The term "sleep hygiene" refers to behaviors or habits that positively affect the sleep of individuals and reduce sleep disorders. For this purpose, certain rules can be followed in relation to sleep, which promote a good and healthy sleep through their continuity. The implementation lies with each individual and, if consistently carried out, is an important building block in the non-drug therapy of sleep disorders. Especially in the case of minor disturbances of sleep, healthy sleep hygiene can bring about a significant improvement. In chronic sleep disorders, however, a cause research should be operated.

Rules for sleep hygiene

There are some pretty simple rules of conduct that help to promote sleep.


Regulated uptime is very important. Also at the weekend and on vacation you should always get up at about the same time. But you should not go to bed until you are really tired. Relaxing sleep rituals can help in the evening.
If you realize that you are in bed and can not fall asleep, you should get up again and busy yourself. Only when you feel really sleepy, you should go back to bed. The bed should be a place of sleep, so avoid working or reading in bed.
In addition, nap should be avoided if insomnia persists. It should not be done after 3pm, ideally 10-20 minutes.
Furthermore, one should avoid exposure to bright screen sources before sleeping. These include televisions, computers and smartphones, because they suppress the production of our sleep hormone melatonin due to their high proportion of blue light.

The sleeping environment

Create a cozy environment for sleeping, in which you feel comfortable. A comfortable bed is important as well as a quiet and darkened room that should be rather cool with enough fresh air. External noise should be kept as low as possible.


Care should be taken that no sumptuous meals are taken at bedtime. Small meals can be sleep promoting, especially if they are milk.


Stimulants are substances that have an activating effect on the body. An important representative is caffeine. It increases brain activity and thus negatively influences sleep.
Caffeinated drinks, such as coffee, tea and cola and freely available caffeine preparations from the pharmacy should not be taken 3-4 hours before bedtime. Moderate consumption of caffeine throughout the day has no negative effects on sleep.
However, excessive intake of caffeine a day can promote withdrawal symptoms and sleep problems.

Also important is nicotine. On the one hand, it can disturb sleep and, on the other hand, it can lead to sleep problems due to withdrawal symptoms during the night. Former smokers sleep better and wake up less often at night. At least 3-4 hours before going to bed should no longer be smoked.

Furthermore, alcohol should not be drunk 4-6 hours before sleep. Although this facilitates falling asleep, but leads to sleep problems and nightmares.


Regular exercise is important for healthy sleep hygiene. However, a very strong physical effort should be avoided until 6 hours before sleep. This means regular exercise is good, but putting yourself under pressure to sleep better usually results in worse sleep.

Sleep hygiene in the baby / toddler / child

The required bedtime of the child changes in the course of its development.
When a baby needs an average of 17 hours of sleep a day after birth, bedtime continues to decline. At the age of two, a child needs about 13.5 hours of sleep on average and only 12 hours at age 4. At the age of 10 years, the bedtime is about 9 hours and decreases in the adolescent age even further.

However, these are only average values ​​that can vary from child to child without any evidence of illness. In addition, different sleep types are not negligible. The so-called "larks" are typical morning people who are active early and fatigue in the evening. In contrast, the so-called "owls", who often have problems getting up, but are more powerful in the evening. These two forms can be observed in both children and adults.

Especially infants still have very restless phases that make longer sleep difficult. Proximity to parents is especially important at this time. Since the babies often need a meal at night, it makes sense to set up the cot in the master bedroom. Having your own bed for the child is important. In addition, the infant should sleep supine in a sleeping bag with no additional blanket. An environment that is smoke-free is immensely important. No pillows should be used and the mattress should be firm so that the child's head does not sink. The room temperature should be in the range of 16-18 ° C to avoid overheating. In addition, cuddly animals should be avoided in the bed of the babies, since there is a risk that they cover the face of the child.

To get the kids used to a day-and-night rhythm, it helps to keep the light subdued during winding or feeding at night. Toddlers and children can use an everyday evening ritual to fall asleep. This can be an age-appropriate story reading or listening to a cassette / CD. It is important that it takes place every evening and does not last longer than 30 minutes.

