People still struggle with the term “sleep hygiene,” even if they might actually be practicing it adequately. Maybe it has to do with the word “hygiene,” which most people apply more to bodily functions and dental care.
It might be easier to think of “sleep hygiene” as similar to the idea of “eating clean.” That is, making choices that are beneficial and which reduce your risks of adverse effects.
(This is the curator’s very informal definition of “clean eating” by the way; others will say “no processed foods” or “scratch cooking only” or some such, but the point is to practice eating that will enhance overall health.)
In the case of “sleep hygiene,” think of all the ways one can prioritize sleep so that ideal quality and quantity can be achieved, which will go a long way toward enhancing overall health and well being.
The term itself is not new and has origins in very early discussions about sleep health. Famous sleep researcher Dr. Nathaniel Kleitman began to write about the “hygiene of sleep” in the 1930s, when the concept of practicing behaviors and creating environments that encouraged good sleep was first discussed in his circles. His book, Sleep and Wakefulness (1939), included a chapter entitled “The Hygiene of Sleep and Wakefulness” and referenced even earlier discussions about sleep hygiene going back to Macnish (1834), Manacéine (1897), and W.H. Burnham (1920).
It wasn’t until 1977 that the term became useful in the mainstream with Peter Hauri’s publication of Current concepts: the sleep disorders, when he used an entire chapter to define sleep hygiene as the effects of environment, food, exercise, and medication on the sleeping process. Hauri was a psychologist who was famous for focusing on insomnia; he sought nonpharmacological treatments for sleeplessness that are now the basis for behavioral theories today for treating insomnia. He passed away in 2013 but not before leaving a legacy of books about sleep health including the bestselling title, No More Sleepless Nights.
To usher in this year’s SLEEP AWARENESS WEEK, we give you these various definitions of “sleep hygiene” for you to ponder.
“Sleep hygiene is the controlling of ‘all behavioural and environmental factors that precede sleep and may interfere with sleep.’ It is the practice of following guidelines in an attempt to ensure more restful, effective sleep which can promote daytime alertness and help treat or avoid specific kinds of sleep disorders. Trouble sleeping and daytime sleepiness can be indications of poor sleep hygiene or sleep habits. The International Classification of Sleep Disorders-Revised states on page 74: ‘The importance of assessing the contribution of inadequate sleep hygiene in maintaining a preexisting sleep disturbance cannot be overemphasized.’ In the ICSD-R, the diagnosis inadequate sleep hygiene is classified as an extrinsic sleep disorder, code 307.41-1.”
McGraw-Hill Concise Dictionary of Modern Medicine
“Sleep Hygiene: The maintenance of habits conducive to sound sleep and rest; for good SH, naps should be limited, exercise, proper nutrition, caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, worrying, etc, minimized before sleeping.”
“Sleep hygiene includes simple steps that may improve initiation and maintenance of sleep, such as maintaining a regular sleep schedule, making the bedroom an inviting place to sleep, avoiding alcohol, large meals, or smoking prior to going to bed, and exercising regularly (but not in the 4-5 hours prior to bedtime).”
National Sleep Foundation:
“Sleep hygiene is a variety of different practices that are necessary to have normal, quality nighttime sleep and full daytime alertness.”
“Sleep hygiene is the recommended behavioral and environmental practice that is intended to promote better quality sleep.”
[Credit: Irish, Leah A.; Kline, Christopher E; Gunn, Heather E; Buysse, Daniel J; Hall, Martica H (October 2014). “The role of sleep hygiene in promoting public health: A review of empirical evidence”. Sleep Medicine Reviews. doi:10.1016/j.smrv.2014.10.001. PMID 25454674.]