

If you have difficulty sleeping or want to improve your sleep, try following these healthy sleep habits. If the problem persists, talk to your health-care provider. You also can seek help from the sleep team at the Vanderbilt Sleep Disorders Center.

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