Most important things
Temperature – neither too hot nor too cold
A place to lie down and stretch out
If you have those things covered, you are most of the way to good sleep hygiene.
Bad sleep habits and practices lead to poor quality and inadequate sleep. These practices, rituals, behaviors, and norms around sleep are referred to as sleep hygiene. Improvements in sleep hygiene offer an “easy win” in the search for better sleep, and should be the first thing you go after when sleep troubles show up.
Silence or White Noise is probably the best. Total, absolute silence may be creepy at a subconscious level. Our primitive ancestors didn’t sleep in total silence. Mild and predictable sounds are tolerable for most.
Some people have televisions in their bedrooms and watching TV right before going to sleep (or worse, during nighttime awakenings) is not a good idea.
Further, looking up close at computer screens and tablets shortly before bed can be detrimental. The light from those screens, although dim compared to Sunlight, influences the brain.
It’s hard to get to sleep on an empty stomach, but dinner several hours before bedtime is usually adequate. Some people sleep better if they have a small snack before bed. Large meals, although they can make us sleepy, often result in disrupted sleep a few hours later, and sleeping after a large meal can make acid reflux worse in people who suffer that condition.
Caffeine and alcohol can disrupt sleep. The effects of these on sleep behavior vary widely from person to person. If you don’t know how your body reacts, keep a sleep diary and record your consumption times and quantities and sleep quality the following night.
Go to bed the same time every night.
Set alarm and get up the same time every morning (even if you had a bad night with frequent awakenings).
If you can’t get to sleep or wake up for an extended period during the night, get out of bed and do something else.
Consider your napping during the day – We support naps, but frequent or long naps can mess up your nighttime sleep.
Small nightlights might be OK, but some sensitive people can’t even handle that. Illuminated clocks even bother some.
Dedicated place for sleep. This is psychologically important. We don’t think expensive mattresses and bedding materials are worth it, but having a comfortable place to lie down and stretch out is important.
It is important to subconsciously connect being in bed with sleeping. Don’t read in bed or talk on the phone.
The right way to sleep is different for different people, and it may change for you over time. So just because you’ve found one optimal sleep regimen doesn’t mean that five years later your optimal may not have changed. Even in the short term, optimal sleep hygiene practices can vary from week to week. For instance, pain or sickness may make the sleeper wish to shift to a different bedtime or with different coverings, or menstruation may make women’s tolerance for cold and heat change. The best approach to sleep hygiene appears to be "strong opinions, loosely held". Go whole hog with your hygiene practices and keep doing them every night, but be ready to change them when needed.
Our quick fixes for insomnia start with sleep hygiene improvements.
"O Sleep, rest of all things, mildest of the gods, balm of the soul..."
(Iris to Hypnos. Ovid, Metamorphoses)