Being unable to sleep is one of the cruelest afflictions that you can have. Huge amounts of research have proved that poor sleep is responsible for a vast amount of health problems. Some of the tips below are hard to achieve; however, the feeling we get after a really good night’s sleep is fantastic and well worth the effort!
1. Stick to a sleep schedule
Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, including weekends and aim to give your body a ‘sleep opportunity’ of nine hours per night. It’s thought the body sleeps in 90 minute cycles, so if you can’t manage 9 hours (6 x 90 minute cycles) then aim for 7.5 hours (5 x 90 minute cycles). If your alarm wakes you after 8 hours you will wake up mid-cycle, which causes grogginess.
2. Time your exercise
Moderate amounts of exercise during the day can improve sleep, but don’t exercise within three hours of bedtime
3. Avoid caffeine after 12 noon
The half-life of caffeine is around six hours, which means that two coffees in the afternoon is like having one coffee before bed. Caffeine directly inhibits the hormone adenosine, which tells your brain to go to sleep.
4. Avoid nicotine
Smoking and vaping can disrupt sleep as nicotine is a stimulant
5. Avoid alcohol in the afternoon or evening
It’s a myth that alcohol improves your sleep – it actually suppresses REM sleep, which is essential for memory, brain function, and happiness. Alcohol also causes frequent waking in the night.
6. Avoid large meals at night
If you feel hungry in the evening choose a small, high-protein snack like nuts instead of something carbohydrate-rich, which will disrupt your blood sugar and make sleeping difficult. Read more about diet and sleep.
7. Hydrate early
Avoid drinking liquids in the three hours before bed (unless there is a medical reason to do so), to avoid being woken by your bladder. Hydrate your body properly in the early part of the day instead.
8. Time your naps
Studies show that an early siesta is good for your health, but napping after 3pm will damage your night time sleep
9. Make time to relax before going to bed
Reading or listening to music will prevent your sympathetic nervous system from keeping you awake.
10. Have a hot bath
This helps not only by relaxing you, but it also causes your body temperature to drop slightly afterwards, which is necessary for the body to fall asleep. For this reason it is also important to keep your bedroom cool.
11. Use natural daylight
Try to get at least 30 minutes sunlight exposure each morning and dim the lights an hour before bed. This helps regulate the natural sleep cycle.
12. Turn off all devices
Electronic devices disrupt sleep because the blue spectrum light they produce stimulates wakefulness. Aim not to look at any sort of device two hours prior to bedtime or if you must, then use a blue light filter
Finally, if all else fails don’t lie in bed awake. If you find yourself awake for more than 30 minutes get up and do something relaxing until you feel sleepy. The anxiety of not being able to sleep can make it harder to fall asleep.
Why We Sleep, by Matthew Walker
Sleep, by Nick Littlehales