We think about it constantly. It’s as important as eating, breathing and walking the dog, but for many people sleep often plays hard-to-get.
Here are some easy tips to help maximise those eight+ hours a night.
1. Set your alarm clock for the same time each day
Getting up in the morning is never pleasant but going to bed and getting up at similar times each day is the best way to train your body. This lets our internal body clock build a strong sleep wake cycle. Yes, even weekends, although sleeping in makes sense if you have had a series of late nights and have to catch up on lost sleep.
2. Make your bedroom as sleep friendly as possible
The bedroom should be quiet, dark and always comfortable. Getting the right room temperature is essential, along with a comfortable bed, pillows and bedding. Electronic devices, such as mobile phones, tablets and laptops are a danger zone for distraction, so best to leave them outside the bedroom. If you have a clock that you can see in the night, turn it around to face the wall.
3. Start your sleep wind down at least two hours before bed
Many of us need to wind down before going to bed. Exercise is great to clear your mind and help you sleep but try and steer clear of it late in the evening. Also make sure your last meal of the day is at least two hours before bed. In the hour before bed, avoid computer games and using any mobile devices. TV shows that overstimulate are also not a good idea. It also pays to keep the TV out of the bedroom.
4. Spending too much time napping during the day
Only nap if you really need to. If so, try to keep the nap short, no more than 20 minutes. Naps longer than this can make you feel groggy for a while afterwards. Also try not to nap past mid- afternoon as this can make it hard to get to sleep at the right time at night.
5. Don’t stay in bed if you are unable to sleep
Staying in bed if you can’t sleep can often make you feel more annoyed and frustrated. It is better to get out of bed and go to another quiet, dimly lit room. Stay there until you feel sleepy. Sleepiness comes in waves, wait for yours and then go back to bed. To stay in bed feeling upset can start to build a link in your mind between the bed and lack of sleep. This is the opposite of what you need to sleep.
6. Thinking the problem with your sleep is worse than it really is
Many people who find it hard to either get to sleep or stay asleep become more worried about it. It is also common for people to think they have less sleep than they really do. Often poor sleepers are not good at knowing whether they are awake or asleep. Use relaxation as one of the techniques to help. Tell yourself that rest is good, even if you are not asleep. Remember sleep is the best medicine in town.
If you continue to have problems and can’t sort these out for yourself, there is plenty of help available and your doctor will know how to access it for you.