One of the single most important factors in maintaining good health, both physical and mental, is being able to get a good night’s sleep.
Whatever you are going through, if you are well rested you will be better equipped to cope. Sleep is the body’s way of recharging for the day ahead. Whereas, if you are sleep-deprived, everything can seem far worse and you can be much more fragile, both physically and emotionally.
There may be times in your life when you need the advice of your doctor about how to get a good night’s sleep, especially if you suffer from insomnia or other sleep disorders. But for most people there are plenty of things you can do yourself to improve the duration and quality of your sleep. Below are 5 tips to try if you are having trouble sleeping:
1. Have a ‘bedtime’: When we have young children we all know it’s important that they have a set bedtime so that they get into a routine, but it’s just as important for adults to have a bedtime as well. Going to bed around the same time each night and getting up at around the same time in the morning helps establish a regular rhythm for our bodies, often called a ‘body clock’.
2. Get ready for bed: Again, just like children benefit from a bedtime routine, so do adults. It sends the signals to our body that it’s time for sleep. Different people choose different things – many people read a book before bed, listen to music or the radio, have a bath, or get into their pajamas. Choose whatever works for you, but make at something which helps you relax and unwind.
3. Have a sleep-friendly bedroom: Your bedroom should be a peaceful haven, a place where you can really relax away from the pressures and stresses of everyday life. Keep your bedroom cool and well ventilated as our bodies sleep better in these conditions. Try to avoid bringing ‘tech’ like mobile phones or laptop computers into your bedroom, as this sends a subconscious signal to your brain that you are still awake. There is also evidence that the blue light emitted by the screens on these devices can disrupt sleep. Train your brain to switch off from these modern-day distractions as part of your bedtime routine.
4. Avoid stimulants: Different people process stimulants such as the caffeine in coffee and tea in different ways. For some, the caffeine will pass through their system in an hour or so, but for others it will linger far longer and could disturb sleep. If you have trouble getting off to sleep, try avoiding caffeinated drinks after 4 or 5pm. A light snack before bed might stop you waking up hungry, but overeating could make it difficult to sleep or you could wake with indigestion.
5. Think about light: Our bodies are pre-programmed to sleep in the darkness and be awake in the light. Modern life means we are less tied to nature’s timetable and more to our own routines – we still start work at the same time whether it’s dark in the depths of winter or broad daylight in the summer months. However, we can trick our ‘body clocks’ by manipulating the light. This means limiting light in the evening to send signals that the time for sleep is approaching. Draw your curtains, use soft lamps rather than bright lights and avoid the ‘blue light’ from devices like mobile phones, tablets or laptop computers. You might also consider proper blackout curtains for your bedroom. Equally, it’s important to get plenty of light in the mornings, to give our body the signal that now is the time to be awake.
If you’re struggling with feeling tired, run down, overly emotional or highly strung in the daytime, the solution could lie in changing your night time sleep routine. Put some effort into ensuring you get enough quality sleep each night and you’ll be amazed at the difference it makes to your waking life.
Please consult your doctor first before making any significant changes to your lifestyle.