Try to introduce regular bedtime and getting-up-time. The midday sleep of the child should be longer than four hours from the bedtime. To fall asleep, the child is separated from the parents for a while. Therefore, it should also learn during the day, always for a certain time to separate from the parents and then reunite.

An environment in which the child feels comfortable is also an important prerequisite for good sleep. Sleep should not be negatively associated, so sleeping or bedtime should not be considered a punishment. All in all, regular bedtime and sleep rituals are important and can support healthy sleep for the children.

Sleep hygiene in old age

With age, the sleep phases of humans change, deep sleep decreases. Nevertheless, older people do not need less sleep, as is often assumed.

Often, however, the day-night rhythm changes due to the circumstances of life. Older people often go to bed earlier and wake up early in the morning, having already met their need for sleep, or have had many short sleep phases throughout the day. In addition, diseases can negatively affect sleep. For example, frequent nocturnal urination and chronic pain lead to increased sleep problems, often in the form of sleep problems.

Healthy sleep hygiene can help. Bedtime, for example, should not always be put forward and nap should be avoided as much as possible. A measured activity during the day is particularly important. Sleeping aids in older people should be critically questioned due to numerous side effects and discussed with the doctor. For sleep problems that last over a month and disturb the daily mood, it should be visited.

Sleep hygiene in depression

Sleep disorders can be observed in almost every depression. Often they are even the first signs of a depressive illness. They can express themselves differently, for example in the form of falling asleep or repeated, short awake phases. Most often, however, is the premature, early morning awakening with a typical low mood.

Seasonal depression, characterized by recurrent depressive episodes in autumn and winter, may also result in an increased need for sleep. Therapeutically, always treat the underlying disease, depression.

A sole prescription of healthy sleep hygiene or a sleeping pill is a mistake. If the depression is treated with an antidepressant, it should be kept in mind that the effect of the drug will appear only after some time. If the sleep disorder is very stressful, it should be addressed immediately. Non-drug treatment options for healthy sleep hygiene, as described above, and a possible short-term use of sleeping pills are advisable. However, this should be decided in consultation with the attending physician. In addition, a sensible selection of the right antidepressant through, for example, its sleep-inducing effect can positively affect sleep.

  • How can one recognize a depression?
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder

The right technique

The most important technique of sleep hygiene is to find continuity and regularity for itself. It can help to get a sleep diary to measure your own need for sleep and to control yourself. By applying the above rules, sleep patterns can be improved and healthy sleep promoted.

A regular time to get up, bedtime depending on tiredness, avoiding stimulants and regular exercise are the basic building blocks of healthy sleep hygiene. However, if sleep disorders persist for a long time, further research into the causes should be carried out with the help of a doctor.


A balanced diet promotes sound sleep. Hunger or a full stomach disturbs sleep. Therefore, avoid lavish, high-fat or spicy foods before sleeping. A small meal before sleep can help you fall asleep. Milk-containing products are especially recommended. In order to keep the urination low, no large fluid intake should be done at bedtime.

Sleep hygiene after jet lag

The so-called "jet lag" arises when crossing multiple time zones in no time, for example, during a flight. Typical symptoms include difficulty sleeping and staying asleep, daytime sleepiness, indigestion and lack of concentration. It can take up to a week for the symptoms to disappear.

Prophylactic can already be countered by booking day flights and no night flights. Direct flights during the day disturb the least our day-night-rhythm. At night you should definitely try to sleep, for day flights you should try to avoid this. At the arrival you should adapt to the local time of day and avoid temporary sleep. Physical activity during the day can help. Light plays a key role as a timer. If you want to stay awake, it helps to be exposed to bright light or to avoid bright light for sleeping.

If the stay in the new country is less than 48 hours, the usual bedtime can be maintained. When traveling west, you can try to go to bed a few days before your departure. Towards the east, on the other hand, it helps to sleep earlier and wake up earlier in the morning.

Sleep Hygiene (June 2020).

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