We spend a third of our lives sleeping. It seems sensible then to make sure the sleep that we get is of good quality. Here are five top tips to help you with this.
1. Stick to Set Sleeping Hours.
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 and avoid naps.
2. Move Your Body.
Many of us now spend hours a day sitting at desks, then sitting on sofas to relax before lying in bed to sleep. Our bodies were designed to move! Thirty minutes of exercise has been found to reduce how long it takes to fall asleep and increase 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. Since artificial lighting, we are exposed to more light which can affect our body’s rhythm. Blue light stimulates the brain and supresses hormones that make us sleepy. Most of our modern devices give of blue light, including smart phones, computer screens, tablets, E-readers and tablets. 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.
One of the culprits for keeping us up at night is worrying and overthinking. Try journaling before bed to get these thoughts out on paper so that you may be less likely to think them over in bed.
5. Watch What You Drink.
Caffeine is a stimulant with 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 and this can impact on our sleep. Matthew Walker, author of ‘Why we Sleep’ recommends avoiding caffeine after 3pm. Alcohol is another one to watch. It is often believed that alcohol helps with relaxation and so sleep but research shows that it has a negative impact on sleep quality.
As you make these changes, keep a sleep diary. Its 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 rate the quality of your sleep from 0-10. This will help you spot patterns in your sleep in line with the changes you've made and notice what is helpful and unhelpful for your sleep.