Sleep hygiene help: practical ideas to get better sleep

woman lying on bed sleep hygiene

Do you need help to improve your sleep hygiene? Sleep hygiene, the processes you put in place around your sleep, is having a moment. You’ve probably read a dozen lists on what you need to do to have great sleep hygiene. They all repeat what we know; avoid caffeine in the afternoon and to go to bed at the same time each night. But the lists can seem unrealistic or aspirational. It’s difficult to put these ideals into our daily lives with no specific, practical suggestions. We’ve got the best tips to help you make good sleep hygiene part of your every day, with minimal effort on your part!

Before we delve into the good stuff, here is a quick explanation of sleep hygiene for those unfamiliar:

What constitutes good sleep hygiene?

According to the National Sleep Foundation, the most important sleep hygiene habit is to spend an appropriate amount of time in bed (not too much or too little). They also list these other good sleep hygiene practices:

  • Limit naps to thirty minutes
  • Have a regular bedtime routine
  • Avoid stimulants close to bedtime
  • Daily exercise and sunshine exposure
  • Avoid rich/fatty/spicy food close to bedtime
  • Have a comfortable, quiet, dark and cool bedroom

Indicators of poor sleep hygiene are daytime sleepiness or taking too long to fall asleep.

How to make good sleep hygiene actually happen for you

Adjust your lighting

Install smart lighting

Install smart lighting in your house—everywhere! We know how bright lighting keeps us awake. Have you ever gone camping? It’s difficult to stay up late, as it’s a biological response for our bodies to get ready to sleep when it goes dark. The Philips Hue smart lighting system is super easy to set up and customise throughout your home via their app. You can start with just one room and upgrade each room over time.

Create different lighting settings for different times of day to help your sleep hygiene. For example, you might have a sunrise early morning, bright white lights until 5pm, then a gradual sunset until bedtime. Overnight, you might have red lighting only, triggered by motion sensors in the bathroom, hallways, or under the bed. The red light will help to keep your hormones in “sleep mode” rather than blasting your eyes with a bright light halfway through the night.

sleeping at sunset is good for sleep hygiene
Bring the relaxation effects of a sunset into your home

Create a sunset throughout your home

Once you’ve got smart home lighting set up, you can simulate the sun setting inside your house and use this to trigger your bedtime routine, timing your bedtime to the “sunset” time. For the two hours before your designated bedtime, the lighting will gradually soften into a golden yellow, into a blood orange and eventually fade out completely. A natural sensory delight!

If you can’t have smart lighting…

If you can’t afford smart lighting, or you are living somewhere that it’s not practical for you to set it up, try these ideas instead:

  • Replace lightbulbs with a warm yellow hue bulb instead of a bright white
  • Place a dim lamp in the bathroom for evening use
  • Install dimmer switches for lighting in your home
  • Purchase a Philips Somneo, so you can create the sunrise and sunset functions in just one room. The Somneo has an alarm clock function and is light enough to travel with if you want to replicate your smart lighting when you’re away from home.
The Somneo, a beautiful addition to your side table that will help your sleep hygiene

Wear blue-light-blocking glasses

girl wearing red tinted glasses for before bedtime to help with sleep hygiene
BLUBlox glasses

Nerdy? Maybe. Effective? Yes.

If you know you can’t avoid screens around bedtime, BLUBlox glasses are what you need. Sometimes, no matter hard we try, we must have bright lights on at night or use our phones or laptops until late. You can continue your evening plans worry-free when you wear these glasses. They block all blue and green light (they are the best on the market), which will help your body release melatonin for sleep. Pop these glasses on about an hour before you plan to go to bed. We don’t recommend wearing these bright red eye-catchers out in public unless you’ve got plenty of confidence!

Banish your phone from your bedroom

Delete Netflix and disable addictive apps

Many people watch Netflix on their phones as they settle into bed and suddenly find they’ve spent a couple hours watching shows instead of sleeping. If late night netflixing is a problem for you, delete the app from your phone.

app to help sleep hygiene

You can also choose to disable apps from a specific time in the evening, so if you’re a late-night chatter on What’s App, Messenger or Instagram, you can disable these apps between pre-set times by using Flipd. This will essentially lock you out of your distracting apps and allow you to start your evening unwind time without technology.

Use a Kindle

If you’re watching videos or shows, it’s presumably because you want a little fun to escape from your hectic day. The problem with Netflix in bed is that it’s so stimulating and it’s so hard to exercise control to not click on to the next episode. You can still get the escapism hit through reading. Any e-reader will work, but the Kindle has a fantastic dimming light so you can read it on low light with the bedroom lights turned off.

Sleep hygiene nerds should avoid stimulating books, like gripping fiction or self-help books that make your mind alert with reflection and ideas. We recommend biographies or dry non fiction. Sapiens, by Yuval Noah Harari, is a good example for calm bedtime reading!

