Over 30 years of sleep research shows just how important it is for our wellbeing, our emotional intelligence, our brain function, our immune system, our long term health and so much more. After giving a talk on how important sleep is, I had a conversation with a guy who had spent the last 12 months with help from a sleep doctor, trying to get a better night’s sleep, every night. His life has changed dramatically as a result.
It may not be something that you can improve overnight, but making sleep a priority and actively making changes that will improve it could make all the difference to many aspects of your everyday life.
Go for 8 hours night. I know most people aren’t getting this, but at the very least following these tips will improve the quality of the sleep you do get, and may help you sleep for longer too.
9 Top Tips For A Better Night’s Sleep
- Create a bedtime routine. This was the number one tip of neuroscientist and sleep specialist Matthew Walker, author of ‘Why We Sleep’. Turn of the screens, turn down the lights, clear the decks and get things prepared for the next day. Then have a warm bath or shower and relax, maybe read a book (this is a great way to de-stress your body). Take a good hour to wind down and help your body to know it’s time to head to the land of Nod. This one tip could be the ultimate secret to a better night’s sleep
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Your body will get used to the rhythm and it plays nicely into the hands of the cyclical nature of our bodies and of sleep.
- Turn off screens – did I say that already? It’s pretty important. The blue light emitted from screens can significantly mess with the hormones our bodies produce to tell us it’s time to sleep. TV’s, laptops, computers, tablets and mobile phones, but also all LED lighting emit blue light. Personally, I’m advocating going back to candles at night!
- Avoid caffeine after midday. We are all different in how we process caffeine but this is a good rule of thumb. Even decaf contains some caffeine, and our bodies need to process and get rid of it for our ‘falling asleep’ mechanism to work well. It can 8 hours for a coffee to get out of our systems.
- Avoid smoking in the evening – nicotine is a stimulant so will not help you sleep.
- Avoid alcohol. You may think it relaxes you but it negatively impacts on your sleep. (Passing out is not the same as going to sleep.)
- Don’t fall asleep in front of the T.V. Stay awake until it’s time to go to bed. If you take a nap during the day, make sure you do it before 3 pm otherwise you will affect your ability to sleep at night.
- Keep your bedroom cool. That and having a warm shower or bath will help your core body temperature to cool down, something it needs to do to help you get off to sleep (ever woken in the night with one foot out of the covers? Your body is trying to cool down!)
- We sleep in 90-minute cycles during which we go through different stages of light and deep sleep. If you have to get up at a particular time in the morning make sure you go to bed at the right time to avoid your alarm waking you when you are in deep sleep – this is never nice! Visit www.sleepcalculator.com to work out when that should be.
- Look at this! I know, I said there were 9, if you need some help drifting off I have a sleep meditation available here. You know how most people don’t like the sound of their own voice? Well even I can go to sleep with this one! https://www.helenleathers.com/sleep/
They’re Simple Tips, But Not Necessarily Easy to Implement
Of course, you don’t have to do any of these things. But then you won’t get a better night’s sleep. You might think some of these tips are too much of a switch away from your regular routine. And they may take some time to impact your sleep patterns and therefore for you to feel the benefits (the guy I spoke to had been working on his sleep for a year). But if you want to create new, healthier, sleep-friendly habits and reap the rewards that better quality sleep will bring you, why not start now and commit to just one change?
If your sleep is a real problem for you or you think you may suffer from a sleep condition such as sleep apnea or have had insomnia symptoms for a while then get some help. There are sleep specialists and sleep clinics that can help you.
Sleep is essential.
To paraphrase a researcher I heard being interviewed (I wish I could remember which one, it was either J. C. Hall, M. Rosbash or M. W. Young who jointly won the Nobel prize for medicine in 2017 or their research into circadian rhythms); If we as a species make ourselves vulnerable to predators by being unconscious during the most dangerous time – the hours of darkness – there must be something highly significant about our need to sleep.