Sleep Tips

You may be unconscious when you sleep, but the results are obvious. The simple truth is that your nights have a real effect on your days. So does a good day follow a good night? Your bed should be wide enough and long enough, with the correct degree of firmness to avoid putting pressure on your joints, hips, shoulders and chest. An effective pillow which supports your neck will improve the quality of your sleep. Your bedroom should be cool – ideally between 14°C and 18°C. It should also be dark, since you are aware of light even with your eyes closed. Light sets off processes within your body which make you wake up.

Keeping roughly the same hours for bedtime and getting up will create a routine which your body will get used to. Even if you go to bed late or sleep badly, it’s worth getting up at the same time that you normally do. Otherwise, you’ll disrupt your routine and risk sleeping badly the next night too.

Take the time to unwind before going to bed. Avoid doing anything which involves mental or physical stress. Your bedroom should be a place for relaxation and sleeping, so don’t use your bed for working, watching TV or anything else. Try to adjust the lighting in your bedroom to create a cosy atmosphere.

Spending time in sunlight during the day reduces melatonin levels in the blood. This makes us feel more awake and more alert. In the evening when it is darker, melatonin levels rise and we feel more tired. Spending time in the daylight makes it easier for our internal body clocks to regulate our need for sleep.

If you can’t sleep, get up and do something relaxing. Then when you feel tired, go back to bed. By taking regular exercise – ideally three times a week – you will tire yourself physically while relaxing substances are produced in the body. The exertion also leads to deeper, more continuous sleep which means that you wake up feeling fresh and relaxed. But don’t exercise too close to bedtime – it may take you longer to get to sleep, as your body won’t have had a chance to wind down.

Food is important to your wellbeing and your sleep. Don’t go to bed hungry, but also avoid eating dinner too late since a large meal just before going to bed keeps the digestion process going longer. It is better to have a lighter meal which satisfies your hunger, and to focus on a good breakfast instead.

Avoid drinks with caffeine in them, such as coffee and tea, which stimulate the brain’s wakefulness centre. Increased consumption of caffeinated drinks can make it hard to get to sleep, and increases the risk of waking in the night. This prevents you from getting the quality sleep you need.

Alcohol and nicotine have a negative effect on your sleeping pattern. For example, studies have shown that you get less deep sleep and dream sleep when you have nicotine and alcohol in your blood.

The use of sleeping pills can lead to dependency, and should not be used for extended periods of time. Always speak to your doctor to find out whether there are other ways of resolving the cause of your sleeping problem.