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What is Sleep Hygiene?

Feet on the end of a bed sticking out from under a blanket

By Kearisten Gaines, M. A.

Sleep hygiene consists of a number of different habits, routines, and practices that help us to obtain restful sleep, which allows us to wake up ready for the day's activities. Restful sleep allows us to put our best foot forward in our physical activity, our mental capabilities, and our overall mood. There are a number of tips and tricks that can help improve your sleep hygiene, as well as your readiness to take on the day. Some of these tips and tricks may seem minor. However, studies show that even minor habits can play a large role in improving the quality of your sleep, and the extent to which you feel well-rested when waking up in the morning.

Let Me Pencil You In - Create a Schedule

It’s important that you attempt to get in bed and go to sleep at the same time each night, and set your alarm to wake yourself up at the same time each day. Even on the weekends! Also, it’s important to not try to “catch up” on sleep if you don’t sleep as well as you’d like. Similarly, avoid napping, as this may also disrupt your sleep schedule drastically. Keeping a set schedule helps your body to regulate its sleep patterns, allowing you to obtain more restful and sound sleep. 

Beds are for Sleeping

Try not to use your bed for anything besides sleeping and sex. Doing so teaches your body that when you get in bed, you don’t necessarily want to go to sleep. Using your bed for sleep alone helps your brain to establish a connection between your bed and restful sleep. As the connection between your bed and sleep strengthens, your brain will begin to send sleepy time signals to your body as you get into bed, or even enter your room! 

Similarly, if you find you are unable to fall asleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed and engage in a monotonous or calming activity. Then when you feel tired, get into bed and try again. Staying in bed when you are unable to fall asleep or are not tired can weaken the brain connection between your bed and restful sleep. 

Caffeine, Nicotine, and Alcohol Are Enemies of Sleep

If you are going to consume these substances, it is best to do so 5-6 hours prior to your scheduled bed time. Caffeine and nicotine act as stimulants and are likely to keep you awake past your scheduled bedtime. Even though many individuals believe alcohol relaxes them and helps them to fall asleep, don’t believe the lies! These three substances can drastically change your sleep schedule, making it even more difficult to obtain restful sleep. 

Sleep Rituals

Developing sleep rituals can greatly improve your bedtime schedule and quality of sleep. Sleep rituals typically consist of engaging in calming and/or relaxing activities before bed. These rituals will tell your body it is getting close to sleeping time.

Here are some relaxing activities to consider adding to your sleep schedule:

  • Soaking in a hot bath 2 hours before it is time to go to sleep.
  • Drinking a "sleep" tea blend.
  • Using essential oils that help you relax.
  • Reading
  • Coloring

Get in the Cozy Mindset

Is your bedroom a relaxing place to be? Is it somewhere that you feel relaxed and comfortable? Your bedroom should be one place in your residence that is comfy and relaxing. This is important because, again, it will strengthen the mind’s connection between sleeping and your bed/bedroom. If your bedroom needs a cozy makeover, consider these tips:
  • De-clutter! Make sure your room is tidy and an inviting place to be.
  • Ensure that you have fresh linens, comfy pillows, and soft blankets on your bed.
  • Wear cozy pajamas to bed.
  • Keep your room's temperature slightly lower than usual.


Sleep hygiene takes some practice, be patient with yourself! Here are some helpful websites that can aid in sleep quality! 

This is a website and app for iPhone and Android users. This is the Internet’s most popular rain experience! It provides comforting sounds of rain, water, and storms that may aid in falling and staying asleep. Give it a try!

This is both a website and app for iPhone and Android users. It allows users to manipulate a continuum of frequencies to find the most enjoyable and relaxing listening experience specifically for their needs. Using this program allows the user to camouflage outside or background noises to aid in sleep quality. 

Other Useful Apps

Other useful apps include but are not limited to:
It may take some time to find the best strategies for you.  Keep at it and find what works for you and your sleep.  

Kearisten Gaines

Kearisten Gaines has earned Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology and is currently a Psychology Doctoral Intern here at the Carruth Center, where she provides individual and group counseling services, and conducts psychological assessments. She completed her Master’s Degree and her graduate course work for her Doctorate Degree at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology in Chicago, Illinois. Kearisten will be graduating this July 2019 with her Doctorate Degree in Clinical Psychology (PsyD). Kearisten has conducted sleep hygiene workshops in other college settings outside of the WVU Carruth Center. 

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