Ten simple tips to improve your sleep

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Are you not getting enough sleep at night? Do you have problems falling asleep or staying asleep? Do you want to improve your moods, concentration, memory, and overall wellbeing?

A good night’s sleep helps us to be at our best during the day!

Here are ten simple tips you can try throughout your day and night to help you get a better night’s sleep.

1. Habit is key – stick to a sleep schedule

Did you know heading to bed at approximately the same time every night will help improve your sleep? Being consistent is the key! It's also important to only go to bed when you’re sleepy as spending excessive time in bed when you're not ready to fall asleep may cause disturbed sleep. If you are wanting to change the time you go to sleep, it's best to do this gradually. Try going to bed about 15 minutes earlier or later each night.

Just like heading to bed at the same time every night can improve your sleep, so can getting up at the same time each day. This helps keep your natural body clock synchronised.

2. Create sleep rituals

If you want to be a better sleeper creating a sleep routine should be at the top of your list. Creating sleep rituals reminds your body to relax and prepare for sleep. Your sleep ritual could be as simple as:

  • Putting on your pajamas
  • Washing your face before bed
  • Brushing your teeth

You could add activities to your sleep routine for example:

  • Having a warm bath
  • Listening to meditation
  • Reading a chapter of your book
  • Sipping on a chamomile or sleep tea.

Remember, to fall asleep, we need to relax and be calm. It's best to avoid any activities or situations that may upset or excited you near bedtime. For example, don’t include checking work emails or brainstorming ideas for an upcoming project in your sleep routine.

3. Learn about your sensory needs

We all have different sensory reactions and preferences. Some things make us feel calm and settled, other things make us feel excited or 'revved up'. You will sleep better if you have the right sensory experiences during the day and calming sensations at bedtime.

Below are some examples of sensory needs at bedtime:

  • The feel of fleece overlays
  • Laying your head on satin pillowcases
  • Using weighted blankets
  • Tightly tucked sheets
  • Crawling into a freshly made bed.

4. Switch off the screens

Screens are the enemy of a good night’s sleep. This includes TVs, phones, computers, and video games. The bright blue light emitted by these devices can confuse our body clock, disrupting the level of melatonin (the hormone that helps us sleep) causing your body and mind to struggle to relax for the night.

To achieve a better night’s sleep, it’s best to avoid your exposure to bright lights, particularly blue light. Below are a few suggestions:

  • Switch off your screens at least 30 minutes before bed
  • Swap your phone for a book – this can help you relax both body and mind
  • If you’re getting up during the night to use the toilet, use a torch to light your path rather than turning on a light or your phone
  • As you wake in the morning, open your curtains first and expose yourself to natural light first, rather than turning on a light.

To learn more about the hormone melatonin, often referred to as the ‘hormone of darkness’ click here.

5. Eat well during the day

Eating a healthy balanced diet is important for a good night’s sleep. By fuelling your body with the right foods, you are giving your body the nutrition it needs to work during the day and rest at night.

There are food behaviours that can contribute to a restless night’s sleep. We’ve listed these behaviours below:

  • Try to avoid foods that are high in sugar or contain artificial sweeteners and preservatives
  • Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and energy drinks at least four to six hours before going to bed
  • Don’t go to bed hungry!
  • Don’t go to bed after eating a heavy meal. This may cause discomfort, resulting in delayed sleep.

If you need tips on eating well, you can visit Healthier.Happier 

6. Exercise daily

Regular exercise is great for your physical and mental health. It’s best to aim for exercise that increases your heart rate and lasts for at least 30 minutes each day. If possible, avoid exercising at least four hours before bedtime as it may result in you being more alert and awake, rather than tired and ready for bed.

7. Pay attention to your stress levels

To fall asleep, we need to relax our minds and bodies. If you’re experiencing stress, having worried thoughts, or suffering from anxiety, it might be harder for you to ‘switch off’ and relax enough to fall asleep.

There are a variety of exercises that can help you de-stress and relax, such as:

  • Journaling – if you find you’re mentally building a list of your tasks, try instead writing down all the thoughts running around your mind on paper. Your tasks will be ready for you tomorrow
  • Meditation exercises – you can find breathing and relaxation exercises online or by visiting the app store on your smart device
  • Speaking to someone you trust about what is on your mind.

8. Avoid daytime napping

It's easy to fall into the habit of making up for lost sleep during the day or afternoon. This can however mean we are less tired at night, and the cycle will continue and potentially worsen. If you are unable to stay awake during the day, try not to nap for more than an hour, and try not to nap after 3 pm.

9. Don’t clock watch

Checking the time throughout the night can make you feel more anxious or distressed about the lack of sleep you are getting. If you are turning on the light or looking at your phone to check the time, you are also exposing yourself to light which only further disrupts your sleep.

If you're struggling to get to sleep, rather than clock watching, get up and try again. If you have been unable to fall asleep after around 20 minutes, complete a calming exercise until you begin to feel sleepy, and then reattempt to fall asleep. Remember to avoid light!

10. The last tip - Know when you contact your doctor

If you’ve tried all our tips and are still tossing and turning each night struggling to get to sleep, it might be time to check in with your doctor. There can be a variety of medical and mental health issues that can impact your quality of sleep.