Sunday, August 5, 2018

Five Ways to Improve Your Sleep: #1 Good Sleep Hygiene

Celebrate the Sleep News!
If you follow my page on Facebook, then you've seen the announcements for a new sleep series for this site. And this week, they are rolling out! Hurray!
The theme this month is sleep: sleep problems, sleep disorders, and sleep treatments. Why? Because, I've realized just how pervasive the problem is--sleep questions are the most common topic of the messages I receive.

I've also seen an unfortunate shortage of explanatory resources. Many sites give loads of information on sleep, without citing where that information comes from, or why it works. And for those that do cite, it's often written for medical professionals. Apparently, they don't see a need for a format that provides simplified explanations with research to support them.

So this week, I'm releasing the first phase of my project: a resource that gives simple explanations for sleep treatments. Every entry will have written explanations and a handy graphic. I'll briefly explain what the treatment is, how and why it works, and how it should be practiced.

Of course, these are explanations, not recommendations. Remember, my goal is to share and spread medical research; I am not giving out medical advice. However, I hope these explanations can help you make informed personal decisions and arm you with knowledge when you meet with your personal physician.

Now, without further ado:

Five Ways to Improve Your Sleep: #1: Good Sleep Hygiene 

What is Sleep Hygiene?

Sleep Hygiene is a list of behaviors that are associated with better sleep (1). In addition to shortening the amount of time it takes to fall asleep (sleep latency), the behaviors can also help improve the quality of your sleep (2&3).

In the short term, they help create appropriate sleepiness the day/next day that they are practiced; in the long term, they help condition (train) better alertness during wake times and more restful sleep at sleep times (4).

Why the Name?

You may be used to hearing the word 'hygiene' in reference to sanitation. However, it actually refers to any behaviors/conditions that help people to maintain good health. Thus, the listed behaviors have all been linked to better sleep health. 

Why Does it Work?

Going from 'awake' to 'resting' is a transition that requires physical and chemical changes in our brain. That transition is initiated by a series of bodily and external/situational signals. 

While some people are sensitive enough to simple signals (such as fatigue or darkness), others are less sensitive to common signals; furthermore, some people require more salient signals to trigger sleep. Such people are more prone to sleep problems, including insomnia. 

However, practicing good sleep hygiene can provide more signals for initiating sleep, and it can also make existing signals more salient (2).

How to Do it: 

Review the recommended list of behaviors (see above) and consider integrating them into your daily routine. If you are not currently practicing a large number of these behaviors, it may be helpful to gradually adjust your routine. 

Some changes may require discussion with your personal physician, particularly those that may affect existing conditions or health problems. 

Consistency works best, because the proscribed behaviors affect short term and long term factors for sleep wellness. Sleep hygiene helps give your body sleep signals, and it also conditions your brain to recognize more signals as 'sleep time'. Furthermore, it conditions your brain to be alert during appropriate times. 

For sleep hygiene's conditioning to work, it requires regular practice and exposure to the routine. Thankfully, even just being aware of sleep hygiene can improve our ability to practice healthier sleep behaviors (5).


  1.   Mastin, D. F., Bryson, J., & Corwyn, R. (2006). Assessment of sleep hygiene using the Sleep Hygiene Index. Journal of behavioral medicine, 29(3), 223-227.
  2.   Stepanski, E. J., & Wyatt, J. K. (2003). Use of sleep hygiene in the treatment of insomnia. Sleep medicine reviews, 7(3), 215-225.
  3.   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.
  4.   Guilleminault, C., & Brooks, S. N. (2001). Excessive daytime sleepiness: a challenge for the practising neurologist. Brain, 124(8), 1482-1491.
  5.   Brown, F. C., Buboltz Jr, W. C., & Soper, B. (2002). Relationship of sleep hygiene awareness, sleep hygiene practices, and sleep quality in university students. Behavioral medicine, 28(1), 33-38.


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About The BedRiddenHead

I want to be happy. And this site is about that chance. How to strive to thrive in the body I've got and maybe turn my experiences into something worthwhile.

This site aims to help educate and reach out to people all over that struggle with pain or illness. To try and make something helpful. I work as a medical research writer, my background is in neuropsychology and biology, and I want to share what I learn in a way that is easy to understand. I am not a doctor. I'm definitely not your doctor. I am just some lady who wants to make someone's (anyone's) life a little bit better. Whether you have endometriosis, a chronic injury, a struggling friend, or just want to learn something new, I hope to make a place that has what you are looking for.

Thank you for stopping by, I wish you strength in your health and happiness.