Healthy sleep habits

“Each night…you hold a key…to help you rewire and heal your brain…You can start these changes tonight.” – Dr. Michelle Olaithe, PhD, Clinical Director of

Healthy sleep habits (also called sleep hygiene) are important for general health and well-being. Also, if you have a mental health condition, and especially if you have a sleep disorder, healthy sleep habits are an important part of the treatment.

As Dr. Michelle Olaithe, PhD, pointed out in her TEDx talk, sleep is critical for your mental and physical health. If you’d like healthier sleep habits, we’ve listed some tips below. If you aren’t following all these steps yet, that’s okay! Any improvement, even if it’s small, is much better than no improvement, and is worth celebrating.

When reading the list below, remember that you don’t need to aim for perfection. Dr Olaithe says that: “One of the biggest problems in sleep is people thinking they need to get it all right!” Instead of focusing on where you’re falling short, it might help to remember that even getting a somewhat decent night of sleep can be incredibly helpful – and any step you take towards that is better than not taking that step.

⏰ Keep a regular sleep schedule

  • Get up at the same time every morning, even on weekends (being consistent about your waking up times is more effective than setting a bedtime, but when you can, be consistent with both waking up and bedtimes – this helps your body clock, also known as your circadian rhythm) 
  • Try not to stay in bed too long once you’ve woken up
  • Have a daily wind-down routine in the lead-up to your bedtime

🛑 Avoid things that will wake you up near bedtime

  • Avoid caffeine at least 8 hours before bedtime

  • Don’t take daytime naps lasting more than 20-30-minutes, and don’t take them less than 4 hours before your bedtime

  • Limit night-time light exposure, especially from devices with screens

  • Do not check your phone or watch things in bed (don’t use your bed for anything except for sleep and [if applicable] sex)

  • Avoid exercising to the point of sweating within one hour of bed (instead, exercise in the earlier parts of the day, including early afternoon)

  • Don’t do important work (such as scheduling or study) or things that wake you up (such as playing games, using the internet, or cleaning) just before bedtime 

  • Don’t take your negative emotions to bed with you – write them down somewhere before you go to bed

  • Don’t plan or worry about things while in bed – schedule other times to do those things, or note them down on a notebook well before you go to bed, and remind yourself that you can handle it in the morning

  • If you have trouble sleeping for more than ~30 minutes, leave your bed and go to a quiet area to reset by taking some sips of water. You could also listen to an audiobook, or read a book (using a dim light) until you feel tired enough to go to bed again

  • Avoid alcohol, smoking, drug use, and high sugar intake

🛌 Make your sleeping environment comfortable

  • Ensure that your bed is comfortable and that you feel comfortable throughout the night
  • Avoid too much light or noise in the bedroom, allow for some circulating air (if possible), and make sure the temperature is comfortable for you
  • If possible, keep your bedroom cool, ideally between 19-20 degrees Celsius (if this is comfortable for you)

😴 Here are some bonus things that may help:

  • Make sure you are getting treated for any mental or physical health problems that could be affecting your sleep, such as sleep apnoea or pain 

  • Make sure you are getting regular exercise (see our page on this topic for tip

  • If you can, go outside once you’ve woken up and look at the blue sky (this can help with your circadian rhythm, or body clock). Getting outside is much more effective than looking through a window 
  • Use a comfortable eye mask and/or ear plugs if morning light or noises are problems for your sleep
  • If possible, ask the people who live with you to make changes to their routine so that they are going to bed and waking up at similar times to you

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