How to get a good night’s sleep

August 21st, 2019

Can’t seem to drag yourself out of bed when your alarm goes off? Constantly cancelling plans or skipping the gym because you’re too tired? Sounds like you’re not getting enough sleep.

Having enough sleep can make a big difference to your quality of life. Recent studies have shown that we need at least 7-9 hours sleep per night.

Are you getting enough?

If not, you may need to think about your sleep hygiene. This is a term used to describe healthy sleep habits. Following are some tips to improving your sleep hygiene.

Sleep schedule

Stick to a sleep schedule of the same bedtime and wake up time, even on the weekends. This helps to regulate your body clock and could help you fall asleep and stay asleep for the night. A sleep schedule is CRUCIAL for improving your sleep hygiene. You can’t make up for sleep hours lost during the week by sleeping in the weekends. BE CONSISTENT.

Bedtime routine

Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual. A relaxing, routine activity right before bedtime conducted away from bright lights helps separate your sleep time from activities that can cause excitement, stress or anxiety which can make it more difficult to fall asleep, get sound and deep sleep or remain asleep. If you have trouble sleeping, avoid naps, especially in the afternoon. Power napping may help you get through the day, but if you find that you can’t fall asleep at bedtime, eliminating even short catnaps may help.

Getting moving

Get your body moving EVERY DAY. Vigorous exercise is best, but even light exercise is better than no activity. Exercise at any time of day, but not at the expense of your sleep.

Feng Sui your room

Just jokes, you don’t need feng sui. But you do need to think about your sleep environment. Your bedroom should be cool but not cold – 16 – 19 degrees is recommended. Your bedroom should also be free from any noise that can disturb your sleep. Finally, your bedroom should be free from any light. Check your room for noises or other distractions. This includes a bed partner’s sleep disruptions such as snoring. Consider using blackout curtains, eye shades, ear plugs, “white noise” machines, humidifiers, fans and other devices.

Make sure your bedroom is your sanctuary. This includes your bed – you want to dream of that comfy bed bliss and look forward to getting into it at night. So make sure you’re sleeping on a comfortable mattress and pillows. Treat yourself to some nice sheets, a new pillow, a snuggly blanket. We spend over a third of our lives in bed, so it’s worth the investment.

Let there be light!

Use bright light to help manage your circadian rhythms. Your circadian rhythm is basically a 24-hour internal clock that is running in the background of your brain and cycles between sleepiness and alertness at regular intervals. It’s also known as your sleep/wake cycle.

To adjust your circadian rhythm, the biggest tool at your disposal is light (or lack thereof). When it’s dark outside, your brain naturally signals to your body to release melatonin, a hormone that makes you feel sleepy. When it’s light outside, your brain sends a signal to cut off the melatonin supply, making you feel more awake. To shift your circadian rhythm earlier, dim the lights in your home an hour before bedtime to prepare yourself for sleep. As soon as the alarm goes off, turn on as many lights as you can to simulate a bright sunny morning – or even better, get outside into the sunshine. Sunlight is incredibly good for our body (whilst being sun safe of course!).

Watch what you’re putting into your body

Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and heavy meals in the evening. Alcohol, cigarettes and caffeine can disrupt sleep. Eating big or spicy meals can cause discomfort from indigestion that can make it hard to sleep. If you can, avoid eating large meals for two to three hours before bedtime. Try a light snack 45 minutes before bed if you’re still hungry.

Schedule some wind down time

Your body needs time to shift into sleep mode, so spend the last hour before bed doing a calming activity such as reading. For some people, using an electronic device such as a laptop can make it hard to fall asleep, because the particular type of light emanating from the screens of these devices is activating to the brain. If you have trouble sleeping, avoid electronics before bed or in the middle of the night.

Give yourself a break

If you can’t sleep, go into another room and do something relaxing until you feel tired. It is best to remove work, computers and televisions out of the sleeping environment. If you associate a particular activity or item with anxiety about sleeping, take it out of your bedtime routine.

Keep a sleep diary

Learn about your sleep patterns and habits by keeping a daily sleep diary. It may be key to helping you and your health care provider diagnose and treat a sleep disorder. Keep a record of things such as:

  • What time you went to bed and what time you got up
  • How long it took you to get to sleep and what time you woke up
  • If you woke during the night and when
  • Alcohol and caffeine consumed that day
  • What/when you ate and drank
  • Any stress or emotional events you had that day
  • What drugs or medications you took
  • Exercise you had during the day and what time
  • Anything you remember that may have contributed to keeping you awake – light, noise etc.

If you have gone through the steps above and are still having trouble sleeping, speak with your doctor. Bring your sleep diary to your appointment, this will help to better evaluate common patterns or issues with your sleep or sleeping habits.