woman sleeping peacefully in bed

Count Down–Not Sheep–to a Good Night’s Sleep

February 22, 2024
dr. brooke aggarwal

Brooke Aggarwal, EdD, MS, FAHA, Assistant Professor of Medical Sciences (in Medicine) at CUIMC

Not feeling bright-eyed and bushy-tailed? You're not alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a third of American adults are not getting enough sleep, impacting their health. Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and depression are linked to lack of sleep.

So, how do we improve our sleep? For those without a clinical sleep disorder, it’s helpful to focus on good sleep hygiene. Establishing a consistent sleep routine can contribute to better sleep quality over time. A routine focused on the numbers “10-3-2-1-0” is a pre-sleep routine that promotes relaxation and signals your body that it's time to wind down for the night. Here's a breakdown of each number:

  • Ten hours before bed: No caffeinated beverages. Caffeine consumption should ideally end about 10 hours before you plan to go to bed. It takes roughly 10 hours after your last cup of coffee, soda, sports drinks, or other caffeine products for the body to get rid of caffeine effects. Read the labels on cans. Some headache medicines or other medications may contain caffeine. So, make sure to check those as well with your pharmacist.
  • Three hours before bed: No food or alcohol. Heavy meals and a working body close to bedtime can make it harder to fall asleep and impact the quality and patterns of sleep. Drinking alcohol before bed may seem relaxing, but it can disturb and disrupt deeper sleep patterns. 
  • Two hours before bed: No work. Your brain, not just the body, also needs to relax and prepare for sleep, even though it may be tempting to keep working. Create a buffer time zone between work and time to sleep to allow your brain to slow down and prepare for sleep.
  • One hour before bed: No screen time. Blue light from electronic devices has been shown to interfere with the sleep hormone melatonin, which helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle (circadian rhythm).
  • Zero times you should hit the snooze button in the morning and get up when the alarm goes off. Try and break the snooze button habit. It can impact how well you fall asleep later that night.

 “A healthy sleep routine is supported by what we do during the day. Getting moderate to high-intensity physical activity during the day improves sleep, as well as avoiding naps longer than 30 minutes, getting exposure to bright natural light in the mornings, avoiding alcohol or caffeine close to bedtime, having a relaxing bedtime routine, and keeping the bedroom cool and dark, “ says Brooke Aggarwal, EdD, MS, FAHA, a clinical health education specialist and assistant professor of medical sciences in the Department of Medicine (in Cardiology) at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons.

More Tips to Getting a Good Night's Sleep

Adjusting to the 10-3-2-1-0 routine can take some practice, but there are some practical things to do to help adjust:

  • If you're used to drinking coffee or caffeinated drinks during the day, after the morning cup, switch to water, seltzer, or herbal teas to stay hydrated.
  • Instead of working right before sleep, read, bathe, or calmly and slowly clean up around the house. Plan your wardrobe for the next day. Groom your pet or meditate. Begin to dim the lights in the bedroom or living room so they do not interact or interfere with melatonin levels. 
  • If you're a snooze button pusher, it may mean you need to get more sleep, so plan to go to bed earlier and the alarm clock or your phone is too close to your bed. Move it further away so you can get out of bed to turn it off. 
  • Keep a consistent bedtime and wake time when possible so your body gets trained to wind down and wind up at a particular time.

For more information on sleep hygiene, or if you're trying to get your teenager to bed earlier, check out our recent article on

teaching teens and their parents about sleep hygiene and heart health. Remember, there are resources for you and your family to get a good night's sleep; we are here to help.


Brooke Aggarwal, EdD, is a clinical health education specialist and assistant professor of medical sciences in the Department of Medicine (in Cardiology) at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons.