Sleep is really important. While falling asleep may seem like something that’s impossible when you’re still wide awake and tossing and turning at 3am, good sleep can actually be within your control. If you follow some healthy sleep habits, getting a good night’s rest can actually be within your grasp.
Adopting a new habit takes practice, just like anything else, and researchers have made headway with identifying some practices and habits – known colloquially as ‘sleep hygiene’ – and these habits can help to maximize your sleep, even when affected by insomnia, jet lag or even shift work. Here are some simple tips and tricks to help you improve the quality of your sleep and make the sleep of dreams your very own reality!
Tip One: Avoid substances that interfere with your sleep
Anyone who knows anything about coffee knows that caffeine is a stimulant and it can keep you awake. Duh. So, you should ideally avoid caffeine (which can be found in coffee, tea, chocolate, coca cola and even some pain relief) in the four to six hours prior to your bedtime. For some people, the presence of caffeine can even cause them to stay awake purely due the the perceived presence of a stimulant – often known as a placebo effect. Smokers should also avoid tobacco products close to bedtime as this can work as a stimulant.
Tip Two: Turn your bedroom into a sleep haven
A quiet, calm and cool environment can help to promote a sound sleep. In order to make your bedroom the perfect place for some shut-eye, think about getting heavy curtains or blackout shades, or use an eye mask to eliminate pesky daylight. The presence of the sun or light is a cue to wake and triggers something in the brain called the circadian rhythm which is controlled by the hypothalamus. Melatonin is produced in the brain which regulates sleep. If you have artificial or real light coming in, it causes the brain to trigger unnecessarily and can disrupt your sleep.
Tip Three: Prepare for sleep with a routine
Make sure that you have a nice routine that prepares you for bed and sleep. Engage in some relaxing activities an hour or so before you actually head to bed so that you’re not overstimulated and racing around before you hit the hay. Take a bath or a nice warm shower (you’ll find that the rise and then fall in temperature will promote sleepiness), read a book or meditate (or do all three!). Avoid doing anything stressful or stimulating, and be sure to stay off your laptop or smartphone as these are mentally stimulating activities. Anything stressful causes cortisol to be secreted in the body and this can cause problems with sleep.
Tip Four: Go to sleep when you’re actually tired
If you’re lying there like a sausage and struggling to sleep after a good 20 minutes of quiet, eyes closed rest, get out of bed, go to another room and do something relaxing like reading or listening to music until you’re tired enough to try again. You need to associate your bedroom with sleep, not the frustration of not being able to sleep.
Tip Five: Don’t take your phone to bed with you
Ever. Like, ever ever. It’s really bad for your sleep (and your brain) to be wired into your device in the moments before you’re trying to sleep. More often than not you’re just idly flicking through Instagram and hating your life. I mean, when was the last time you actually learned anything that was truly, truly imperative and couldn’t wait until tomorrow in the moments you use your phone in bed? Probably never. Actually, definitely never. Do your self a favour and leave it charging in the next room. If you need it for your alarm, just put it on loud enough to wake you up. That way, you might actually also wake up on time because you’ll have to physically get up to switch the damn thing off.
Good luck with making your sleep habits stick, and if all else fails, have a cup of camomile and try again tomorrow night.