Healthy sleep habits
Sleep Tip #1: Keep a regular sleep regime
- For good sleep, you’ll feel more refreshed when you’re aligned to your body’s natural sleep cycle
- Pick a time when you normally feel tired as this is when your body is telling you to sleep, keeping the routine at the weekends is obviously harder, but you’ll reap the benefits if you do.
- If you are changing your bedtime, do it in 15 minute increments giving your body time to adjust.
Sleep Tip #2: Don’t watch TV in bed
- At night, a lot of people watch television to help them to fall asleep. This supresses the body’s production of melatonin, the sleep-controlling hormone produced by your body.
- The light from television actually stimulates your brain, rather than relaxing it.
- Try listening to gentle music, reading or some relaxation exercises.
- If you’re worried about missing a show, catch up TV and digital recorders are a great way to avoid missing out.
Sleep Tip #3: Keep your room cool and dark
- If your bedroom is too hot or too cold, this can impact your sleep.
- Keeping your bedroom temperature on the cool side, around 65° F or 18° C will help aid better sleep.
- If you read from an electronic device, use one that is not backlit.
- Low-wattage bulbs help avoid light stimulation before sleep.
- Use heavy curtains on windows, wear a sleep mask over your eyes and cover electronic displays.
- If you need to visit the toilet at night, try using a flashlight to avoid brain stimulation from bright lights.
Sleep Tip #4: Get into a relaxing routine
- A peaceful routine tells your brain it’s time to sleep, so getting used to relaxing before bed will really help.
- If you live in a noisy neighbourhood, you can drown the noise out with a fan, ear plugs or play some soothing sounds.
- If your room allows, a bigger bed will help allowing you plenty of room to manoeuvre and to stretch.
- If you wake regularly with a sore back or neck, it may be time for a new pillow or mattress. Be sure to try plenty out before you commit to a new one though.
Sleep Tip #5: Eat for sleep
- Avoid eating large meals.
- Try eating in the early evening as part of your new routine.
- Avoid rich or heavy foods within two hours of bedtime.
- Eating fatty foods will make your stomach work harder to digest it.
- You may be kept awake by heartburn if you eat spicy foods, or eat too soon before lying down.
- Read our blog, eat well, sleep well, live well
Sleep Tip #6: Kick anxiety and stress into touch
- A stressful day can interfere with your sleep.
- As part of your routine, learn to manage your thoughts and stop worrying about things which you can’t control. Worrying is often irrational, so try to make thoughts productive, or even count sheep – it’s better than worrying!
- Try learning some new time management skills to combat stress. If you’re organised, then you’re productive and that will help maintain a positive outlook, you’ll be able to sleep better.
- Get ready for sleep with some relaxation techniques. Try these easy exercises:
- Breathe: Close your eyes and slowly take deep breaths, making each deeper than the last.
- Tense/release: Starting at your toes, tense your muscles tightly then release them to relax. Work up from your toes to your head.
- Visualize: Close your eyes and imagine a peaceful place or calming activity. Concentrate on how relaxed this place or activity makes you feel.
Sleep Tip #7: Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol before bed
- Caffeine can interfere with sleep up to 10-12 hours after drinking it. Try avoiding caffeine in the afternoon and maybe assess how much you have overall.
- We all know that smoking is bad for us, apart from the obvious, there are other effects too. Nicotine is a stimulant that disrupts sleep. Also, smokers actually experience nicotine withdrawal during the night, which again can cause disruption.
- Alcohol can help you fall asleep faster, but beware as it impacts sleep quality and it can wake you up during the night, so it’s best to avoid it before bed. Read our blog The myth of the nightcap.
Sleep Tip #8: Avoid taking on too much fluid in the evening
- Of course, keeping well hydrated is important and can benefit your sleep, but consuming large amounts of water, juice, tea or other drinks too close to bed time can lead to multiple toilet visits.
- Caffeinated drinks are diuretic so keep you up both through stimulating the brain and the additional need to urinate.
Tip #9: Avoid napping if you can
- If you suffer from poor sleep, a nap can be all that gets you through the day, but it can actually disturb your natural sleep cycle – if you must nap, limit yourself to 30 minutes and try and do it early in the afternoon.
- Read our blog, The Jet-lag buster: travel tips for sleeping well
Sleep Tip #10: Get natural sunlight when it’s available
- Sunlight helps with the body’s production of melatonin, this is the natural hormone that helps keep your sleep–wake cycle regular.
- Exposure to electronic lights from TVs and computers coupled with a lack of sunlight during the day can disrupt melatonin production.
- Some tips to naturally regulate your sleep-wake cycle:
- Take time to regularly get outside during the day, if you’re deskbound, or driving this will have the added benefit of keeping you mobile too.
- Keep curtains and blinds open all day.
- Light therapy can help simulate sunlight during the shorter winter days.
Sleep Tip #11: Get moving
- Getting your heart rate up can help improve your sleep, try taking the stairs instead of the lift or parking further away from your final destination and walking a few more steps.
- Exercise can increase your energy levels and cut down on daytime sleepiness.
- Aerobic exercise, such as biking, jogging, swimming or walking for at least 30 minutes every day to improve the quality of your sleep.
- If embarking on a new exercise programme always ensure you consult your GP beforehand.
We want to know what you think about the 11 sleep habit tips: Share your thoughts in the comments!