There are lots of things that you can do to help you get off to sleep and to go back to sleep if you wake up during the night.
Get into a routine
Having a sleep routine really helps with keeping to your natural sleep-wake cycle, also known as your circadian rhythm. Sticking to the same time to go to bed and to get up in the morning will help to keep you more refreshed. Choosing a bed time when you normally feel tired is ideal and you shouldn’t really sleep in, as this will affect your sleep-wake cycle. If you feel tired a quick nap during the day for around 15 minutes may work better than a lay-in.
Get the lighting right
Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone controlled by light exposure that helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle. Your brain secretes more melatonin when it’s dark—making you sleepy—and less when it’s light—making you more alert.
Spend time during the day in a light and bright environment, whether you are indoors or out. As it gets dark avoid looking at bright screens such as tablets, your phone, computer or even the TV. These products emit a blue light which can further disrupt your melatonin production. The impact can be minimised by turning the brightness down and using devices with smaller screens. You can also use light-altering software such as f.lux.
When it gets dark use heavy curtains or blinds to block light. Don’t forget about any electronic equipment in your bedroom that may emit light. If you need to get up in the night use dim lighting or a torch rather than turning on the main light.
The ideal environment for sleeping
Keep your room cool, ideally around 65°F or 18°C. Being too hot or too cold will disturb your sleep pattern. Keep your room as quiet and peaceful as you can. Your bedding needs to be comfortable, including duvets, pillows, mattresses and sheets. Fresh and clean sheets help you to relax too.
Diet and exercise
Stimulants like caffeine and nicotine keep your body on the go, so are not ideal when you want to relax and sleep! Alcohol, spicy and acidic foods can interfere with your digestion so keep them to a minimum, or eat early in the evening. Did you know that eating lots of sugar and refined carbohydrates can mean you’ll find it hard to get off to sleep and maintain the deep REM sleep that is more valuable from a health point of view?
Exercise is an excellent way of ensuring that you can sleep well. You’ll feel less sleepy in the day and will be less likely to suffer from insomnia and sleep apnoea, where there is a temporary cessation on breathing while asleep. Any type or amount of exercise is valuable when it comes to the quality of your sleep. However it’s wise not to exercise too close to bedtime as the stimulation of hormones such as cortisol, and the speeding up of metabolism and temperature that happens during exercise, can interfere with good sleep.
Getting off to sleep and waking in the night
So what’s keeping you awake? Stress, worry or anger from something that has happened during the day can pray on your mind once you try to sleep. You may be overstimulated and overstressed through doing too many tasks; set time aside for specific things and focus on one task at a time. Try not to bring these thoughts and worries to bed with you. However if you do wake up, and keep thinking, have a note pad by your bed and jot down your thoughts so you can postpone the solution until the next day. Relaxation techniques, meditation, visualisation, breathing exercises and even essential oils like lavender can help you to get back to sleep. However if you’ve been awake for more than 15 minutes, get out of bed and do a quiet, non-stimulating activity like reading.
The power of sleep has been proven. It is an essential way for the body to rejuvenate and to take care of itself. The stress and strain of daily life can affect the quality of sleep that we get. This is why it’s so important to create the perfect mental attitude and physical environment to promote healthy and valuable slumber.