Getting enough quality sleep is essential for both your physical and mental health. If you’re finding it hard to get the ZZZs you need, here’s what you can do.
1. Use a sleep app
If your mind is busy, it can be better to give yourself something to think about rather than push your thoughts away.
Using a sleep app or podcast will occupy your mind while you try to relax.
- Nothing much happens is a podcast of uneventful, cosy bedtime stories for adults. You can access it for free on YouTube or any podcast hosting platform.
- Calm has daily meditation sessions, sleep stories, and a large selection of music and sounds to help you sleep. You can try out the basic features for free or pay £28.99 to unlock all of them for a year.
- Headspace focuses on mindfulness by providing wind down meditations as well as a few other sleep features. One useful feature is their nighttime SOS to help you get back to sleep if you wake up in the night. It's free for 7 days and then costs £49.99 a year. The family plan gives you six accounts for £74.99 a year, and NHS employees can use it for free.
2. Ditch the stimulants before bed
Consuming too much can affect your quality of sleep and may even keep you up for longer. If you can't give up caffeine entirely, then it’s best to cut yourself off after a certain time, such as midday.
Switch to decaf to give your body time to wind down. Make sure that what you’re consuming doesn’t have caffeine in, as some surprising sources include green tea, dark chocolate and some painkillers.
Eating before you go to bed can increase your risk of indigestion and acid reflux, which will keep you awake for longer. Try not to eat too close to bedtime to minimise this.
While having a glass of wine before bed can make you feel relaxed and sleepy, it disrupts your sleep cycle. When you drink alcohol, you get less REM sleep, which is the stuff you need to help you recharge your batteries.
While exercising during the day is a certified mood-booster and sleep-improver, exercising too close to bedtime will make it harder to fall asleep. If you can only find time for your workout before bed, opt for some yoga to help you wind down.
3. Get into a sleep routine
Try to go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time each morning. Resist taking a nap during the day as this will hinder your sleep at night. Everyone needs a different amount of sleep, but you should aim for between seven and nine hours a night. Bathing or showering an hour or two before bed can help you prepare for sleep by regulating your body temperature.
By doing this every night, your body clock will adjust to your sleep schedule and help you drift off nicely.
4. If you can’t sleep, get up
Counterintuitive as it may sound, getting up when you can't sleep can help when you're feeling restless. If you have a busy mind that's keeping you up, you might need to give it something to do.
Getting frustrated at not being able to sleep could make you more anxious and keep you up. Try making a hot drink or reading for a little while - this should help use up some of your mental energy.
5. Ditch the screens
The blue light from smartphones and tablet screens interferes with your natural sleep cycle. Avoiding technology in the hour or so before bedtime will keep your sleep cycle in check.
Keep your phone out of reach during the night to avoid picking it up. If you need your phone, switch it to night mode if you can, and keep the brightness down. Book readers can also emit blue light so adjust the settings on your device to turn off blue light, or switch to paper books if you like to read in bed.
6. Create a comfortable environment
Your bed should be somewhere you look forward to getting in. Ensure your mattress is supportive and comfortable. Use natural fibre bedding and pyjamas to help keep your body temperature just right. Keep a throw at the end of the bed in case you wake up cold. If you suffer from cold feet, wear socks to bed. If you have a lamp by your bed it will mean you don’t have to get up to turn the light on and off.
7. Shut out disturbances
If you’re in a noisy environment, invest in some good quality earplugs to shut the noise out. If the morning light wakes you up too early, then blackout blinds or curtains are ideal - although a good sleep mask will be just as effective and much cheaper.
Read on to find out 15 ways to stay positive.
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