Tips for a better night's sleep

Tips for a better night's sleep

Poor sleep habits are among the most common problems encountered in our society. We stay up too late and get up too early. We interrupt our sleep with drugs, chemicals and work, and we over stimulate ourselves with late-night activities such as television.

Below are some essentials of good sleep habits:

  • Keep regular hours. Going to bed and getting up at roughly the same time, all the time, will programme your body to sleep better.
  • Create a restful sleeping environment. Your bedroom should be neither too hot, nor too cold; and as quiet and dark as possible. A cool (not cold) bedroom is often the most conducive to sleep.
  • Make sure your bed is comfortable. It's difficult to get deep, restful sleep on one that's too soft, too hard, too small or too old.
  • Don't use the bed as an office, workroom or recreation room. Let your body "know" that the bed is associated with sleeping.
  • Take more exercise. Regular, moderate exercise such as swimming or walking can help relieve the day's stresses and strains. But not too close too bedtime or it may keep you awake!
  • Don't smoke: smokers take longer to fall asleep, wake more often and often experience more sleep disruption.
  • Establish a pre-sleep ritual such as a warm bath or a few minutes of reading.
  • If you can't sleep or wake up in the middle of the night and cannot get back to sleep within 15-20 minutes, don't lie there worrying about it. Get up and do something you find relaxing until you feel sleepy again - then go back to bed. Do not perform challenging or engaging activity such as office work, housework or watching television.
  • Avoid napping during the day, or limit your nap to 30-45 minutes.

Food and drink

  • Cut down on stimulants such as caffeine in tea or coffee 4-6 hours before bedtime. They interfere with falling asleep and prevent deep sleep. Have a hot milky drink or herbal tea instead.
  • Don't over-indulge. Too much food or alcohol, especially late at night, just before bedtime, can play havoc with sleep patterns. Alcohol may help you fall asleep initially, but will interrupt your sleep later on in the night.
  • Try a light snack before bed. Warm milk or bananas may help you to sleep.

Relax and deal with worries

  • Try to relax before going to bed. Have a warm bath, listen to some quiet music, do some yoga - all help to relax both the mind and body.
  • Deal with worries or a heavy workload by making lists of things to be tackled the next day. Some people find it useful to assign a "worry period" during the evening or late afternoon to deal with these issues.

Many people fall asleep with the television on in their room. Watching television before bedtime is often a bad idea. Television is a very engaging medium that tends to keep people up. We generally recommend that the television not be in the bedroom. Some people find that the radio helps them go to sleep. Since radio is a less engaging medium than TV, this is probably a good idea.

This information is based on information from the following websites (click the links to visit the websites):
The Sleep Council.
The University of Maryland Medical Centre.

All advice is either supported by references (cited in the text) or is based upon peer reviewed professional opinion. Our advice is impartial and not influenced by sponsors or product suppliers listed on the site.
Conflict of interest statement