Are you getting eight hours of sleep a night? If not, these tips could help you to get a better night’s sleep.
These days, most people are well aware of the importance of sleep. Not only do you feel better and more rested after a good night’s sleep, but it’s also important for both physical and mental health.
But many of us don’t get 6-8 hours of sleep each night. I personally have had disrupted sleep patterns for much of my life, which probably started when I first became a parent. And now that my sons don’t wake me up, my chihuahua Charlie disturbs me instead!
Of course the current Covid-19 pandemic is certainly causing many of us to feel stressed or anxious. And that can show up in disrupted sleep patterns whether you struggle to doze off in the evening or find yourself awake at 3am.
If you are having trouble sleeping, there are some things that you can do to increase your chance of a restful night of sleep. Here are my top nine tips for better sleep.
Stick to a regular sleep pattern
Sticking to set times for going to bed and getting up will help to programme your body into a regular pattern of sleep. Of course that does mean not staying up late and sleeping in at the weekends.
But not everyone will feel sleepy at the same times, as we all have individual circadian rhythms. So it may be worth keeping a sleep diary to find out your own body’s pattern.
Then you can set a time for bed and for getting up which suits your own requirements.
Sleep on a comfy mattress and pillows
It’s very difficult to get a good night’s sleep if you are sleeping on a saggy mattress and limp pillows.
The current advice is to replace your mattress every 7-8 years. Investing in a good quality mattress and rotating it regularly will help to make sure that your body is properly supported while you sleep.
So if your mattress feels lumpy or your back aches when you wake up in the morning, it’s time to buy a new one.
Pillows should also be replaced at least every two years – if they are looking saggy, they can’t support your head and neck properly. You also need to consider that pillows are a haven for dust mites. So if you have allergies or asthma, you might want to replace them more frequently than that.
Create a relaxing sleep environment
Like many people, you might be working from home at the moment. But if your bedroom is cluttered and you have work stacked up on your bedside table, it’s going to be hard for you to switch off at the end of the evening.
So try to create an environment in your room that is peaceful and relaxing.
If possible, it’s best to try and keep your bed for night-time use only, and find a different space for working in. If that isn’t possible, then try covering the bed with a throw or blanket, and removing it at bedtime. This will help to remind your brain that this is where you are meant to sleep.
And if sleeping with your dog in your room is disturbing your sleep, it might be time to find an alternative place for them to rest. I know, I know… I’d struggle with that one as well!
Try and avoid napping
It can be tempting to have a quick nap in the afternoon, especially if you haven’t got anywhere else to go. But this is likely to impact on your sleep later on that evening.
So try your best to avoid naps if at all possible. Try doing some exercise or getting some fresh air to reinvigorate yourself.
If you really find yourself nodding off, it’s a good idea to set an alarm so that you only nap for 20-30 minutes. That will help to revive you, but without having too much impact on your sleep at nighttime
Check the temperature of your room
The temperature of your room could be making it hard for you to sleep well.
Your body temperature reaches its peak in the evening, and then drops overnight. The ideal temperature for sleep is thought to be 16-18C, so if your room is much hotter or colder than that, it could be disrupting your sleep.
Check your room for any draughts, and make sure that you set central heating to go off earlier in the evening if your room is too warm at bedtime. If you struggle to sleep on warmer nights, these tips could help.
Do some exercise during the day
Regular moderate exercise during the day can relieve tension in your body, making it easier for you to sleep at night.
If you’re able to go out for exercise in the fresh air, then it’s a good idea to take advantage of that. If not, then you can find plenty of options for workouts on YouTube and other websites.
But avoid doing an intense evening workout or going for a run too close to bedtime, as this can have the opposite effect and actually keep you awake. If you want to do exercise in the evening, a yoga session can be very relaxing.
Watch what you eat and drink before bedtime
It’s a good idea to avoid caffeine for a few hours before bedtime if you have trouble sleeping. And while you might think that a nightcap can help you to drift off to sleep, alcohol actually disrupts sleep patterns. So if getting a solid night’s sleep is difficult, you might want to try avoiding alcohol in the evenings as well.
Eating a big meal in the evening can make it difficult to sleep later on, especially if you tend to suffer from heartburn or other digestive issues. On the other hand, going to bed hungry can make it hard to get to sleep. So try eating an early evening meal and then having a snack shortly before bed.
Some foods can actually aid sleep. For instance turkey and warm milk both contain tryptophan and bananas have high levels of magnesium and serotonin. The orexin in honey can reduce alertness, while camomile, almonds and oatcakes can also help sleep.
So if you’re struggling to sleep, something like half a sandwich of turkey on wholemeal bread, with a cup of camomile and honey tea might help you to drift off.
Set a relaxing bedtime routine
Parents know that a routine is really important for helping their children to drift off to sleep at the end of the day. But it’s not just babies who benefit from a relaxing routine before bedtime.
Following the same cues every evening helps your body to recognise when its time to sleep.
So you could head up to bed each evening at the same time, maybe read a few pages of a novel (nothing too exciting!) and listen to some relaxing music. Or try using a lavender sleep spray, listening to a relaxation CD, or practising yoga or meditation.
When you find what works for you, follow the same pattern every evening and your body should learn that it’s time to go to sleep.
Take a warm bath or shower before bed
A warm bath or shower relaxes your body and reminds your brain that it’s bedtime. The cool air of your bedroom after the warm temperature of the water can really help to release tension in your body and make you feel sleepy.
It’s a great idea to incorporate a warm bath or shower into your bedtime routine, and you could use soothing lavender oils to really relax you.
Turn off the electronics
Yes, you knew this was coming, didn’t you? The blue light from a TV, mobile phone or backlit screen can really disrupt your sleep patterns, so it’s a good idea to banish them from your room altogether.
At the very least, you should turn off electronics about 2 hours before you plan to go to sleep.
Replace your mobile phone with an alarm clock to wake you in the morning, and try reading paper novels instead of a backlit e-reader.