Getting enough high-quality sleep improves your mood, energy and productivity levels, promotes heart health and our immune system. Not to mention how refreshed you feel after a solid night of zzz’s. But sometimes good sleep evades us.
Poor sleep is often the first sign of stress or anxiety. Making simple ‘sleep hygiene’ changes to your daytime routine and bedtime habits can make all the difference between restlessness and restful sleep. So we’ve put together some Top Tips to help you get better sleep:
1. Stick to a sleep schedule
Circadian rhythms control our sleep-wake cycle, which makes us wake when it’s light and sleep when it’s dark.
Sticking to the same waking and bedtime every day helps regulate your body clock so that you fall asleep and stay asleep for longer.
Try and set a time to hit the hay every night, then set an alarm for 8 hours later to help you get into a rhythm.
2. Practice a relaxing bedtime ‘ritual’
Having a routine activity like stretching, self-massage or a light walk to clear your head before bed can calm your mind and place your body into ‘sleep mode’. If you struggle to quieten your mind down, focus on relaxing your body one muscle group at a time, starting from your toes, working your way up to your head.
3. Be organised
Use good time-management skills so you’re not racing around before bed then expecting to experience quality shut-eye. We like to keep to-do lists and manage our diary for the next day ahead of time so that’s one less thing to worry about when trying to fall asleep.
Put aside 15 minutes during the evening to sit somewhere quietly and plan the next day. Write down anything you need to remember for tomorrow so it’s not still swirling around in your head. Then let your mind wander through all the thoughts you didn’t have time for during the day.
4. Avoid caffeine (tea, coffee, soft drinks)
Caffeine is a stimulant with a half-life of up to 6 hours. So, if you consumed 100mg of caffeine, 50mg will still be in your system 6 hours later. Even if you don’t feel like it affects you, caffeine delays the timing of your body clock, making it difficult to fall asleep and reduces the number of deep sleep stages you enjoy. If you’re in the habit of having a tea or coffee after dinner, try switching to a herbal instead to promote better sleep.
5. Save alcohol for earlier in the day
Drinking alcohol before bedtime increases the number of times you wake up overnight and decreases the number of hours you spend in the deep, REM cycle of sleep where memory consolidation takes place. Limit your alcohol consumption to one to two drinks per day and ideally, avoid drinking before bedtime. I know right – talk about fun police.
6. Avoid large meals before bed
Ever experienced a restless night after a big meal out? Consuming a large meal before bed can not only leave you feeling uncomfortable, it also stimulates your metabolism making it difficult to sleep deeply. Try and have a lighter meal at night, at least 2 hours before bedtime. If you’re a meat eater, the amino acid tryptophan is associated with improvements in both total hours and the efficiency of sleep by increasing nocturnal immobility (REM). Often thought to be high in turkey meat but in fact, it’s found in all meats, but slightly higher in the leg meat of poultry (chicken and turkey)
7. Avoid blue screen lights and use your bed for sleep only
It is important to train your body that the bed is for sleep. Avoid watching television, eating or doing work in bed as this can make it difficult to unwind and power down when it’s actually time for bed. The blue light emitted from phones, TV’s and computers can disrupt circadian rhythms, making it difficult to get to sleep. Try using Night Shift on your screens which automatically shifts the colours of your display to the warmer end of the colour spectrum after dark.
8. Nap smarter
Power napping may sound like the solution to a night of poor sleep but afternoon napping decreases sleep drive. If you typically nap, try napping earlier in the day, before 2 pm and keep it short and sweet. 20 minutes allows you to rest without falling into a deep sleep and waking up feeling drowsy and fatigued.
9. Try using a Sleep App
We use Sleep Cycle which tracks your sleep cycle and sleep quality. It can be set to wake you up in a certain time window which doesn’t alarm until you’re in a lighter sleep phase. This helps to make sure you wake up feeling energised and refreshed rather than groggy!