10 tips for a good night's sleep
1. Aim to go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning. If you can establish a routine your body will become more familiar with the signals that tell it to unwind and get ready for sleep .
2. Try getting up at the same time each morning. This can be challenging as we all like a lie-in on the weekends. But, if you can, give yourself a half hour window of your usual wake-up time.
3. Avoid high-intensity exercise late at night (after 8 pm). While exercise is a great way to achieve better quality sleep, if you do high-intensity exercise late at night the resulting biochemicals may be circulating for some hours afterwards, preventing a good night's sleep. Instead, do the more intense exercise earlier in the day and try some gentle stretching like yoga in the evening.
4. Avoid nicotine, alcohol and caffeine (including coffee, energy drinks, soft drinks, tea, and chocolate) after 3pm to give your body a chance to flush out all stimulants before bedtime. Although we often think that alcohol will help us sleep it can often have the opposite effect, waking us in the night and disturbing our sleep.
5. Avoid taking naps during the day. You want your body to get into a routine of sleeping at the same time each day, so hold back the naps and save it for a good night’s sleep instead.
6. Turn the lights down and switch off tablets, mobiles and computers an hour before bedtime. These devices have a higher concentration of ‘blue light’ than natural light. Blue light affects our levels of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin and can cause disrupted sleep.
7. Wind down for an hour before bed. Try writing down the things you need to do tomorrow so that it off your mind. Take time to read a book. Slow down your thinking by doing a relaxation exercise or practicing mindfulness. The app Headspace is a great introduction to mindfulness and includes sessions specifically on sleep. The first first 10 days are free!
8. Take a warm bath or shower before bed. A gradual reduction in body temperature sends a signal to the body that it is time to go to sleep. By warming yourself in a hot shower or bath and then going into a cool bedroom the body gets set for deep, quality sleep.
9. Create a relaxed space conducive to sleep. Make sure it is quiet, very dark and cool. Consider using thick curtains, blinds, an eye mask or ear plugs. Reduce clutter, turn off any blue-light devices and consider eliminating any visible bedroom clocks to prevent focusing on the time passing when trying to fall asleep. Select a comfortable mattress, bedding and pillows.
10. Track your sleep with a sleep diary. This will allow you to see patterns in your sleep habits and identify what works well and what doesn’t. You can use an app like sleep cycle which has a built in alarm that wakes you at the lightest part of your sleep pattern so it’s easier to get up in the morning.