Since we spend a third of our lives sleeping, it seems sensible to make sure the sleep that we get is of good quality. Here are five top tips to help you with this.

1. Get into a Sleep Routine

Lifestyle factors such as working hours, family responsibilities, mealtimes and socialising can all impact on the time we sleep and wake. Having a regular sleep routine is important for consistency. Most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Work backwards from the time you need to wake up to make sure your bedtime is allowing for this. As best you can, stick to a regular sleeping and waking time consistently – even on weekends – and avoid naps.

2. Movement for Sleep

Many of us now spend hours a day sitting at desks, then sitting on sofas to relax before lying in bed for our forty winks. Our bodies were designed to move, and we may have to make more conscious choices to ensure we are getting enough movement in our day. We know that exercise is not only important for our physical and mental health, but it’s also important for sleep. Research has shown that thirty minutes of exercise can reduce how long it takes to fall asleep and increase our length of sleep. Exercise can have an energising effect so try to exercise during the daytime where possible.

3. Switch Off From Technology

Light is the most important factor in regulating our body clock and we used to rely on the sun for this. Artificial lighting means we are now exposed to far more light than we would naturally, and this can affect our body’s rhythm. Blue light has been found to stimulate the brain and supress the hormones that make us sleepy. Most of our modern devices give off blue light, including smart phones, computer screens, tablets and E-readers. After it becomes naturally dark, try to limit time on devices. If you really need to keep using them, some of these devices have ‘night mode’ settings that reduce the amount of blue light.

Charlotte Bronte Sleep Quote4. Journal

If you are prone to worrying and overthinking, you will know that one of the culprits for keeping us up at night is an active mind. If we’ve had a busy day, bedtime may be our first opportunity to stop, and we can sometimes find that our mind likes to use this time to run through the day’s events or plan for the next day. This can be stimulating at best, and anxiety or stress-provoking at worst. Try journaling in the evening to give yourself focused time to think and then wind down before bed so you may be less likely to do so while trying to drift off.

5. Watch What You Drink

Most of us know that caffeine is a stimulant, but did you know that it has a half-life of 5-7 hours? This means that 5-7 hours after our last coffee, cola or energy drink, we still have 50% of the caffeine in our body which can impact on our sleep. Matthew Walker, author of ‘Why we Sleep’ recommends avoiding caffeine after 3pm.

Alcohol is another one to watch. If you’ve reached for a night cap to relax, thinking it will help with sleep, you are not alone. Research shows it can have quite the opposite effect, as a number of studies show that it reduces sleep quality. Something I often hear when I have this conversation with clients is, ‘it doesn’t affect me, I sleep fine.’ If you manage to drift off with ease and don’t wake in the night, it is understandable that you would think this. However, good sleep is about more than this. We go through a number of different sleep stages, all of which are important and serve different functions. Both alcohol and caffeine have been found to disrupt these stages which means our sleep quality isn’t as good. We may not notice this immediately, but it can have a cumulative affect over time.

 

Bonus Tip

As you make these changes, try keeping a sleep diary. It’s often hard to notice gradual improvements and when we make them, we can quickly forget how we had been feeling before. Make a rough note of how much sleep you get each night, and give your sleep quality a score from 0-10. This will help you spot patterns and notice what is helpful and unhelpful for your sleep.

 

Updated on 14th March, 24.