Sleep hygiene is the set of practices a person undertakes to sleep well at night in order to maintain full alertness throughout the day, and chances are: If you're an American, your sleep hygiene is probably poor. Bad habits and practices throughout the day, evening, and night all contribute to our tossing and turning throughout the nighttime hours and the resultant weariness that lasts throughout much of the day. This creates a vicious cycle of masking sleepiness and only being partially present at work and at play.

However, improving sleep hygiene isn't a gargantuan task; it's as simple as committing to change your habits and then, following through on that commitment. From cutting back on naps to taking care to exercise earlier in the day, here are five steps almost anyone can undertake in order to improve sleep hygiene.

1. Only Use Your Bed for Sleep and Sex

For ages, the only activity besides sex and sleeping that occurred in our beds was the leisurely practice of reading a book. After the television was invented, however, all that changed. It wasn't long before people began purchasing extra televisions for multiple rooms, and the health-damaging practice of watching TV in bed was born. From there came the ubiquity of using inter-connected devices in bed: Blackberries, laptops, smartphones, tablets, and the like.

While it may be entertaining to check Facebook right before bed, studies have shown that it will disrupt your sleep when bedtime is nigh. So, commit to only using your bed for sleep and sex to better your sleep hygiene, and you'll find your rest is easier and less fitful. While you're at it, be sure to make your mattress an asset to your improved sleep hygiene, too. While Sleep Number beds are popular, a Personal Comfort Bed is also a good choice and provides better all-around value.

2. Stop Napping

Naps seem like a pretty straightforward way to catch up on sleep, especially if you've had a few rough nights of sleep in a row. However, napping has been shown to derail attempts to sleep well at night. Napping during the day will disrupt your circadian rhythm — the patterns of waking and sleeping that help us rest at night and stay awake during the day.

Your body is sensitive to your behavior at different times of day, and good sleep hygiene requires that daylight means it's time to be awake and alert, and darkness means it's time to go to sleep.

3. Establish a Sleep Routine and Stick to It!

One way to easily assist your natural circadian rhythm is to establish a sleep routine and stick to it, regardless of whether you're on vacation or enjoying the weekend. Getting up at the same time each day, and going to sleep at the same time each night will dramatically aid your ability to sleep better and stay awake more easily throughout the day.

4. Avoid Nicotine, Caffeine and Alcohol

Nicotine and caffeine are two very popular stimulants that can help perk you up throughout the day, but when you use them near bedtime, they can make a good night's sleep all but impossible. While many smokers feel that a cigarette before bed is a relaxing practice, the stimulant will actually make your brain and body more alert, and caffeine is a notorious sleep stealer.

If you do drink caffeine or use nicotine-containing products, taper off their use by midday, so your sleep won't be too negatively affected. Using alcohol, while it doesn't act as a stimulant in the body, is also a poor sleep hygiene habit, because the way the body metabolizes it during sleep causes wakefulness, sweating, and even nightmares — all of which will make getting a good night's sleep more difficult.

5. Exercise Early

Exercising regularly is a powerful way to improve your sleep hygiene, because it results in better sleep. In fact, the harder you exercise, the better you'll sleep, because there seems to be a direct correlation between the amount of physical exertion and the resultant rest your body requires to recover well. But exercise should be undertaken early in the day to be as helpful as possible.

While it's true that exercising at any time will tire you out and aid sleep, the immediate effects of exercise actually invigorate you and make sleeping more difficult. Because of this reality, it's best to exercise early on so that by the time night rolls around, the effects of exercise that make you more awake and alert have worn off, allowing you a better night's sleep.

Get a better night's sleep and fill your days with energy and wakefulness by improving your sleep hygiene with these five steps.

Author's Bio: 

Cher Zavala has worked extensively in the Health Industry, and has written many helpful articles on how to find options for treatment and targets health related issues. She loves sharing her experience and knowledge with the blogging community, and knows firsthand the complex issues facing addicts in recovery.