Remember, we’re all different, we all have different preferences, sleep patterns and amounts of sleep we’re happy with. Research suggests that anywhere between 6 to 9 hours will be the right amount for you. So, the best thing is to go with what works for you sleep-wise – you’ll know you’ve hit it when you feel genuinely rested the next morning and ready for the day ahead.
Our top tips for getting a proper sleep:
1. Regular sleep
As well as trying to get a similar amount of sleep every night, try and go to bed and wake up at similar times too – the human body likes that regularity and adjusts its rhythms accordingly.
You sleep better when you’ve been physically active during the day, particularly if you have been to the gym, been for a swim, run, cycle, whatever your thing is. So exercise is good because it means that your body needs rest and so you’re more likely to fall asleep and stay asleep when you’ve been physically active during the day. The only thing to guard against is exercising too soon before bed – this can interfere with your wind-down routine and can elevate your heart rate at a time when you want it to be reducing.
3. Preparation and routine
Having a bedtime routine is a good thing to enable your body and brain to disengage from the day and transition to sleep. So do have a bath or shower, but you’re trying to lower your body temperature for sleep, so warm, not hot is recommended. If you find you can’t get to sleep because you’re thinking about prepping for the next day, then prep for the next day before bed – do your to-do list, put out your stuff for the next morning so you don’t stress about it during the night. Also, relaxation around bedtime is good, while device screen time (phones, tablets, laptops) not so much due to the blue light emitted.
In the Do category, we have foods that contain or produce the sleep hormone melatonin, which promotes sleep. These include chicken, turkey, milk, pasta, potatoes, oats, almonds, walnuts, popcorn, cherries, pineapple, bananas, amongst many other things. Don’ts include caffeine, alcohol and cheese which all interfere with sleep cycles.
It goes without saying that you need to have a clean bedroom and bed. In fact, I have no doubt that people generally get a better night’s sleep in freshly washed bed sheets than in 2-week old ones. You need complete darkness for sleep, so blackout curtains and light emitting devices to a minimum (like alarm clocks). The temperature should be lower than standard day room temperature. And of course, you should invest in an awesome mattress that is the right firmness for you.
6. Quality sleep
We have at least 3 stages of sleep – light, deep and REM (dream sleep) and we need these three cycles each night in order to feel fully rested. Not having sufficient quality or quantity of sleep can affect this. Try to monitor the quality of your sleep either by using different devices e.g. Fitbit or do this manually by keeping a simple sleep diary.
If you wake up in the night, it might be because of a noise, a dream, some underlying anxiety from the day before or ahead. There are a few things to try in this situation, such as relaxation technique while in bed. So work your way up or down the body, tensing and relaxing each area of the body and releasing the tension as you do so. That should help send you off to sleep again. The second thing is to try not to get caught on negative thoughts or anxieties – the thing is, research shows that it’s harder for us to access our pre-frontal cortex (the problem-solving part of our brains) when we’re asleep or lying in bed, even when we’re waking up. So instead try and replace problem thoughts with positive ones, remembering a great day or a happy event, or a relaxing holiday.