Nobody wants to be still awake looking at the clock at 4:45am unnecessarily! Now more than ever, we must all recognise the importance of a good night’s sleep in terms of our physical health, our mental health, our sanity and our ability to cope with everyday stresses. Based on our research, here are our 10 Top Tips from Sleep Experts.
Routine, Routine, Routine
Create a sleep schedule and stick to it. The importance of this cannot be stressed enough, and could be the reason many of us are currently having particular difficulties. Routines are all over the place for many of us right now. It means that going to bed and getting up at the same time every night (yes that means the weekends too) could do wonders for your sleep.
Your Sleep Space
Where you are trying to sleep may be hindering your sleep patterns so take a look at your bedroom and try to establish the optimal conditions you need for sleep. Your bedroom should be cool, ideally between 15-19 degrees Celsius. In the evening time, try to keep the lights low and avoid exposing yourself to harsh light. Avoid looking at your phone or computer for at least an hour before bed and keep your actual bedroom as dark as possible. That means unplugging any bright alarm clocks. Consider using blackout curtains, eye shades, ear plugs, “white noise” machines, humidifiers, fans and other devices that might help to block out sounds and lights that might interfere with your quality of sleep.
Only use your bed for sleeping and sex
Don’t bring work, reading or TV to bed. If sleeping is an issue for you, experts recommend only using your bedroom for sleeping and sex. So don’t lie there for three hours tossing and turning or stay up late working in your room – get up and do a soothing activity. For some people, using an electronic device such as a laptop can make it hard to fall asleep, because the particular type of light emanating from the screens of these devices is activating to the brain. If you have trouble sleeping, avoid electronics before bed or in the middle of the night.
We’d also recommend you take some time to wind down before bed. Your body needs time to shift into sleep mode, so whenever possible spend the last hour before bed doing a calming activity such as reading. If reading is not your thing, try doing some meditation or some yoga or simply some mindful breathing. And most importantly, don’t stay in bed if you can’t sleep. Don’t waste hours tossing and turning as this will merely add to your stress and won’t help matters. Get up and move to another room, relax for a while and try again.
Comfort Is Key
Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows. Your bed should be a relaxing place, and that won’t happen if you’re tossing and turning on your mattress trying to find the ‘sweet spot’ or if you’re fussing over your pillows as you’re not comfortable. Your mattress should be comfortable and supportive and remember that they do have a life span – about 9 or 10 years for most good quality mattresses.
Have comfortable pillows and make the room attractive and inviting for sleep. Consider too the material of your bedding. Is it too warm for this time of year? Is it time to change your duvet or blankets?
Get some exercise
Exercise can help you sleep better! Regular exercise, particularly in the fresh air, during the day can be a miracle worker for good quality sleep. However, try not to exercise up to two hours before bed, because this can have the opposite effect!
Say NO to Late Dinners/Snacks
If you are in the habit of eating too late in the evening, this could keep you up at night. Eating big or spicy meals can cause discomfort from indigestion that can make it hard to sleep. If you can, avoid eating large meals for two to three hours before bedtime. Try a light snack 45 minutes before bed if you’re still hungry. Remember too that sugar and carbohydrates could give you an energy boost right when you don’t want one though, so choose your snacks carefully.
Consider Your Diet
Believe it or not, your diet and nutrition can have a dramatic impact on our sleeping patterns. Certain nutrients are important for stress and sleep and lacking in these nutrients can have a detrimental effect on our sleep patterns. According to the Sleep Doctor “People with low magnesium levels often experience restless sleep, waking frequently during the night.
Maintaining healthy magnesium levels often leads to deeper, sounder sleep.” Introducing other nutrients and herbs can also help with sleep issues. For example, the amino acid L-Theanine is thought to improve relaxation and calming of the mind before bed, while herbs such as Chamomile and Lemon Balm have been used for centuries for their calming effects.
Watch Your Caffeine
Caffeine can help to keep you awake and alert, which is fine during the day but it’s important to remember that it can stay in the body for up to 8 hours, so if you have issues sleeping, you should have your last cup of tea or coffee by 2pm at the latest. Be careful with sugary drinks too and remember the effect that they could have on your sleep later.
Limit alcohol before bed
While alcohol can make you sleepy and is sometimes what we turn to in the evenings to relax, it’s important to know that it can also interfere with sleep, so that you never get into a proper deep sleep. The result is that you can wake up groggy, so consider cutting out alcohol to see what effect it has on you.
Manage Your Stress
Daytime stresses can easily cause you problems as we lay down in bed. For some of us, this is the time where our minds start to process what’s gone on that day and when we start thinking about the next day’s plans. This is a bad habit, which you need to kick ASAP. Try chatting to others about your worries and if you’re finding it hard to cope, don’t be afraid to look for help.
As well as seeking help from friends, consider looking at your dietary requirements. The B Vitamins are thought to boost energy and help with the functioning of the nervous system which controls our stress response. Introducing a B-Complex to your daily routine could help. Many people also find it helpful to write down their problems. Some people keep a notebook beside their bed and jot down any worries or thoughts that are stressing them out and keeping them from sleeping. The notebook can also be used for taking that To Do List out of your head for the next day. Write it down and forget it about it.