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- Self-Help for Sleep Issues & Sleeplessness
A Strategy For Sleeping Soundly that Everyone Can Use
Everyone Is Different But 8 Hours Sleep Should Be The Target!
Everyone is different of course and sleep requirements do vary from person to person, but there is widespread consent amongst health professionals that adult human beings require somewhere in the region of eight hours deep relaxing sleep each night in order to stay healthy.
The quality, and amount, of sleep that you get each night directly affects the quality of the day that you go on to have after you wake up. If you wake up feeling rested and refreshed, revitalised and full of energy you will be much more effective than someone who is tired, yawning and not alert, attentive or effective at their work.
So, what then should be the strategy for making sure that you get good night’s sleep? How can you stack the odds in your favour and drift away for those elusive eight hours sleep without the need for medication? Here’s a suggested strategy that you might want to consider.
Step One – Prepare To Succeed
Don’t leave your sleep preparation to chance. Make sure that you bed is conducive to rest and is clean, warm and comfortable. Your bedroom should be cool; around 18° is ideal, and devoid of distractions. Choosing a suitable bed is of paramount importance and, if you can, it is something that you should be prepared to make a significant investment in.
The size, height and firmness of a bed are all factors that you should aim to get absolutely right. Don’t leave it to chance and, wherever possible, always try before you buy. If you suffer from back pain then firmer mattresses is probably called for but take medical advice and visit the bed showrooms to try out your potential purchases before buying.
Step Two – Keep Yourself In The Dark!
Yes, research has shown that it is better to sleep in complete darkness. You may need to hang thicker curtains, close doors tightly, switch off all lights and cover up any indicator lights that might be on electrical equipment such as clocks, radios etc.
If it is not possible to achieve the level of darkness that is required then consider wearing a blindfold or sleep mask. These are widely available relatively cheaply and can make a world of difference to your ability to get to sleep and stay asleep.
Step Three - That’s Entertainment, But It Won’t Help You To Sleep
Many people have televisions, and sometimes even computers, in the bedroom. This is a very bad move. Although it may seem to help, falling asleep in from of a computer or television screen is very bad for your sleep prospects. This is due to the fact that the type of light emitted by such devices actually stimulates the brain, as opposed to relaxing it, thereby making it more difficult to sleep.
The same applies to the screens on mobile telephones, tablets and games consoles.
When it’s time to sleep, the last thing the brain needs is to be stimulated by the screens on these devices. If you need some kind of distraction then reading a book, or listening to an audio book, is a much better bet.
Step Four - Don’t Eat, Drink Or Smoke
The idea of having a “nightcap” is as old as time itself and it is appreciated that it is a practice that is likely to persist. However, do bear the following in mind when taking an evening tipple:
Alcohol can help you to fall asleep more quickly but it adversely affects the quality of the sleep that you have. It should also be remembered that alcohol is a diuretic, that is, it makes you want to urinate and there’s nothing more disturbing to a night’s sleep than having to get up several times to go to the toilet.
Smoking is also a definite no no! Nicotine is a stimulant, and a powerful one at that, and people who are addicted to it suffer from withdrawal symptoms as the night progresses and as the craving increases, so the quality of sleep reduces.
Whilst we are on the subject of drink, it goes without saying that caffeine is to be avoided at all costs so coffee and tea are both to be avoided along with colas and other drinks containing caffeine.
Everyone has to eat, there’s no doubt about that but don’t do it too close to bedtime. Your stomach will set about digesting your meal and, if it is a big one with rich or heavy food, it may take it some time to get the job done. Indigestion and heartburn are both dangers here and, although they are easily dealt with, they will not help you to sleep.
Step Five – Plan Your Day To Make your Night
Try to get as much daylight as you can. Those who spend the entire day in artificial light will find it more difficult to sleep at night. This is due to the body’s production of a hormone called Melatonin which regulates your body clock. It produces less Melatonin when it is (naturally) light and more when it is dark, thereby helping you to sleep. Take any opportunity to get out into the natural light that you can and keep things as dark as possible at night.
Another daytime activity that will help you out at bedtime is exercise. It is good practice, sleep or no sleep, to get at least 30 minutes moderate exercise each day and this will help you to relax and sleep. It should not, however, be done too late in the day because exercise increases the body’s temperature and can be stimulating.
So there is a lot that you can do to help yourself get a long and restful sleep and none of it involves medication. If all else fails and you still can’t sleep then you must, of course, consult with your doctor and he or she may well prescribe something but that really should be a last resort.
If you take precautions and plan your sleep strategy properly then a good night’s sleep should come naturally.
Further Information & Useful Links
- Insomnia - NHS Choices
Insomnia is difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep for long enough to feel refreshed the next morning, even though you've had enough opportunity to sleep.
- Sleep Problems Solution – Tips on How to Sleep Better
A good night’s rest is a pillar of health read our guide to sleeping better and fight the sleep problem called insomnia