- Personal Health Information & Self-Help
Five Things You Can Do To Get A Good Night’s Sleep
1. Avoid Caffeine Before Bedtime
This may seem obvious, but did you know that caffeine can have a stimulating effect for up to ten hours? If you must drink coffee and are finding it difficult to sleep, try to drink it in the morning.
Also be aware that black tea and colas also contain caffeine - tea has as much caffeine as coffee - so the ‘cuppa before bed’ may not be a good idea after all.
2. Set A Proper Sleep ‘Schedule’
It is important for the body to get into a daily routine that signals when to sleep and when to wake up, so set a regular bedtime and a regular wake-up time. You should be able to wake up naturally at the right time without an alarm.
If you find you do need the alarm you should set an earlier bedtime. If you get tired, don’t try to catch up on ‘sleep debt’ at weekends by sleeping in longer as this disrupts the schedule - it’s better to nap in the afternoon for up to thirty minutes - any longer and you are likely to enter the ‘deep sleep’ phase and feel groggy when you wake up.
Also try not to fall asleep after dinner and before bedtime. If you find your eyes closing whilst watching TV get up and do something like the washing up. Keeping to the schedule will pay dividends in the long run.
3. Understand How The Sleep/Wake Cycle Works
Melatonin is the naturally produced hormone that is responsible for prompting sleep. Its’ production is suppressed by light, so make sure that you don’t read in bed with ‘backlit’ devices such as computers and iPads/tablets and don’t watch the TV in bed. The type of light from these devices gives the body the wrong signal.
For the same reason make sure your bedroom is properly dark. Also make sure you get enough light exposure during the day as this suppresses melatonin and helps the body to wake up - simple things like opening the curtains immediately you get up gives the right signal. See if you can spend more time outside during daylight - especially on short winter days.
4. Create A Relaxing Bedtime Routine
The body and mind respond well to routines so make a consistent effort to unwind and relax before bedtime and you will sleep easier and more deeply.
Make sure your bedroom is sleep friendly by keeping the noise down. If you have a problem with noisy neighbours or a snoring partner try earplugs - they can be very effective or try using a fan or white noise. Keep the room cool and ventilated - (around 18C) and make sure the bed is comfortable.
Create a relaxing bedtime ritual such as reading by soft light - if you must use an electronic device make sure it’s not backlit and use a soft bedside light to read by. Other ideas are to have a warm bath, listen to soothing music or an audio book.
Stay away from large meals before bedtime and don’t drink alcohol before sleep. The idea of a ‘nightcap’ is actually mistaken - it may put you to sleep more quickly, but it also reduces the quality of the sleep and will wake you up before you've had a full night’s rest.
5. Sort Out Anxiety And Stress
If you find that you are turning things over and over in your mind at night when you’re meant to be asleep, see if you can identify a recurring theme as this will help you work on it during the day. If you find yourself worrying incessantly then learn to manage your thoughts and evaluate your worries.
You may need help with stress management and relaxation - there are a range of resources available on the internet that can help. Some relaxation techniques you can try include deep, deliberate breathing, progressive muscle relaxation and visualising a peaceful restful place and going there in your mind’s eye as you fall asleep.
If all else fails try counting sheep - it really is better than worrying!
- NHLBI Sleep Disorders Research Advisory Board
- 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