Sleep education

Basic Sleep Hygiene

Andreas Meistad Cognitive Behavioral Therapist
Last updated
August 20 2019

Short term sleep problems are common. Most of us can relate to having nights where sleep just won't come. Here's some basic advice to drastically cut down on those sleepless nights.

Get out of bed at the same time each morning.

The two most important factors that help you sleep is your circadian rhythm and sleep pressure. By getting up at the same time each morning, you adjust your circadian rhythm and build up enough sleep pressure for the following night.

Don’t go to bed until you are sleepy and get out if you can’t sleep. Use the bed and bedroom for sleeping only.

When you toss and turn in bed and can't sleep, you get stressed and associate this stress with your bed or bedroom. Avoid this by waiting to go to bed until you are ready to sleep and get out if you're not sleeping in about 20 minutes. The same thing happens when you do other things in bed than sleeping. It's recommended that you only use the bed and the bedroom for sleep (and sex).

Avoid daytime naps

Every minute you are awake, you build up sleep pressure, which adds up. If you nap, you release some of the pressure, and it will be harder for you to fall asleep when you should. Short naps under 30 minutes can be OK for some, experiment with this and see what works for you.

Avoid caffeine

Caffeine is excellent for waking you up in the morning, but if you drink coffee in the afternoon, your ability to fall asleep will be significantly reduced. This is caused by the way caffeine blocks a sleep-promoting hormone in your brain called Adenosine. People's sensitivity to caffeine varies, and some get rid of the caffeine faster than others.


Alcohol might help you fall asleep faster but research has shown that alcohol affects your sleep quality by suppressing REM sleep. Alcohol also has the negative effect that it will make you sleep lighter and frequently wake you up.


Sunlight in the morning, right after you wake up will adjust your circadian rhythm and make you sleepier in the evening. Some research also suggests that our circadian rhythm is affected by the blue light emitted from mobile phones and laptops. There is now built-in software in most devices that can filter out this kind of light.

When sleep hygiene isn’t enough

When people really struggle with sleep and have done so for a while, sleep hygiene advice is often not enough. If you have already employed many of the steps described here with little success the American Academy for Sleep Medicine, The American College of Physicians and the European Sleep Research Society recommends cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I). Read more about CBT-I on

Also available in PDF format

Basic Sleep_Hygiene (Letter)

Basic Sleep Hygiene (A4)