Top 5 tips for a good night's sleep

'You got out of bed on the wrong side this morning' as the saying goes. So no wonder we often relate lack of sleep to grumpiness and irritability. But did you know that lack of sleep can also affect your health?

One in three of us suffer from poor sleep*, with many not getting the recommended 8 hours per night. 

 A good night’s sleep can contribute to:

  • Healthy Immunity
  • Keeping you slim
  • Boosting mental wellbeing
  • Preventing diabetes
  • Increasing sex drive
  • Increasing fertility
  • Warding off heart disease
  • Maintaining good relationships 

So, we know decent sleep is important, but how can we make sure we achieve it?

1. Control your exposure to light

Our bodies naturally produce melatonin. When it's dark we produce more making us sleepy, and when it's light we produce less keeping us awake. However modern life can affect this natural balance so we need to be aware of getting the right light.

  • During the day spend as much time in natural sunlight as possible, you could have your breakfast outside, take a lunchtime walk, move your desk near to the window or if necessary use a lightbox - this may be especially useful during winter.
  • During the evening limit, your exposure to light, phones, tablets and computers give off a blue light that can fool your brain into thinking its daytime. Avoid bright lighting and stay away from late-night TV. If you need to get up in the night, keep the lights low, you don’t want to fool your body into thinking it's morning!

2. Manage your diet

Research has shown that eating and drinking in certain ways can affect how you sleep.

  • Avoid caffeine at night, as it's a stimulant and can keep you awake.
  • Heavy meals late in the evening are also best avoided as digesting them can keep you awake.
  • A 'nightcap' may be a common term but alcohol before sleep can interfere with your natal rhythms and results in a night of poor quality sleep.
  • Nicotine can also be a stimulant so avoid it before bed.
  • High sugar foods before bedtime can give you a rush or a sugar high, again making it hard to sleep.

3. Optimise your natural sleep patterns 

  • Try to go to sleep and wake at the same time every day, this will help your body get into a rhythm. You may find that once you get into a routine your natural body clock will click in and you'll no longer need an alarm!
  • Try to avoid prolonged naps during the day, this can disrupt the natural sleep patterns and make it harder to fall asleep at night.
  • Resist the urge to sleep in at weekends, the extra ten minutes may not matter but putting your body too much out of sync will affect your sleep patterns and make it harder to get a good night’s sleep the rest of the week. 

4. Make your bedroom relaxing

It’s where you go to sleep so make it as relaxing as possible.

  • Ensuring your bed is inviting may sound simple, but having comfy pillows, sheets that don’t irritate you and a mattress that supports you, all help towards getting a good night’s sleep.
  • Making sure the temperature is comfortable is also important, you don’t want to be too hot or wake up too cold.
  • To help maintain a relaxing sleeping environment, make sure it's not too noisy or colourful and not too cluttered or busy. Tranquil music and low lighting can also contribute to a room's calm atmosphere.

5. Ensure you have a wind-down routine

We've all been so exhausted that we fall into bed at the end of the day and pass out. But a regular wind-down routine will let your body know what to expect and become an enjoyable part of the day.

  • Maybe an early evening walk, a bath before bedtime or some deep breathing exercises.
  • A warming drink, brushing your hair or simply getting your clothes ready for the next day.

Whatever works for you to ensure that you can unwind and get ready for a restful night’s sleep.

*NHS website