Getting a good night’s sleep is not always easy, however sleep is important not just to our physical health but also our mental health.
We may all have the odd sleepless night but when lack of sleep is prolonged it can lead to tension, irritability and low mood and can affect both concentration and our ability to make decisions. Sleeplessness or sleeping too much can also be symptoms of depression and anxiety (as well as factors that can contribute to these conditions).
The amount of sleep we need varies from person to person but on average eight hours of good-quality sleep is required to function properly. So how can we get a good night’s sleep?
Here are some tips:
1.Establish a bedtime routine
Bedtime routines are not just for babies but can also establish good habits for adults too. Going to bed and getting up at the same time each day (even at weekends) will help set your body clock. Try to wind down at least an hour before bedtime, whether by having a relaxing bath, listening to music or doing yoga. However don’t use television or electronic devices as part of your bedtime routine as research has suggested that screen time can interfere with sleep.
2.Create the right environment
Light, sound and temperature can all affect sleep and so use blackout blinds/curtains or an eye-mask if your room is too light, earplugs if it’s too noisy and a fan/heater if it’s too hot/cold. Make sure that your bed is comfortable and that your mattress is not too hard or soft. Try to use your bedroom only for sleep and rest so the right associations are created.
Deep muscle relaxation, breathing exercises and mindfulness may help you to nod off. However, if you are still tossing and turning after fifteen minutes then get up and try a relaxing activity (e.g. reading, doing a jigsaw etc) before returning to bed when you are feeling drowsy again.
4.Clear your mind
Racing thoughts, rumination and anxiety can all interfere with sleep. Keep a pen and paper by the side of your bed and note down any thoughts and worries which can then be reviewed in the morning.
Regular exercise can help relieve stress but don’t exercise too close to bedtime as you may feel too energized to sleep!
6.Avoid nicotine, alcohol and caffeine
Nicotine and caffeine are both stimulants and so try to reduce your intake especially in the evening. Try a warm, milky drink or herbal tea instead. Although alcohol may initially cause you to feel sleepy, it can wake you later as it is being processed by your body.
7.Watch what you eat
Don’t go to bed hungry or over-full as either can keep you awake and don’t eat too close to bedtime. Spicy and fatty foods can cause indigestion and certain foods such as cheese can also affect your sleep. If you do want a bedtime snack, try something that encourages the release of serotonin, such as bread, cereal or bananas.
8.The art of napping
It is tempting to have a nap in the day especially if you’ve had a bad night’s sleep but a long daytime nap can interfere with your sleep pattern. Limit a nap to between ten and thirty minutes and try to make it during the afternoon.
Hopefully these tips will help you get a good night’s sleep but if you are worried that you may have a sleep disorder then get advice from your GP or other healthcare professional.