Sleep hygiene is routines or habits that promote more restful and restorative sleep. The following are good sleep hygiene tips to help you get a better sleep.

Get up at the same time each morning, including weekends. Maintaining a reasonably early awakening time is one of the important time cues for the 24-hour circadian sleep-wake rhythm. Breaking this rule causes sleep disruption in both good and poor sleepers.

Do not take naps. Napping disrupts the sleep-wake cycle, particularly if the nap occurs more than 10 hours after the major sleep period. If you nap at irregular times, this will further disrupt the sleep-wake cycle.

Reduce or eliminate the use of alcohol. Do not drink alcohol later than 2 hours before bedtime. Although alcohol may help you fall asleep faster, it actually disrupts sleep during the night and decreases the quality of sleep.

Reduce or eliminate the use of caffeine. Do not consume caffeine after about 4:00 pm. Caffeine is a stimulant, so it should be avoided if you want to have a good sleep. Sources of caffeine include coffee, tea, colas, and chocolate.

Reduce or eliminate the use of nicotine. Like caffeine, nicotine is a stimulant, so do not smoke within 4 hours of your bedtime.

Exercise regularly. Exercising regularly can improve the quality of sleep, but try to avoid strenuous physical exertion 5 to 6 hours before bedtime. Gentle or relaxing exercise can be done before bed.

Eat a light carbohydrate snack. A snack such as crackers and milk may help promote sleep if you tend to eat more in the second half of the day, but avoid large meals before bedtime.

Adjust the sleep environment. Your environment should be comfortably warm (or cool), with minimal levels of light and noise.

Only use the bed for sleeping and intimacy. Avoid watching TV, working, or reading in bed. This only serves to weaken the association your brain has that being in bed means going to sleep. If you are having trouble falling asleep, don't stay in bed. Instead, get up and read or listen to music and go back to bed when you feel drowsy.

Try relaxing activities before going to bed. Doing something relaxing like taking a warm bath, doing yoga or relaxation exercises can help your muscles and mind relax which will help you fall asleep faster.

Try to get sunlight in the morning. Exposure to sunlight helps to set the body's circadian rhythm or internal clock so that you're more likely to fall asleep at night.

original article by Jon Fleming, MD,
with revisions by the MediResource Clinical Team