It’s one of the most important things that our bodies need. Sleep is essential for our physical and mental health, and not getting enough good quality shut-eye can have disastrous consequences. Poor sleep has been linked to serious illnesses, such as diabetes and heart disease, and can even result in obesity and a shortened life expectancy.
Yet as anyone who has ever endured a night of tossing and turning, getting a good night’s sleep is not always as simple as we might like. Read on to discover five tips to help you get that restful sleep we all need.
Keep to your natural routine
Our bodies are designed to follow a circadian rhythm, which means simply that we should be asleep when it’s dark and awake when it’s light. If you are wide awake at 2am, for example, you will be missing out on the most beneficial deep sleep. Keeping to a regular routine can help your body get accustomed to sleeping at the right time. Go to bed at the same time every evening, and get up at the same time every morning. Finding the perfect bedtime may take a bit of trial and error. Try going to bed when you naturally start to feel tired at night. If you get your bedtime right, you should find that you wake naturally in the morning without the need for an alarm. Avoid having lie-ins at the weekend and cut down daytime naps to just 15-20 minutes.
Look at where you sleep
If your bedroom isn’t dark, cool and quiet, it’s likely that your sleep will suffer as a result. Choose the most comfortable bed you can afford, and try to keep it just for sleeping or sex. This means no late-night scrolling through social media or watching TV in the bedroom. Doing this helps your brain to subconsciously prepare for sleep whenever you get into bed.
Exercise can help
Of course, making time for daily exercise can be a great way to boost your all-around health. Yet you may not have realised how beneficial it can be to your sleep quality, too. Daily exercise is best, even if it’s simply a short 10 minute walk around the block. The more energetic the exercise, however, the better your sleep will be. It may take a few weeks or months of a new exercise routine to see any changes, so stick at it.
Watch what you eat and drink
This tip includes two factors: What you eat and drink, and when you consume it. Avoid heavy meals late in the evening and be careful not to take on too much liquid before bedtime. Cutting down on alcohol will improve your sleep, as although it may help you to nod off initially, it will disturb your natural sleep patterns as the night goes on. Nicotine and caffeine are both stimulants which can cause sleeping problems. Indeed, caffeine can still be active in your system up to 12 hours after that cup of coffee. However, studies suggest that a small snack ahead of bedtime can help some people to drift away. Choose high protein foods such as yoghurt, or a small turkey sandwich, or opt for low-sugar treats such as wholegrain cereal or a banana.
Teach yourself to wind down
It’s common for feelings of stress, anxiety and other emotions to have a negative impact on our sleep. Overstimulated brains can struggle to switch off and calm down enough for restful sleep, and with more of us working from home and juggling other responsibilities, it’s harder than ever to relax at night. Remember to keep that tech out of the bedroom, and if you still find it hard to drop off, try making time for a warm bath with soothing essential oils such as lavender, or learning some deep breathing exercises.