10 TIPS for a Better Night's Sleep

Sleep is vital to our health and well-being, affecting how we feel, and how productive we are. 

If you are not getting the 7-9 hours of quality sleep a day that most adults need, you may be among other things, lacking in energy, getting frustrated easily, feeling sleepy during the day and having trouble concentrating.

  1. Establish a routine – try and go to bed at the same time each night. We all have an internal body clock, controlled by a part of our brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). This triggers a hormone called melatonin which makes us feel sleepy at night.  This clock is most effective when one has a regular sleep routine and when working effectively you will feel sleepy at your bedtime.
  1. Avoid caffeine for at least four hours before going to bed. Not just coffee and tea, this also includes soft drinks, energy drinks and chocolate.  Caffeine is one of a number of stimulants that can make it harder to get to sleep, make you sleep more lightly and wake up more during the night, often to go to the bathroom.
  1. Avoid Alcohol for at least 4 hours before bedtime. According to the Sleep Health Foundation  “Although alcohol will make you feel sleepy and may help you fall asleep at night, it actually disrupts your sleep later.  In the second half of the night, sleep after drinking alcohol is associated with more frequent awakenings, night sweats, nightmares, headaches and is much less restful”
  1. Avoid cigarettes all together but if not possible at least 2 hours before bed. Like caffeine these are a stimulant making it harder to fall asleep and to stay asleep.
  1. Avoid going to bed on a full or empty stomach. Your evening meal should ideally be a least 2 hours before bedtime.  Although you don’t want to be hungry if your stomach is too full and uncomfortable it can be difficult to sleep.
  1. Dim your devices screens in the evening and try putting a curfew on your devices of 1-2 hours before bedtime. The longer the better, and no checking email or social media in bed.  The blue light emitted from devices such as smartphones, tablets, computers and the TV can, at night, all reduce the production of the sleep hormone melatonin.  This may result in difficulty sleeping and increased drowsiness during the day.
  1. Ensure you have a comfortable and healthy sleep environment.  There should be no distractions, such as televisions and phones, in the bedroom.  You should be warm but not too hot.  The ideal ambient temperature for falling asleep is in the high teens – between 15°C and 20°C.
  1. Use Protect-A-Bed mattress, pillow and quilt protectors. These will create a healthier sleep environment providing a barrier against dust mites.  Approximately 30% of us are allergic to dust mites, which live in our bedding and are a known trigger of asthma, allergies and eczema.  
  1. Set aside the hour before your bedtime to just relax and wind down. Listen to music or perhaps read a book.  If you find you can’t shut down your mind when you go to bed use this time to think about the day gone by and the day ahead.  Write down any plans so that when you go to bed you have already thought through them.  And if your mind continues to be active in bed, try thinking of something relaxing and calming.  A walk along the beach, a favourite memory....
  1. If you are having trouble nodding off to sleep, after 20-30 minutes get up. Just relax or read a book (no devices!) and go back to bed when you feel sleepy. Sleep is not something you can force and you do not want to associate going to bed with not been able to sleep and feeling frustrated.

Just remember that what works for one person may not work for another and it is not always possible to stick to a set routine.  By adopting these habits however your sleep should improve.  With the right amount of quality sleep you will feel better and be more productive.  If you are not finding anything that works you should consult your GP.