Getting a full night’s sleep every night is important to our overall physical and mental health and wellbeing.
Whilst you sleep, the body starts to work, recovering from the day’s activities, healing damaged cells, recharging and boosting your immune system. Most of us are aware that when we lose a few hours of sleep, we are often tired and irritable the next day and have difficulty concentrating and staying alert. All of these things can occur after just one day of lost sleep. If you are regularly losing sleep, you are putting yourself at risk of many health problems.
Create a comfortable sleep environment using our tips below:
- Set a daily bedtime routine. Getting up and going to bed at the same time each day (including weekends) is one of the most important practices for sleep as it sets your body clock (make sure you allow for 7+ hours). Depriving yourself of sleep during the week and binge-sleeping at weekends does more harm than good.
- Keep your bedroom for sleep. Did you know? If you use your room for socialising, TV or talking on the phone, your mind can associate the room with activity.
- Don’t eat too close to bedtime. Eating near to bedtime can activate your stomach acid and this can creep up to your throat when lying down, causing reflux.
- Avoid exercise before bed. Exercising close to bedtime can make it harder to fall asleep as your body doesn’t have enough time to cool itself down.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine before bed. Caffeinated drinks and food, such as chocolate should be avoided, at least 3 hours before bed (sometimes longer if you are very sensitive to caffeine).
- Relax before going to bed. Instead of stimulating your mind before bed, relax by either taking a bath, meditating or stretching to calm the mind and body. If your mind is racing, write your thoughts down before trying to sleep. Keeping a sleep journal can help too. Don’t go to bed unless you are tired as this reinforces bad habits, such as lying awake.
- Make sure your room is dark, quiet and cool. Closing the curtains, using a sleeping mask and ear plugs are ways to help set the environment. Your body cools down before sleeping so having a cool room (between 16 – 21 degrees) can help aid this process.
- Turn off electrical devices. All electronic devices including TV’s, tablets, laptops, phones etc. should all be turned off and ideally taken out of your bedroom at least 30 minutes to 1 hour before sleeping. These are stimulants for the mind and they emit a light that is similar in wave-length to daylight which can trick your circadian rhythm and delay the release of melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleep.
- Make your bed as comfy as possible. Do you look forward to going to bed and do you find your mattress and pillows comfy? You should feel happy and content when getting into bed so you may need to think about options if not.
- Keep your alarm clock out of reach. This stops constant checking through the night and you are less likely to snooze if you have to get up to turn it off.
Throughout the day, make the most of the light. Your internal clock regulates your sleep/wake cycle which is triggered by light and darkness. Getting ample amounts of natural light during the day and less light at night helps keep this in balance.
Exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy diet will also aid sleep. Exercise helps to tire us out so try and get out for at least a walk each day. Eating protein foods, rich in amino acid tryptophan, for example, chicken, turkey, eggs, nuts and seeds also boosts sleep.
Sleep is also very essential for our mental health. Take a look at Mind’s advice on Sleep Problems and Mental Health.
Mind (2019) https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/sleep-problems/#.W_RWJKecboz
National Sleep Foundation (2019) https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/sleep-hygiene
NHS (2019) https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/sleep-and-tiredness/how-to-get-to-sleep/
Sleep Education (2019) http://sleepeducation.org/essentials-in-sleep/healthy-sleep-habits