Sleep is incredibly important when it comes to maintaining good mental and physical health. Despite this, millions of people still struggle with falling and staying asleep.
A poor night’s sleep can have a sizeable effect on our work performance and general mood throughout the day. If you regularly fail to get a sufficient amount of sleep throughout the night, you could also be at risk of various health complaints.
Read on to find out more about getting the perfect night’s sleep so you can wake up feeling much more refreshed and ready for the day ahead.
Let’s take a look at some of the steps that you can take to improve your sleep hygiene right now.
Make changes to your bedroom
Your bedroom itself can play a pivotal role in determining how well you sleep.
Make your bed and bedroom as comfortable and relaxing as possible by taking steps such as investing in new bedding if you require it.
A new mattress and pillows can vastly improve your sleep hygiene, as can blackout curtains to block out the light coming in from outside your home. Sleep masks can also help you win the battle against natural light.
By investing in a high-quality mattress, you can achieve the comfort that you need to fall asleep with ease. A good mattress will also support your spine so you can prevent aches and pains.
Seek out bedding that is comfortable to touch and will allow you to maintain a comfortable temperature as you sleep.
Bamboo bedding is a great choice here. Not only is it perfect for keeping a constant cool temperature throughout the night, but it is also incredibly soft and cosy.
Eliminate or minimise noise
If there are sources of noise that you can’t eliminate completely such as sounds coming from outside of your home, you can use a fan or a white noise machine to drown them out.
Alternatively, you can use earphones or headphones to replace irritating sounds with something more soothing.
Maintain the right temperature
It can be hard to fall and stay asleep when you feel too hot or cold. The best room temperature for sleep is said to be between 16-18 degrees Celsius, although this can vary from one individual to another.
Bring sleep-inducing aromas into your bedroom
Some people find it easier to fall asleep when they can smell certain scents. These can include lavender. Experiment with oils that come with natural aromas until you find something that helps you drift off in the evening.
Maintain a good sleep schedule
A great way to improve your sleep hygiene is to optimise your sleep schedule. There are various strategies that you can use to achieve this.
Setting a fixed wake-up time can help your body and mind get used to a routine.
You may find it easier to fall asleep at night once you have become accustomed to waking up at a specific time. This could mean waking and getting up during your days off at the same time as you would when getting ready for work, but the rewards can be incredible if you have been struggling with sleep recently.
Decide how much sleep you need each night and work backwards from your wake-up time. You should also factor in the amount of time you think you will need to fall asleep when deciding when to go to bed.
It’s also advisable to use naps sparingly. Although sleeping during the day can be tempting, it can play havoc with your sleep schedule and make it harder to fall asleep in the evening.
If you do decide to take a nap during the day, try not to sleep for more than twenty minutes and take your nap early in the afternoon after you have eaten.
Don’t try to make big changes to your sleep schedule too quickly. Move your bedtime by no more than one or two hours per night so your body can become used to these changes.
How long should it take to get to sleep?
Some people are able to drift off almost immediately once they get into bed but don’t worry if this doesn’t happen to you. Give yourself at least 30 minutes to unwind once you are in bed.
It’s also wise to put your smartphone or tablet out of arm’s reach as the blue lights they emit can make it very difficult to get to sleep. They also make it more difficult for you to produce melatonin, which promotes healthy sleep.
Reading a book can help you unwind before sleep, as can listening to soft, relaxing music.
Expose yourself to light in the morning
Try to take in daylight as soon as you get up to regulate your internal clock in a healthy way. Early morning daylight exposure can help you maintain a healthier circadian rhythm.
During the winter months when natural light isn’t available early in the morning, you could use a light therapy box.
Get plenty of exercise
Exercise can also help you improve your sleep hygiene. Don’t exercise too close to bedtime as this can make it hard for you to wind down, but try to enjoy a workout earlier in the day.
Exercise can make changes to our temperature and energy utilisation which promote better sleep.
Be careful with caffeine and alcohol
It can be very tempting to use caffeine to perk you up during the day after a lull. However, too much caffeine can interfere with sleep quality and make it harder for us to enjoy a good night’s sleep.
Try to avoid caffeine (especially coffee) within around 8-10 hours before you plan to go to bed or you could find yourself lying awake experiencing restlessness.
Some people find it easier to get to sleep after they have consumed alcohol. However, alcohol can greatly affect the quality of our sleep, leaving us feeling under-par when we do wake up in the morning.
It can also be harder to stay asleep after drinking alcohol, even if it helps you drift off quickly at first.
Smoking is also linked to various sleep problems. This includes passive smoking.
Avoid eating too late
If your body is still digesting a large amount of food, you could find it difficult to fall asleep. If you do find yourself feeling peckish before sleep, opt for a light, healthy snack that’s easier to digest.
Fatty and spicy foods should certainly be avoided just before bed.
Minimise the use of your bedroom
If you use your bedroom for various activities, it can be harder to associate it with sleep. It’s best to keep your bedroom for sleep and intimate activities if you can.
This makes it easier to create a strong psychological association between your bedroom and sleep.
What should I do if I still can’t sleep?
If you have experimented with several of the suggestions outlined above and are still finding it difficult to fall asleep, there are some other things that you can try.
Experiment with meditation
One of the things you can experiment with is mindfulness meditation, which can remove the focus from trying to sleep to simply attempting to relax and be in the moment.
Other relaxation methods include hypnotherapy, controlled breathing and muscle relaxation.
Do something else for a while
If you have spent over half an hour in bed and you still feel restless, try getting out of bed and engaging in a relaxing activity which you can carry out in low light.
Try not to think about sleep until you are about to get back into bed.
Try to remain patient if your sleep problems continue after you have experimented with several strategies to induce sleep. It can take a while for some methods to be effective.
Keeping a sleep diary can also be helpful when it comes to tracking your progress and identifying things that could be preventing you from enjoying a good night’s sleep.
When to talk to a professional
If your sleep problems persist, it could be a good idea to speak to a medical professional with vast experience in helping people with these issues. Even if a doctor can’t help you directly, they may be able to refer you to a sleep hygiene specialist who can work closely alongside you to help you achieve the perfect night’s sleep.
A medical professional can also help you find out whether a previously unidentified health problem is stopping you from falling asleep easily at night.
Sleep problems can be very frustrating. It can be particularly hard to fall asleep when you have something important to get up for in the morning.
Nonetheless, there are all sorts of techniques and strategies that you can experiment with that can be very effective when it comes to optimising sleep hygiene.