Sleep Hygiene

Sleep hygiene is the recommended behavioral and environmental practice that is intended to promote better quality sleep. Sleep hygiene recommendations include establishing a regular sleep schedule, using naps (with care), avoiding physical or mental exercise too close to bedtime, limiting worry, limiting exposure to light in the hours before sleep, getting out of bed if sleep does not come, not using bed for anything but sleep and sex, avoiding alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, and other stimulants in the hours before bedtime, and having a peaceful, comfortable and dark sleep environment.

One set of recommendations relates to the timing of sleep. For adults, getting less than 7–8 hours of sleep is associated with a number of physical and mental health deficits. A top sleep hygiene recommendation is allowing enough time for sleep. There is also focus on the importance of waking up each around the same time every morning and generally having a regular sleep schedule

Human sleep needs vary by age and among individuals. Sleep is considered to be adequate when there is no daytime sleepiness or dysfunction. Researchers have found that sleeping 7–8 hours each night correlates with longevity and cardiac health in humans, though many underlying factors may be involved in the causality behind this relationship.

Research also suggests that sleep patterns vary significantly across cultures (“Sleep”, 2019). Sleep deprivation, also known as insufficient sleep or sleeplessness, is the condition of not having enough sleep. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 79% of Americans are currently getting less than the recommended 7-hour minimum of quality sleep per night. The United States experiences some of the highest rates of sleep deprivation and sleep disorder rates in the industrialized world; it is worth examining aspects of American culture that contribute to this trend.

Researchers examining health trends in the United States have highlighted our time-sensitive culture, emphasis on technology, and general attitudes toward sleep as contributing factors to our sleep hygiene. In 2000, the average American worked 1,978 hours per year, 500 hours more than the average German but 100 hours less than the average Czechoslovakian (“Sleep”, 2019). Overall the United States labor force is one of the most productive in the world, largely due to its workers working more than those in any other post-industrial country (excluding South Korea). Americans generally hold working and being productive in high regard. Being busy and working extensively is a source of pride for many and, as they say in America, “time is money.” Additionally, while there is little dispute that technology has enhanced our daily lives, studies show it is also negatively impacting our sleep habits. The increased stimulation of our devices can make it more difficult to unwind at the end of the night, while the unique light put off by these devices also block key sleep hormones. According to the National Sleep Foundation (2019), children (ages 6-17) who slept in the same room as an electronic device reduced the amount of quality sleep by one-hour each night.

Overall health is correlated with the quantity and quality of our sleep. Studies have shown that those who engaged in protective habits (e.g., getting 7–8 hours of sleep regularly, not smoking or drinking excessively, exercising) had fewer illnesses, felt better, and were less likely to die over a 9–12-year follow-up period (Belloc & Breslow 1972; Breslow & Enstrom 1980). For college students, health behaviors can even influence academic performance. Poor sleep quality and quantity are related to weaker learning capacity and academic performance (Curcio, Ferrara, & De Gennaro, 2006). Overall, people with sleep less are more likely to be obese, report higher levels of stress, and/or report symptoms of a mood disorder than those who obtain optimal levels of sleep each night (CDC, 2014).


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Culture and Psychology Copyright © 2020 by L D Worthy; T Lavigne; and F Romero is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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