Put your phone to “bed” each night

If staying up late on your phone is a real temptation for you, put your phone to bed. You can do this by setting up a phone charger in your living room or hallway and put your phone to “bed” on it’s charger each night. You can also set rewards for yourself if you find this challenging, such as letting yourself buy a coffee before work the next day.

This clock has no lights to disturb your sleep and has a silent movement

Buy an alarm clock

If you use your phone as your alarm clock, you’ll need to buy an alarm clock. If you like an analogue clock, make sure it has a silent mechanism so the ticking doesn’t disturb you. We like the vintage-yet-minimal Karlsson clocks.

Power down your brain and body

Make grooming part of your evening routine

An evening grooming routine of a hot shower, dental care and facial care can easily take twenty minutes. Put all these activities together right before bed and this will help contribute to your one hour of power-down time before bed. Find other grooming activities to move into your nightly routine to extend this, such as nail care, teeth whitening or dry brushing.

Gentle stretching

If you only have a few minutes in your evening, try some relaxation stretches. Gentle yoga allows your body to loosen up for sleep while you focus on deep breathing. It’s important not to strain yourself, only stretch as deep as your body naturally goes, and to use blankets or blocks to support your body when needed.

Try the following poses:

OR if you have plenty of time to enjoy your power-down, follow along with Yoga with Adriene’s yoga for sleep video.

Gaiam make a 8mm thick yoga mat, perfect soft cushioning for pre-bed stretching

Try the super-thick Gaiam yoga mat for lots of cushiony comfort for bedtime stretching

Monitor your stress levels

You can’t sleep when your mind is buzzing about a work project or a relationship issue. Imagine taking that stress and putting it away for the night by writing it down in a journal. You can also help to clear your mind by writing down anything you need to remember for the following day.

Practise a few minutes of mindfulness

It’s perfect to do this once you’ve turned out the light and you’re ready to go to sleep. By taking a few moments to breathe and focus your mind, you’ll let go of the stress from the day and allow your brain to slow down for sleep. Here are some ideas for you to try:

  • Body scan. Close your eyes and start from your toes, squeeze them and release them, feeling all the tension in your toes melt away. Move up and squeeze and release your calf muscles. Keep going all the way up your body, squeezing one little area of your body at a time and shutting it off. Finish with squeezing and softening your jaw and eyes. Continue feeling your softened muscles as you breathe deeply and slip into sleep.
  • Use an app, like Headspace. Headspace have several neat sleep meditations you can use to help you fall asleep.
  • Try compassionate mindfulness. As you breathe in, think of someone you want to wish compassion and good things towards, as you breathe out, send a thought of kindness to them. Repeat your breathing with the same person and same wish of kindness to them. After this, try turning the compassionate mindfulness to yourself, breathe in “I wish myself” and breathe out “patience with *insert current struggle*” (or whatever your compassionate wish is towards yourself).

Read Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker

If you’re not motivated to have good sleep hygiene, read this book. It will make you very aware of how important sleep is and inspire you to get organised with your sleep habits. Think twice about reading it before bed – it might make you anxious about going to sleep!

Make sleep time attractive

Make your bed inviting

Do you love flopping into the bed in a five-star hotel? Why do you love it? What’s different about the hotel bed and yours? If your bed becomes your haven, you’ll be more inclined to get into bed at a sensible time.

Here’s what we recommend for a slumber-perfect bed:

  • A comfy bed. Can’t afford the bed you love? Consider a deluxe mattress topper.
  • Quality bed linens (and wash them every week!)
  • A plush pillow. Buy the top of the line, most comfortable pillow you love, and you’ll never look back. Just like a bed, spend time at a store trying the pillow styles out before buying. You might not be able to afford a top of the line bed, but you can probably afford the nicest pillow. It’s an awesome feeling when your head sinks into the comfiest pillow every night.

Try other sensory experiences to make bedtime more luxurious:

  • Light a scented candle or spray a room mist. Try lavender, coconut or vanilla for relaxation.
  • Keep a hand cream by your bed and give your hands and arms a relaxing massage.

Cool the house

If you find it hard to stop what you’re doing in the evening and go to bed, set up a trigger that you can’t avoid- cooling the house down. As you start to feel cold, you will be incentivised to go to bed for warmth! We recommend using the affordable Wyze smart plugs for your fan/heaters or setting up with a Nest thermostat or Sensibo (if you are a techie), to control your air conditioning unit automatically.

Track your sleep hygiene

If you get motivated to keep up a routine by seeing your progress, start monitoring your sleep (and enhance your sleep) with the Dreem headset and app.

For a 10% discount on the Dreem headset, use the code BXDHNAAEZ

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