Ten tips for a better night’s sleep

Here are The Insomnia Clinic’s top ten tips for a better night’s rest.

1. Create the right sleep environment

I know you have heard this a million times but take a moment to take a look around your bedroom and see if there’s anything which may prevent a good night’s sleep. Is there a streetlight shining through the window? If so, get some better blinds or blackout curtains. How about your alarm clock? Is it lighting up the room and ticking loudly, reminding you all night that you are awake? This won’t cure your sleep problem but it may be contributing to sleeplessness.

2. Wind down before sleep

You come home late, exhausted and the first thing you want to do is get into bed and sleep. But it doesn’t happen. Why? Because your mind is still active from the day’s activity, and now that it’s free from distractions it starts to wander, and keeps you awake. Before going to bed, set aside some time to unwind. You don’t have to try hard to relax, rather just give yourself some time and routine which leads up to bedtime rather than rushing to bed. You may even want to consider starting a diary so you can unload your thoughts before getting your head down.

3. Avoid screens and electronic devices

Electronic screens on TVs, smart-phones and laptops give off blue light which reduces the body’s production of melatonin. Keep the screens turned off while you are sleeping and avoid their use close to bedtime, particularly when getting out of bed following the fifteen-minute rule (rule number 6).

4. Avoid using alcohol to knock you out

Although alcohol helps many people unwind, after drinking, the quality of sleep is generally poorer than without, so avoid alcohol if sleeplessness is a problem. I’m not suggesting you don’t drink again as I always encourage people to enjoy their evenings and the odd glass of wine can certainly be enjoyable but just try not to go to sleep under the effects of alcohol on a regular basis or use it as a sedative as you will feel more exhausted the next day.

5. keep a thought/worry diary

Wether worry triggered the poor sleep or has become a symptom of it starting to manage your thoughts can be an effective way to get a better quality of sleep. Each day, create a space of time where you can write down all the worries/thoughts which are popping into your head and distracting you throughout the day and night. This is a therapeutic way of seeing in black and white what is on your mind and hopefully will make worries less likely to pop up at night-time. You may even notice that most of the worries are hypothetical…

6. The fifteen-minute rule

If you’re lying in bed awake for long periods of time then you are associating your bed with being awake rather than being asleep which makes it more likely that sleeplessness will continue, You should therefore give yourself around 15-20 minutes, are even less if you are feeling wound up and simply leave the bedroom. Go downstairs and read a book or watch TV until you feel you might be able to go back to sleep then return to bed.

7. Keep a strict waking time

If you’re struggling to sleep, it can be all too tempting to compensate with a late rise in the morning. However, this could start to become routine as, by rising late, you will be less tired by bedtime, leading to further sleeplessness. Set your alarm for the same time every day and try to be disciplined in getting up when it goes off. If you are tired, this will build up sleep pressure during the day, making you more likely to sleep more easily at bedtime.

8. Take fewer naps

Although the effects of sleep loss can make you feel tired during the day, it is important that you try to resist the temptation to take a nap as this will make you feel less tired at bedtime. If you are feeling dangerously tired, then of course, take a short nap, but try to restrict it to just 20 minutes in order to recharge without falling into a deep sleep.

9. Keep active during the day

Remaining sedentary throughout the day means your body is not using up the energy it needs to. As a consequence, by the time you get to bed, you have unspent energy reserves which will keep you from sleeping. Make sure you stay active during the day, both physically and mentally, ensuring you burn off plenty of steam ready for sleep. However, do be sure not to exercise within 2 hours of sleep as this will cause you to be more alert and take less time to sleep.

10. Don’t clock watch

It can be tempting to keep checking the time throughout the night to monitor how much sleep time you have left. All this does is create more pressure to sleep well and make it less likely. Just set your alarm for the same time in the morning and then resist checking the time again.

Sam Sethi