A lack of sleep can negatively affect a person’s quality (and length) of life. It lowers our immune defences, affects our brain’s ability to function and has a knock-on effect to vital parts of our physical and mental wellbeing.
It can seem like a hard process to set yourself up for a good sleep so we developed a list of 12 sleep tips to help you get the best sleep possible.
Consistent sleep patterns
The average adult needs 7-8 hours of sleep every night, so it’s important to create a routine that allows for this.
Work your way backwards from when you must begin your day to know your bedtime.
Carry this through the entire week, even the weekend. A regular routine keeps your biological clock steady.
Ideal sleeping environment
Create an environment that is conducive to good sleep by removing and adding some elements in the bedroom.
If you’re having trouble sleeping, technology must stay outside the bedroom. Phones and computers not only represent our stresses throughout the day but their light tells your brain it’s not time to sleep yet, reducing quality and quantity of your sleep, and negatively affecting your health.
Keep your bedroom cool in both visual and temperature terms. A dark or calming colour on the walls will calm the senses. A cooler bedroom will lower your body temperature, triggering the body to release melatonin, a hormone which induces sleep.
Make sure to eliminate any light sources that may fool your brain into staying awake; creating a dark room will help encourage a deep sleep and allow you to stay asleep.
If noises such as dogs barking, traffic, or TVs inhibit your brain from switching off, think about employing a white noise machine. These are designed to help you sleep by creating a low-level soothing noise (much like rain).
It’s important to combat snoring for both yourself and your partner. Snoring can lessen your quality of sleep and create a barrier for your partner.
An easy way to deal with this is to make sure not to sleep on your back, as this blocks the airway. If it persists there are many snoring devices, therapies and procedures to ensure that you and your loved one get a good night’s rest.
It’s important to separate business and pleasure, so too it should be in the bedroom.
Have a clearly defined study/workplace at home outside of the bedroom. This will ensure that your brain associates the bedroom with sleep and sex only!
According to the Better Sleep Council, when asked ‘What’s keeping us awake?’
- 2% claim to worry about current events
- 16% claim personal finances
- 23% claim family issues
It’s important to distance yourself from things that cause you stress throughout the day. Writing out the things that are preoccupying your mind before you go to bed is an excellent way to put them out of your mind.
Keeping a journal or spare papers that can be put away after use is a great way to quiet the mind before sleep.
Doing a cardio workout can improve the quality of sleep. Even moderate exercise, such as walking, relaxes muscles, increases blood flow, and aids sleep.
It’s important to remember, however, that all exercise should be completed well before you plan on sleeping; exercise elevates your body temperature for between 2-4 hours, inhibiting sleep.
More than half of people who sleep with their pets say that they disturb their rest, according to a survey from the Mayo Clinic Sleep Disorders Center.
If your pet sleeps well and helps you relax it is encouraged, just remember who’s in charge next time you want to stretch your legs at night to give yourself a comfortable, healthy sleep.
Minimal food and drink
Finish your food at least a couple of hours before bedtime. A heavy meal sitting in your stomach will interfere with sleep quality.
It’s best to stop your caffeine intake after lunch, it stays in your system and can keep you awake, throwing off your routine. Alcohol has the same effect, so finish your wind-down drink a few hours before you sleep, giving your body time to digest it.
Many smokers experience withdrawal pangs at night and are more likely to wake up feeling less well rested.
Nicotine is a stimulant, so it’s recommended to reduce your intake and not have any in the last hour before bed.
Short naps can be helpful without disrupting your routine.
If you must nap during the day, keep it to 20 minutes or less. This will limit any effects on your health or your night-time sleep pattern. Experts say even a 10-minute nap can improve alertness for 2-3 hours when you’re sleep deprived.
The right equipment
Your mattress and pillow should provide full comfort and support. Your tossing and turning may be more to do with what you’re sleeping on than your sleep habits.
Your body and factors in your life will change over time, so choosing a mattress that suits you and your needs is important. You should expect to swap your mattress every five to ten years.
Couples who sleep on a double bed have much less room than they may realise. In a small bed, problems such as your partner tossing and turning, snoring, and temperature regulation becomes exaggerated. Whether you sleep with a partner or alone, you should have enough room to sleep comfortably.
Generally, pillows should be replaced every 12 to 18 months, WebMD reported. The right pillow should help you find a more comfortable position to sleep in.
Opt for a pillow that allows your neck and spine to align naturally—your pillow should never cause your neck to be flexed or raised. A pillow may also ease stiffness in the lower back; putting a pillow between your legs will align your hips better and decrease the stress in that area.
If you have allergies, you may need to seal your mattress and buy a new pillow. Over time, they can fill with mould, dust mite droppings, and other allergy triggers, which leads to poor quality sleep.
If you or your partner steals the covers, it might be a good idea to try making the bed with separate sets of sheets says Robert Oexman, D.O., Director of the Sleep to Live Institute told HuffPost in 2013. Spikes and dips in temperature can wake you and lower your quality of sleep, so having your own sheets can maximise comfort.
Track your performance
Tracking and monitoring your sleep can help you understand what works for you and what doesn’t. Note and review the following over time to learn more about your quality of sleep.
- What time you go to bed
- How many times you wake up during the night
- How you feel in the morning
- What you ate or drank close to bedtime
- What exercise you got during the day
Give bad sleep a rest
The first step to getting better sleep is understanding your habits and what’s preventing you from sleeping. If you notice a pattern in your routine that’s inhibiting your sleep, correct it as soon as possible and you’ll be making up for lost sleep in no time.
Want more sleep tips? Check out our blog for information and resources to help you get the best sleep possible.