10 steps to better sleep

Sleep is an issue for many people. They either can’t get to sleep, stay asleep or wake up early. Some sleep too little or too much. Here are ten tips to help you get the most out of your sleep.

How can I get the best sleep?
There are lots of things you can do to increase your chance of quality sleep.

1. Look at environmental factors. Sleep is much better if the room is cooler than when it is warm. Is the room too dark or too light? Generally, sleep is much better if the room is dark. Reduce noise. Noise can come from inside and outside. Think about what you can do to minimise the noise. Consider your sleeping arrangements if your partner snores or sleep talks in a way that is disturbing for you. Is your partner restless during the night and their toss and turnings disturb you? Consider whether it might be better to sleep in different rooms. It doesn’t stop you sharing a bed, just that if you want to go to sleep, one of you moves to a different bed or room. (Note: it is worth having snoring checked out as it often indicates poor quality sleep is going on).

2. Avoid screens. By this I mean screens from tech such as computers, tablets, phones and televisions etc. Screens emit blue light. Blue light indicates to your body that it is daytime and therefore time to be awake. Some tech now comes with a blue light filter to help. However, screens tend to be stimulating. Think about whether you really need to check your Instagram, Facebook or Twitter account just as you are going to bed.

3. Keep the bedroom for the “Three S’s”. I.e. Sleep, sex and stories! Stories should be relaxing stories, not over stimulating ones. Avoid using your room for things other than these, e.g. work or watching television so that it becomes associated as a sleepy place to be.

4. Avoid eating and drinking a lot in the hours leading up to sleep. Drinking can mean that you wake up in the night to go to the toilet. Caffeine is a stimulant that stays in your body for a few hours so is best avoided for several hours before you go to sleep. Eating food late a night can interfere with sleep. On the other hand, don’t go to bed ravenously hungry because that will not help you to sleep either!

5. Avoid alcohol and tobacco. Avoid drinking alcohol and smoking in the lead up to going to bed. Both alcohol and tobacco can interfere with your body’s ability to sleep.

6. Avoid exercise in the evening. Exercise is stimulating and releases feel good hormones. It is a great and important thing to do for our wellbeing and mental health. However, it can also wake you up. Doing a sensible amount of physical exercise during the day will also help you sleep. The exercise doesn’t necessarily need to be a heavy session at the gym it can be as simple as parking in a further away car parking space, not leaving things at the bottom of the stairs but taking them up straight away or going for a brisk 20 minute walk.

7. Keep a notepad by your bed. Perhaps you have one of those minds that likes to remind you of some important fact just before you go to sleep… and it is really important that you don’t forget to do it tomorrow! Keeping a notebook by your bed to write these things down so that you do not have to remember them is a really helpful tip.

8. Do not stay in bed if you can’t sleep. If you have not fallen asleep in 20 minutes, get up. Get up, leave the room and go and do something restful in a different room for quarter of an hour or so and then come back and try again. Give it another 20 minutes and then get up and leave the room. Go and do something restful in a different room for quarter of an hour and then come back. If you cannot sleep, try playing music at a volume that you can just hear. This is so that your bed becomes associated as a place to sleep.

9. Keep a routine. Our body and mind like routine. Ask the parents putting a baby or toddler to bed… there is a wind down time, bath and toothbrushing time, story time and bedtime in a darkened room. We take clues from what we are doing. Try doing the same thing as part of your routine and make sure that you go to bed and then get up at the same times each day if possible. Examples of things to include in your routine are a warm drink (caffeine free), warm bath or shower, listening to relaxing music. Start your routine about one and a half hours before you go to bed and include a relaxation exercise. Try not to nap during the day.

10. Be comfortable. Is your bed comfy? Maybe you need to consider a new bed or mattress that would be more comfortable to you. Increasing the amount of fun and nice activities that we do during the day and night helps us to relax. It doesn’t need to be anything major but can be small things like enjoying spending time with a little one. In these times of lock down maybe it is meeting up with a friend over the internet and having a virtual cuppa together.

If you have any comments or would like to make an enquiry, please email me at louise@newcastlecounselling.co.uk.