10 tips for a better night's sleep
10 tips for a better night’s sleep
We spend up to a third of our lives asleep! It’s really important for both our physical and psychological health, but we often don’t prioritise it as highly as we should.
An annual event organised by the World Sleep Society (WSS), World Sleep Day (March 13th) is designed to be a celebration of sleep – which may make you want to grind your teeth if it’s something you struggle with! But the other aims of the event are to raise awareness of important issues relating to sleep, and prompt better prevention and management of sleep disorders.
If you’re having problems – whether it’s difficulties with getting off to sleep, waking frequently during through the night, or waking up too early – first of all, you’re not alone. Insomnia is thought to affect around two billion people, according to research from WSS.
As well as leaving you tired during the day, sleeping badly can have an effect on your mood and quality of life, and impinge on your attention span, ability to learn and memory. In the long term it can negatively impact how you function, as well as your mental health. It can even contribute to physical health problems such as obesity, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.
Everyone is different – but if World Sleep Day has inspired you to improve things, trying these 10 practical tips might help.
Try to go to bed and get up at the same time – even at the weekends! Having a routine is good. Avoid sleeping in the daytime, or just stick to a short nap.
Don’t work or watch TV in bed, so your mind comes to associate your bed only with sleeping.
Avoid stimulants after 3pm – including caffeinated drinks such as energy drinks, tea, coffee and cola, and also nicotine. Be aware that alcohol can affect the quality of your sleep.
Keep a notebook by your bed, so if you wake up worrying or suddenly remembering something you can write it down and (hopefully) go back to sleep.
Make sure you’re not too full or too hungry when you go to bed.
Doing exercise and keeping active through the day can help you to sleep, but don’t exercise too close to bedtime.
Turn off the TV, tablet or phone an hour before bedtime – these are stimulating activities that can keep your brain whirring! Swap them for relaxing ones such as having a bath or listening to calming music.
If you haven’t dropped off after 30 minutes then get up, do something else relaxing until you feel sleepy, then try going back to bed.
Try not to look at the time during the night, as this will make you more anxious.
Don’t fixate on the number of hours you get. Contrary to popular belief, there isn’t a ‘normal’ amount of sleep that we all need – it varies from person to person. According to the WSS, the quality of sleep we get is probably more important than the length.
Above all, try not to obsess over not being able to sleep; if you become too focused on the problem it can end up overshadowing other things in your life and even becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Insomnia can have an impact on your mental health, so if you find that sleeping badly is affecting your mood – or that your mood is affecting your sleep – it’s well worth seeking a solution. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can work well as a treatment in this case; find out more about how CBT can help sleep problems.